Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Marc Siciliano on 08/12/11 at 06:02 PM ET
The Flyers, notorious for their goaltending woes, have finally made a drastic move to stabilize their net presence. But before you can even begin an honest discussion about the new Flyers goalie, you have to get some talking points out of the way that seem to be looming over the crease like a bad storm waiting to erupt at the first sign of trouble. *Sigh*
Welcome to Negadelphia, goalie.
In Philadelphia, the spotlight is always on the crease
The first one happens to be the most obvious: couldn’t the Flyers have gotten Vokoun for much cheaper had they waited? Probably. Even if it was for more than the $1.5M that he eventually signed for, you can safely assume he would have been cheaper. At the time, it was actually my personal preference to do just that. It would have given them more cap space for the rest of the roster while also allowing Bobrovsky to ease into a starting role down the line.
Alas, hindsight is always 20/20, and no one saw REALLY saw that turning out the way it did. The Flyers opted to go with the sure thing, likely assuming that the salary difference wouldn’t have been nearly as vast as it ultimately became. Regardless, we’ll get into why I think this point is overblown in a second.
Another popular sentiment seems to be that the Flyers traded Richards and Carter to make room for Bryzgalov. Personally, I don’t see how that theory makes much sense. For the price of Versteeg and Zherdev you can practically have Bryzgalov in terms of cap hit. Also, you don’t change the entire foundation of your team for the sole purpose of bringing in a single free agent who makes half as much as the guys you shipped out.
You’d be hard pressed to find an example of this in the past, and I don’t see how or why the Flyers would start doing so now for a Russian goalie. Simply put, to trade Richards and Carter for Bryzgalov wouldn’t have been necessary. It all rests in how you as an individual rationalize the moves they made.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets dive in. Who is Ilya Bryzgalov? I thought you’d never ask!
Ilya Bryzgalov is coming off a season in which he was voted the MVP of the Phoenix Coyotes by his teammates. The season before, Bryzgalov was one of the finalists for the Vezina Trophy – you know, that award given to the top goalie in the league. In the last 2 seasons combined, only Luongo has as many wins as he does. In that same 2-year span he also ranks in the top 10 in save percentage and goals against amongst starters. Don’t forget – he did this all as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, a team not exactly notorious for being a powerhouse. Clearly he can play.
Though those statistics alone might be enough to dub him a ‘stable’ presence in the net, a fantastic study done by Matthew Brigidi over at The Checking Line took it a step further by analyzing “quick-strike goals”. The result was an interesting correlation (albeit extremely raw) between the level of goaltending talent a team had and the amount of quick strike goals that team gave up. Near the bottom of the list was the Flyers. Near the top? Phoenix and Bryzgalov.
A well-chorused knock on him has been his lack of playoff success, but when the sample size as a starter is 11 games versus an overpowering Detroit team it becomes somewhat understandable. He definitely needs to prove himself in this area, but to say he isn’t a big game goalie is ignoring the fact that in the 2009 IIHF World Championships he carried a pristine 7-0 record on the way to earning a gold medal with Russia. In the biggest game of the tournament, Bryzgalov shut down the All-Star Canadian squad by stopping 37 of 38 shots while his team only managed 17 shots on goal – and won. Carrying all of Russia on his back, he rose to the challenge.
I know we like cheesesteaks, but can Philadelphia possibly be any heavier than the entire motherland in a matchup versus Canada for supremacy? I doubt it.
Some initial reports had him seeking over $7 million, but his contract ends up with a yearly cap hit of $5.6 million, placing him as the 5th highest paid goaltender and only 600K ahead of the 10th highest paid on the list. This is no bargain by any means, but it is also doesn’t seem like a vast overpayment given the rising nature of the cap. Plus, as I alluded to before, does his cap hit really matter as much as people think?
Here’s why: in the 2009-2010 season, the eventual Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks rode the coattails of rookie Antti Niemi all the way to glory. On the bench? Christobal Huet and his $5.25M contract. At the time, the cap was lower, making his salary all the more cumbersome to the Blackhawks front office. They STILL WON THE CUP with essentially $5.25M in lost cap space. In a completely hypothetical worst-case scenario, what’s stopping the Flyers from achieving similar success if that happens to them? Nothing.
We all like to play armchair GM, but don’t get too caught up in the financial numbers and trade politics. The Flyers have finally made a move for a good, capable goalie. Lets give him a chance to prove himself before we run him out of town – you just might be surprised with the results.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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