5 Points You Shouldn't Ignore about the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov Debacle

5 Points You Shouldn't Ignore about the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov Debacle

Two years and two days after signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal, the Flyers on Tuesday admitted they made a mistake.

Bryzgalov -- defiant, moody and accusatory right up to the end -- naturally blamed the media.

There's little arguing that getting rid of him wasn't the right move -- it was -- but here are five spectacularly awful aspects about his tenure you shouldn't ignore, and they're all about the front office.


1. Amnestying Bryzgalov should not have been possible

When the Flyers offered Bryzgalov his contract in 2011, compliance buyouts didn't exist.

The only reason the Flyers were able to get rid of Bryzgalov after two seasons: the NHL lockout. To help teams find their way back under a lower cap they didn't plan for, the league granted each franchise two compliance buyouts.

If certain NHL clubs weren't in financial distress, and the league was economically viable enough that it didn't feel need to lower its salary cap, this would not have been an option.

The Flyers would have been stuck, unless they found a trade partner -- ask the Vancouver Canucks how that's going with a guy who has been both better and substantially less toxic than Bryzgalov -- or they were willing to have the buyout count against their cap for the next 14 years.

2. The Flyers traded away a Vezina winner
Was it reasonable to think Sergei Bobrovsky was going to win the Vezina this year? No. But what was wrong with him in the first place?

As a 22-year-old rookie, Bobrovsky posted a 2.59 GAA and .915 save percentage in 54 games. Those numbers aren't bad at all, especially when you consider how they inflated when he ran out of gas down the stretch. His performance over the final month of the 2011 season, when he had clearly hit a wall, led to a Bobrovsky-Brian Boucher-Michael Leighton goalie carousel orchestrated by coach Peter Laviolette. There is little arguing Laviolette -- for all the good he's done as coach and for as likable as he is in the position -- didn't mismanage the situation. Badly.

The Flyers barely survived the Sabres, got swept by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, and soon opted to drastically change course when they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and acquired Bryzgalov all on the same day.

Once Bryz was added, Bob languished as a backup and the team decided it was best to trade him to Columbus because he wasn't going to get the playing time he needed behind Bryzgalov. At some point between the end of their 2011 playoff run (on May 6) and the day they signed Bryzgalov (June 23), the team decided an inexpensive 22-year-old rookie with one surprisingly encouraging season under his belt was not their future.

No Flyers goaltender has won the Vezina since Ron Hextall's rookie season in 1986-87. The Blue Jackets did not make the playoffs.

3. Richards and Carter won a Stanley Cup, and they're going to be really good for a long time
In order to sign Bryzgalov, the Flyers traded the faces of their franchise, two guys who were in their prime.

Richards was 26, had been named  captain, had been to an All-Star game, had won a Gold Medal with Team Canada, and was heading into the fourth year of a 12-year $69 million deal. He was and still is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. At various points, he got salty with the media because it was alleged he and his teammates partied too much, which didn't prevent this from happening nor the team from coming within two wins -- and, go figure, a competent goaltender -- of the Stanley Cup.

As for Carter, the ink had barely dried on his 11-year, $58 million contract. He was one season into it before was dealt to Columbus. He had already scored 46 goals in a season and followed it up with 33 goals and 36 goals over the next two years. Those numbers did not immediately translate into success in the playoffs, during which he was often hurt.

Three years after making Richards the captain and one year after giving Carter an 11-year deal, the Flyers shipped them both out of town in order to sign Bryzgalov.

Two years later, Bryzgalov is no longer a Flyer, Richards and Carter have been reunited in L.A., they've already won a Cup, they went back to the Western Conference Finals this year, Carter just scored 26 goals in 48 regular season games and has found the back of the net 14 times in the last two postseasons.

The Flyers lavished huge contracts on two superstars and quickly traded those guys for a headcase they had to buy out with the aid of magic wand that didn't exist when they originally made the deals. If that is not the plainest example of an organization that's lost its way, then what is?

Whatever excuses you may or may not have heard to justify their exit separate from the now-failed search to find a goaltender do not hold water. Here are three of them just to prove a point:

  • Richards and Carter aren't "the guys" in L.A. like they were in Philly -- Maybe not? But they play together on the same line in crunch time, with Richie even moving back to defense, because A) he needs to be on the ice B) he's versatile enough to do it and C) some combination of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are out there, too. And somehow GM Dean Lombardi has made those five players and goaltender Jonathan Quick fit under his salary cap. So not only did he take on the large contracts to which the Flyers signed Richards and Carter, but he was able to have enough other talent on the roster to win the Cup. Maybe they're not "the guys," but Carter just led the team in goal scoring, and L.A. is paying both them like they are. Somebody thinks they're worth having around, and with good reason.
  • The Flyers got back greater value -- This is unknowable at the moment. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier certainly look promising and Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds are already very valuable commodities, but the Flyers traded a young core that had already been to a Stanley Cup Final for an even younger core. They are still without a Stanley Cup and one does not appear imminent even with all their young, talented forwards, which they always seem to have anyway.
  • Richards and Carter were too involved with off-ice antics -- It's doubtful Dry Island exists in L.A., especially if we're judging by this picture, via Puck Daddy:

4. They Flyers still don't have a No. 1 goalie
There are reasons to be optimistic about Steve Mason. It was a small sample size, but in seven games, he posted a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage behind a Flyers defense commonly considered poor, the same defense Bryzgalov (2.79, .900) played behind.

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he's big. Big is good. And this is the same guy who once won the Calder Trophy before regressing on a bad team. There are guys who just need a change of scenery sometimes. The Flyers have traded away a few of them.

But does the front office think Mason is the answer? No.

If they did, they wouldn't have tried to trade for Jonathan Bernier, who is young and potentially promising, but also unproven. Had that trade worked out, the Flyers would have two goalies and it wouldn't have been immediately clear who was backing up whom, unless the organization gave Bernier a large, new contract -- which alone would not have prevented another potential goalie controversy.

As it is, the Flyers have one goalie. And as was just established, they aren't so sold on him as to think they don't need to trade for or sign someone else, who will likely compete with Mason for the starting gig.

As for the future, if the next words out of your mouth are "Anthony Stolarz" ...  There was once a time this team signed John Vanbiesbrouck over Mike Richter and Curtis Joseph because Brian Boucher and Jean Marc Pelletier were waiting in the wings. Pelletier didn't pan out, and Boucher was eventually traded for Robert Esche less than two years after his stellar rookie season. Prospects are prospects.

That's all aside from the fact that the Flyers' track record with young talent -- be they goaltenders, forwards or defensemen -- leaves little room for confidence. How many times have you had a conversation about the team giving up on someone "too quickly?"


5. They do not appear to have learned from their variety of mistakes
This has less to do with Bryzgalov and the goaltending situation, in specific, and more to do with the previously mentioned lack of direction and foresight, in general.

Last summer, the Flyers decided $5.5 million over each of the next six seasons was too much to pay for then-27-year-old Matt Carle. Even those of us who thought Carle was unfairly and overly criticized throughout his Flyers tenure conceded that amount of money was too high and based on how the free-agent market had shaped up to that point.

The flip-side is that puck-carrying defensemen are always expensive and that the Flyers, by letting Carle walk, no longer had one, aside from the aging Kimmo Timonen and the inexperienced Erik Gustafsson.

After missing the playoffs in a lockout-shortened year thanks to a variety issues -- including poor goaltending exacerbated by a shoddy and oft-injured defensive corps -- the Flyers decided to pay Mark Streit $5.25 million over the next four years.

Streit, 35, is seven years older than Carle. He turns the puck over at almost the exact same rate, is marginally better offensively.

Streit, by the way, is now making the same amount of money per season as Jeff Carter.

Put everything together and the Flyers are right back to where they started, with a promising group of young forwards, a question mark in goal, and more regrets about leaders they lost too soon to injury (Lindros, Primeau, Pronger).

I am not saying anyone should be fired for all of this. I'm saying general managers have been fired for less than this.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

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Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

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Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.

Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

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Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

"HBK" is H-O-T:
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.