Ilya Bryzgalov to Talk Less: Do You Care as a Fan?

Ilya Bryzgalov to Talk Less: Do You Care as a Fan?

Ilya Bryzgalov has been inconsistent between the pipes for the Flyers early this season. While his play has been shaky at times, his interaction with the media has regularly been nothing short of entertaining. That appears to be coming to an end -- at least partially, and hopefully only temporarily.

In an unexpected and unpopular media relations move, the Flyers announced that their big-dollar off-season goalie acquisition "will no longer talk to the media except in postgame situations in which he plays."

From CSN's story, "[Flyers goalie coach Jeff] Reese said more than once that he felt Bryzgalov was “distracted” by [a] number of things, among them, his daily interactions with the media." It's safe to say the Philly media is quite different than that in Phoenix. The Flyers dressing room is mobbed with throngs of reporters, bloggers, cameramen and people milling about following every game. While their numbers are smaller on off days in Voorhees, there is a constant media presence surrounding the team and its players. Most of the time, the attention benefits the team, with more coverage usually translating to more interest among the public. But, at least for now and with this player, it seems the Flyers are willing to take that risk and silence their most interesting interview.

For however long this lasts -- a week, a month, a season, nine years -- we'll miss the frequency of hilarious quotes from the Russian. But we also see the Flyers side in this. First, it's been indicated that Bryzgalov is the one who wants to go rogue. We have no idea the degree to which this is true, versus the Flyers being the driving force. But, if Bryzgalov or his coach thought interacting with the media was affecting his play -- which hasn't been great so far -- then it's hard to fault the them for acting on it.

What happens on the ice trumps everything else, right?

Is the media "barrage" an excuse? Possibly. But Bryz's mind clearly wasn't in the right place, and it's his coach's job to get it there.

Of course, it could also backfire, with the loquacious Russian missing the spotlight he doesn't seem to mind. And, at least in the immediate aftermath, there's more media attention on Bryzgalov than ever, with the focus right now being his newly limited access. Is it better to make headlines at Puck Daddy because you're "lost in the woods" or because you're being handled with kid gloves?

There wasn't much chance the Flyers scribes, a vocal group, were going to let this just happen without much fanfare. Their reaction to Bryzgalov's very limited availability is predictably upset. Bryz's colorful quotes make their job a whole lot easier, so without them, they'll have to dig a little deeper and find interesting things from the mouths of other Flyers players. If you've seen Postgame Live much, there often isn't a whole lot there. Getting a non-generic quote from an athlete usually isn't an easy task, but Bryzgalov is soundbite gold, with his accent adding flavor to an already entertaining routine.

But when you do get a perfect quote, it can be used as the focal point of a story. There's often danger in that, however, as Gus Haynes from the Wire once put it, the best stories focus little on what the subjects themselves have to say, but are based rather on observations made by the author.

Flyers beat writer Randy Miller was among the most vocal about sharing his displeasure with the new Bryzgalov availability, noting that he believes there may be some NHL rule stating every player must be made available every day. Puck Daddy's coverage points out that Sam Carchidi has filed a complaint with the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

As someone who has spent plenty of time in a few Philadelphia sports teams' locker rooms in recent years, my take is that if players don't want to talk to the media, they won't, even if they are "available." And, I don't believe they should be forced to. Mike Richards was clearly a guy who wanted to be captain on the ice and probably in the locker room, but he had no desire whatsoever to talk to the local media, and the result was a series of bitter exchanges over everything from partying to inconsistent play.

If they're forced to talk, most players will only give generic lines you've heard a thousands times already. Bryzgalov was an exception to that, but according to the team, he seems to want and/or need some time out of the spotlight when he's not on the ice. Or, if you don't believe it's coming from Bryz, the team wants it for him.

My question to you, the fans, is do you care that your goalie may talk less (possibly a lot less)? Is that a big deal to you? Or is your only concern how he performs on the ice?

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.