Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: A Total Bryzaster
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
I was happy when the Flyers traded for Ilya Bryzgalov. 4
I may have been a little alarmed when they signed him to a 9 year, $51 million deal soon afterward, but still, the Flyers finally went out and got a goalie who had been near elite in the very recent past and who wasn’t at an advanced age and in decline…Sorry, Beezer.
I also liked the fact that the guy had a bit of an odd ball personality. He was funny and engaging. He did impressions for the media. He showed a deep intelligence and seemed to know what it would take to make a big splash in Philadelphia.
Fast forward a couple years, and the only news I want to hear about Bryzgalov is that the Flyers exercised their second compliance buy out on him.
Over the last few days, there’s been more going on with Bryz than the Stanley Cup Final, or so it seems.
As I mentioned in my last piece, Bryzgalov’s agent, Ritch Winter, said that the Flyers would not exercise a compliance buyout on his client. Paul Holmgren refuted that, and Winter backed off his initial statement, allowing that nothing is certain.
As reported locally by Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News, Winter said that Bryzgalov was up to the challenge of Philadelphia, despite his client’s early observations that painted the city and it’s hockey media in unflattering light.
Winter went on to criticize the team for it’s system and the way they handle goalies, which is certainly an issue. But then Winter contradicts himself, saying that Philly is the best option for Bryzgalov, even though financially, he’d make out better because he could get paid the majority of the money owed him by the Flyers and then sign elsewhere and sign a deal that would “…considerably surpass the difference” between the money paid via buyout and the full value of the deal.
Seravalli noted that an unnamed Flyers player told him that during the season Bryzgalov seemed to welcome a buyout for the above reason. That certainly lends credence to the rumors that Bryz is not especially well liked in Philly. It does make the comments from several Coyotes players that were less than flattering of Bryzgalov during the 2011-12 season ring a good deal more true, as well.
The other nonsense surrounding Bryzgalov is well documented. The occasional refusals to speak after games, Bryz usurping the coach and announcing to the media that Sergei Bobrovsky would start the 2012 Winter Classic, the interview where he praised Josef Stalin, etc.
The bottom line is, all of the above is just noise. I don’t care if the player hates the city, the media or his teammates. I care that the player performs on the ice.
Ilya Bryzgalov has failed to perform on the ice.
He’s had a couple stretches where he played at a near elite level, but they have never lasted. He’s mostly been average. In his two seasons as a Flyer he’s finished 33rd and 43rd in save percentage. He’s had a lot of issues in stopping breakaways, and he’s had trouble consistently making momentum type saves, that either keep his team ahead or kill momentum during a comeback.
A lot of people mention the Flyers systemic limitations, and those are valid. But it’s not the only issue. Bryzgalov’s play has not come close to meeting the financial and term commitment the Flyers have given to him.
That is the bottom line on the situation.
The Flyers can certainly get the kind of goaltending that Bryzgalov has provided for less money against the salary cap. There are options. The Flyers were involved in the Jonathan Bernier sweepstakes prior to his trade to Toronto. However, there are available free agents, such as Nicklas Backstrom or Ray Emery. They could trade for a guy such as Jaroslav Halak. Maybe Steve Mason can do what he did over his 7 game audition as a Flyer for a whole season.
But the Flyers can find a better-or at least cheaper-option than Bryzgalov.
Because that is the other issue, and it is a huge one. The new CBA has a nifty little feature designed to punish teams for contracts that were legal under the last CBA, but not this one. Basically, any player on a contract longer than 8 years who retires before the contract is up, will subject his team to cap penalties for front loaded contracts designed to circumvent the cap. So it’s kind of like getting punished for doing 55 on a road before the speed limit dropped to 45.
Anyhow, Bryzgalov has one of these lovely deals that the NHL has decided to retroactively punish. That means if Bryz retires or jumps to another league, the Flyers face a cap hit for him. The cap penalty applies even if he is traded and retires early.
Combine Bryzgalov’s play with the cap recapture penalties, the possibility of an injury that could prevent a compliance buyout next summer, an artificially lowered salary cap and it’s time to say до свидания to Ilya Bryzgalov.