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 NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

Best of NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook became the first player with five consecutive triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 101-92 on Sunday night.

Westbrook finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. The Thunder have won all five games during Westbrook's triple-double stretch. It was Westbrook's 10th triple-double of the season and the 47th of his career.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Victor Oladipo added 15 points for the Thunder.

Anthony Davis, the NBA's leading scorer, had 37 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans. Buddy Hield, who led nearby Oklahoma to the Final Four last season, scored 16 points in his first game back in the state (see full recap).

Rose, Anthony help Knicks hold off Kings
NEW YORK -- Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony each scored 20 points and the New York Knicks held off the Sacramento Kings 106-98 on Sunday night for their eighth win in 11 games.

The Knicks took a 21-point lead in the first half, gave up 18 consecutive points in the third quarter but outplayed the Kings down the stretch to win their third straight overall and improve to 9-3 at home.

Brandon Jennings added 19 points for New York and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

DeMarcus Cousins had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, but shot just 9 for 30 and looked fatigued while struggling late while playing the entire second half (see full recap).

Ibaka's big night leads Magic past Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Serge Ibaka scored 21 points and blocked four shots, helping the Orlando Magic beat the Detroit Pistons 98-92 on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Magic.

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson made his season debut after missing Detroit's first 21 games with knee tendinitis. He had 18 points in 23 minutes. Marcus Morris led Detroit with 21 points.

Orlando won for the third time in four games while Detroit had its three-game winning streak snapped.

On Jackson's first possession, the Pistons went to their bread-and-butter play -- he and Andre Drummond running a high pick and roll. Jackson came off the screen and hit a 3-pointer, bringing a cheer from the small crowd. Jackson played the first 5:50 of the quarter as Detroit built a 16-10 lead (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Byron scored the clinching goal in the fourth round of the shootout, and the Montreal Canadiens avoided a winless swing through California with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, who won for just the second time in seven road games. Montreal had only one win in its previous 11 games in California before scoring three times in the four-round shootout.

Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw also scored and Carey Price made 27 saves for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens.

Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist apiece for the Kings, who lost for only the second time in eight games. Peter Budaj stopped 26 shots (see full recap).

DeKeyser gives Red Wings OT win over Isles
NEW YORK -- Danny DeKeyser scored 1:02 into overtime to give Detroit a victory over New York.

Mike Green scored twice and Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and assist for Detroit, which improved to 4-1-2 in its last seven games. Peter Mrazek stopped 32 shots to improve to 3-0-2 in his past five starts.

Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk and Josh Bailey scored for New York, which had won a season-high three straight. Jaroslav Halak finished with 30 saves.

Detroit's Frans Nielsen had an assist while facing his former team for the first time since leaving the Islanders for a six-year, $31.5 million deal with the Red Wings last summer. The 32-year-old Danish center was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 2002 draft and had 119 goals and 230 assists over 10 seasons in New York (see full recap).

Late goal lifts Jets over Blackhawks
CHICAGO -- Andrew Copp scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:45 left, Bryan Little got his third goal in three games and Winnipeg edged Chicago.

Copp beat Scott Darling on the stick side with a shot from the right circle that slipped just inside the left post.

Chicago's Artemi Panarin scored with 6:54 remaining to tie it at 1, moments after Copp hit the post, to spoil Connor Hellebuyck's bid for a second shutout against Chicago in less than a month. Panarin completed a give-and-go with Patrick Kane, beating Hellebuyck to the glove side.

Hellebuyck finished with 25 saves and outdueled Darling, who started his second straight game for the Blackhawks in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford. Darling made 30 saves, including three on breakaways.

Little's power-play goal with 43.4 seconds left in the second period was his fourth point in four games since missing 23 with a lower-body injury (see full recap)