Ilya Bryzgalov is back in the NHL after a brief conditioning stint with the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate. It’s somewhat surprising it happened so fast. Little more than a month ago, Bryz was being courted by an ECHL franchise.
Then again, I suppose Edmonton isn’t much better. The Oilers have a 5-15-2 record this season, good for the second-lowest point total in the league. And in the stacked Western Conference, it will be difficult to make up that ground.
Oilers GM and former Philadelphia Flyer Craig MacTavish is excited about the addition nonetheless, and according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, “The goalie battle is now officially on in Edmonton.” Good luck with that.
MacTavish must’ve heard about the killer party Philly threw when the organization bought out Bryz’s contract, because he admitted there was some trepidation before signing. The Oilers GM took some time to inquire about the cosmonaut’s reputation before putting ink to paper, and not surprisingly the responses were all over the spectrum.
"We did homework in terms of the character," said MacTavish. "You hear both ends of the spectrum. You heard people say, 'He's a good guy, he's not a problem, he's going to be very easy to work with.' Then you also heard, 'He's a terrible guy.' I've never seen this varied an opinion on a guy. Normally people focus in on the same conclusion. But this was quite different."
"Everybody likes an underdog story, and he can quickly get into that position here," said MacTavish. "He's a colorful character. If he plays well, he's got a chance to really resurrect his image and his game. There's a lot on the line. It probably won't be seamless, but he's got a chance.
I don’t know about you, but I’d put more weight in “terrible person” than “good guy.” It just seems more honest.
Or you could simply go by the fact that Bryzgalov’s previous employer paid $23 million to be rid of him.
MacTavish was quick to point out that signing Bryz didn’t cost his team much, and with his club’s season already circling the drain, he probably figured they had nothing to lose.
For what it’s worth, Bryz didn’t have much to say about his two-year stint with Philadelphia when he met the Edmonton press corps. Then again, the Flyers are paying him $23 million over the next 14 years to play hockey wherever he wants, so Bryz probably feels very content right now.
>> Oilers’ goalie competition heating up [ESPN]