With season over, Bryzgalov goes out swinging

With season over, Bryzgalov goes out swinging
April 28, 2013, 4:00 pm
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VOORHEES, NJ – If that was the end for him in Philadelphia, it was a lot like the beginning and the middle – entertaining and strange.

On Sunday, the day after the Flyers finished a lockout-shortened season that resulted in them missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 years, the players cleaned out their lockers at the team’s practice facility. Some of the Flyers will be back. Some, such as Ilya Bryzgalov, might not.

“It’s out of my hands,” Bryzgalov said on Sunday when asked if he wanted to return next year. “I told you, it’s out of my hands. I have no control on this.”

There has been a lot of speculation about whether the franchise will amnesty Bryzgalov in the offseason. The team still owes the goaltender $34.5 million. Because of the new CBA, the Flyers will have the option to buy out the remainder of his contract for a little more than two-thirds the price. That comes to around $23 million, which wouldn’t count against the salary cap.

Questions about Bryzgalov’s future in Philadelphia only increased when the Flyers traded for Steve Mason, a 24-year-old former rookie of the year.

In his first season with the Flyers, Bryzgalov had a 2.48 goals against average (21st in the NHL) and a .909 save percentage (32nd). This year, Bryzgalov posted a 2.79 goals against average (32nd) and a .900 save percentage (39th).

When asked how he'd evaluate himself and the team, Bryzgalov said he needed “time to analyze everything.” He insisted he was “misunderstood” when he was quoted as saying the team’s recent good play was “pointless” (see video). And he said he has plans for the offseason, but he declined to share them.

He wasn’t in a talkative mood – at first. But when the conversation turned to whether criticism bothers him, things got interesting. Suddenly, Bryzgalov saw an opportunity to take on his favorite opponent once again, and maybe for the last time – the Philadelphia media.

“Not anymore,” Bryzgalov said about whether criticism gets to him. “Not anymore. You guys are just here to blame someone. You never look at yourself in the mirror, right? You’re always good. You never make the mistakes. Your articles are always perfect. But, in reality, what have you done for the city, if you ask yourself? What have you done? Ask yourself that question. Besides to only criticize. Not much.

“You need to be fair. You need to see the whole picture. It’s easy to criticize. It’s tough to find something good.”

One television reporter stopped Bryzgalov and asked what he thought was good about the season. The goaltender responded that he wasn’t “ready to answer that right now” and then added “we saw lots of young players who came and played hard at the end of the season.”

The exchange wasn’t contentious, and it obviously wasn’t the first time Bryzgalov shared his feelings about journalists. But does he think he was unfairly treated by the media over the last two years?

“It’s not like fair or unfair,” Bryzgalov said. “We’ve already had the conversation. It’s just ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous. Sometimes you’re reading and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, who’s this lunatic? What are they writing about?’ Because there was nothing close to the truth or close to related to hockey. You read it and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I have to deal with these people every day.’

“Like I said before, guys, before you write something you’ve got to read what you’re writing. Cause I never saw, I’m two years here, I never saw for two years good article where everything is like, OK, ‘The Flyers lose the game because this, this, this, this, this. Or they need to improve this, this, this or this.’ I never. That’s what to call professional, where you can say ‘This reporter knows hockey. He knows what he’s talking about.’”

Bryzgalov revealed that he reads “a lot” of the stories written about him and the team. He repeated “a lot” several times. When asked whether he feels like he’s been professional, something he chastised reporters for failing to be, he said, “I work very hard every game, every day, every practice. Maybe the result is not what was expected. But I sweat a lot here. I bleed a lot.”

But is there anything he would change from the last two seasons? Anything he’d do differently if given the opportunity?

“You probably want to ask me if I regret,” Bryzgalov said. “That’s what you want to ask. No, I’m not. I had tremendous experience here. Some things go good. Some things go wrong. But that’s a life. You have a problems in front of us, you’ve got to deal with it and go through it. It only makes us stronger.”

And with that, he turned and walked out of the locker room, perhaps for the final time.