Originally written on Philly Sports World  |  Last updated 5/11/12

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16: Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes looks over to teammates during a break from the NHL game against the Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena on January 16, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Wild 6-4. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Despite a bumpy first year, Flyers' goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has 8 years remaining on his contract and is still due a boatload of money.

Flyers fans were disappointed by the play of their new goaltender this year.  Apparently, so was Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren.

“His job is to stop pucks and help us win games. It’s no Comedy Central.” Holmgren said earlier.

Bryzgalov’s up and down roller coaster ride of a season ended on Tuesday in the first period of Game 5 when he played the puck off of New Jersey Devils’ forward David Clarkson. The puck, of course, caromed off of the shaft of Clarkson’s stick, between Bryzgalov’s legs and into the net. It was a dagger in the heart of the Flyers’ playoff hopes, and an encapsulating look at the quirky Russian goaltender’s first season in Philly.

After a playoff debacle in 2011 during which the Flyers used Michael Leighton, Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky during their abbreviated playoff run, Flyers Chairman Ed Snider demanded that GM Paul Holmgren do what was necessary to end the Flyers’ woes between the pipes. Holmgren complied by signing the best available free agent goaltender in Bryzgalov.

I cringed when I heard the Flyers had signed Bryz to a 9 year deal, not so much because of the $51 million, but because of the commitment of 9 years to a 31 year old. Nonetheless, it was a welcome departure from a longstanding organizational philosophy that cheaped out when it came to goaltenders. As a result of that mis-guided philosophy, the team’s success waned when it came playoff time and has left them without a Stanley Cup for 37 years.

Bryzgalov started the season off well enough, but stretches of good play were alternated with periods of struggle. By the time December rolled around and the bright lights of HBO’s 24/7 began documenting the team’s every move leading up to the Winter Classic, Bryzgalov was a full fledged celebrity, but his play began to nose-dive. When the Classic rolled around, the team was embroiled in a full-fledged goalie controversy as Sergei Bobrovsky got the nod to start the biggest game of the regular season while Bryz tweeted pictures of his thermos and broke his benching to the media before the team wanted him to.

The boos came next, and the slumping Flyers saw their goalie begin to mentally meltdown. After a win in Winnipeg, Bryzgalov commented sarcastically that it was nice to hear fans chant his name instead of boo him like they did in Philly. Jets fans were of course mocking Bryzgalov by chanting his name, but he pretended not to notice.

The once affable and accessible Bryzgalov began to withdraw from the media. His answers to questions became short and less colorful. He was approached by the leadership team of the Flyers and suddenly deflected all questions about his performance and would only discuss the team.

Something funny happened at that point. Bryzgalov’s game picked up and he began to play not just well, but off the charts. He was the NHL’s first star two straight weeks and ultimately for the month of March. He set a franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes and things were starting to fall into place. But the good times were short lived as Bryz sustained a chip fracture in his right foot during a pre-game skate.

With Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers are backed into a corner. If Bryzgalov doesn’t like playing in Philadelphia, or even if the Flyers aren’t fond of him, they have handcuffed themselves with the monster contract they gave him. He’s virtually untraceable at this point, and the only hope in the situation is the Bryzgalov can work it out and get back to the form he displayed in Phoenix and in March on a much more consistent basis.

The future success of the Flyers could depend on this contract and how Ilya Bryzgalov plays.

Similar Posts:

  • UPDATED – Bryzgalov “Limping Badly” After Loss to Tampa Bay?
  • What Bryzgalov’s Injury Means for the Flyers
  • Bryz Not To Blame for Flyers Poor Play in Game 2
  • Bryzgalov Looking Tuned In, Acting Tuned Out
  • All Eyes on Bryzgalov for Game 5

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