With Bryzgalov Out of the Picture, What’s Next for Flyers in Net?

With Bryzgalov Out of the Picture, What’s Next for Flyers in Net?

The Flyers need a goaltender. I know that comes as shocking news at any given point in time – today especially – but it’s true.

Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, much to the delight of many in Philadelphia. That leaves only Steve Mason on the current roster however, and little else within the organization – unless the front office decided to rush 19-year-old Anthony Stolarz to the NHL, which would seem outside the realm of possibility.

It’s apparent the Flyers will either dip into free agency or make a trade to fill the void. The million-dollar question is who, or what kind of player, will they target? Paul Holmgren didn’t have the pieces to land Jonathan Bernier from the Kings – a young netminder who could have nailed down the position for years to come – so what’s Plan B?

Here are some of the proposed options. What route do you think the front office to take?

Roberto Luongo

Holmgren was quick to dismiss Luongo as a potential replacement at the press conference to announce Bryz’s departure, but the Flyers’ GM only ruled out a trade. If Vancouver amnesties Luongo, Homer conceded that might change things. The perception around the league is a buyout is likely.

Still, Luongo to Philly will be far from a done deal even when that happens. Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz thinks the 34 year old would be one of the more coveted options on the market, commanding as much as three-to-four years around $4 million per – more than Niklas Backstrom just re-signed for in Minnesota. That could price the Flyers out of the market seeing as they are still up against the salary cap.

Tim Thomas

As easily as Homer shutdown Luongo noise, he seemed to welcome the idea of 39-year-old Tim Thomas. It’s no secret Flyers chairman Ed Snider is a fan of the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, citing Thomas' performance in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run as a reason for signing Bryzgalov back in 2011.

"It had to be done," Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight's NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. "I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston."

Now an unrestricted free agent, there have been rumors Thomas could be suiting up in Orange & Black for years. The trouble is Thomas just spent last season out of hockey, so while his run with the Bruins culminated in a fourth-consecutive All-Star selection, it’s anybody’s guess what the Flyers would be getting. It might be worth seeing what’s left in the tank – using Mason as a fallback – if it’s only going to be a one-year arrangement.

Evgeni Nabokov/Jose Theodore

As long as we’re looking at aging veterans who the Flyers could attempt to squeeze another year or two out of, Nabokov and Theodore should be on the list. Both can be had in free agency for mid-to-lower-level salaries, which would provide the front office some flexibility, while neither would necessarily push Mason into the shadows.

Tim Panaccio mentions Theodore as one of his “obvious” free agent candidates. He turns 37 in September and is coming off of a down year where he battled injury on a miserable Florida squad, but played well as recently as one season earlier and would come cheap. TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Nabokov will be of some interest as well as the Islanders weigh their options after the soon-to-be 38 year old helped them reach the playoffs for the first time since ’07. The Flyers already failed to agree to terms with Nabokov once in 2010 though, so we’ll see.

Ray Emery

Dreger also mentions Emery as a free agent possibility, as will virtually any report about the Flyers and goaltenders. Emery, 31 in September, is coming off of arguably his best season in the NHL, posting a 17-1-0 record with a .922 SV% and 1.94 GAA. He also has a familiarity with the organization having already played for Philly in 2009-10.

The man known as Razor is apparently as recovered as one can be from avascular necrosis, the disease that nearly ended his career while he was a Flyer. Apparently that’s not what the club should be concerned about. What they should be concerned about is to what extent the numbers Emery produced in 2013 were a product of playing for the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks, a team that racked up only seven losses all regular season. Still a solid option to split ice time with Mason presuming there isn’t a bidding war for his services.

Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton

As long as we’re talking retreads…

Bahaha just kidding.

Mike Smith

It sounds like the top free agent goalie on the market this summer could be staying put. The Coyotes are described as “comfortable” in ongoing negotiations with Smith, so there’s a good chance the 31 year old won’t be available come July 5.

Not sure how much interest the Flyers would have anyway. Holmgren has to be hesitant to sign another netminder from Phoenix, especially for big dollars and years again. Smith also came back down to earth a bit this year after a stellar campaign in 2011-12. It’s just hard to envision the Flyers going down the path of another big commitment to a 30-plus goaltender this summer – or maybe I just don’t want to.

Ryan Miller

Of all the names on this list, Miller’s might be the most exciting – although perhaps one of the most unlikely as well. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner continues to pile up decent albeit not spectacular numbers on a consistent basis with a fairly ordinary club in Buffalo, and could benefit greatly from a change of scenery.

A change of scenery the Sabres may be willing to grant. Some housecleaning could be in the works up north, and the time is now to get something back for Miller, who turns 33 in July and has one year remaining on his contract. The $6.25 million cap hit might be a bit hard for the Flyers to swallow, and it’s already assumed they would ask for Sean Couturier, so don’t count on this coming to fruition. That said, Miller would look great in Orange & Black, even if his addition to the roster does move Mason into a pure backup role.

Jonas Hiller

This is an idea currently being floated by Panotch, and it is intriguing. One of his earlier reports indicated the Flyers were again talking to the Anaheim Ducks about a swap involving winger Bobby Ryan. The rumor initially suggested Ryan would come to Philly in exchange for Braydon Coburn and the 11th overall pick in Sunday’s draft. Could Hiller jump into the equation?

From the Ducks’ standpoint, almost certainly yes. Viktor Fasth stepped up for Anaheim in a big way last season, perhaps making Hiller expendable. It’s all about whether or not the Flyers are willing to give up their top pick in what is said to be a deep draft.

I hope not, but the 31-year-old Hiller wouldn’t be a terrible short-term solution. He has one year remaining on his current deal at $4.5 million, and is coming off of another decent season – 15-6-4, 2.36, .913. Such a move would seem to relegate Mason to backup as well.

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.