Flyers Look Foolish A Year Removed From Trading Vezina Finalist Sergei Bobrovsky
Since dealing two of the franchise's most prominent stars of the 2000's, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, it seems the Philadelphia fan base has surgically dissected every single move made by the Flyers front office.
The two most scrutinized moves in the past two years though are the dealings of young stars James van Riemsdyk and Sergei Bobrovsky. To be fair, the former was an even trade that benefited both the Flyers, who got Luke Schenn, and the Maple Leafs, who landed the scorer in van Riemsdyk.
As for the latter, Bobrovsky was traded this past offseason to the Columbus Blue Jackets where he won the starting job over now-current Flyers back-up goaltender Steve Mason. After turning the Blue Jackets around and nearly making the post season, Bobrovsky is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's best goaltender.
Bobrovsky played in 38 of the Jackets' 48 games, posting a 21-11-6 record, a 2.00 GAA which was 5th in the league and a .932 save percentage that was 2nd in the league. His four shut-outs were also 6th in the NHL and the first four of his career.
The Jackets fell just one point from making the post season thanks to an incredible second-half effort by the team fueled by the play of their 24-year-old goaltender.
This has left the fans fuming at general manager Paul Holmgren for dealing away Bobrovsky for a second round pick and a pair of fourth rounders to the Blue Jackets, giving up on a potential star goaltender to hold onto the $5.6 million contract of Ilya Bryzgalov.
That 2011 off season was the by product of a lot of things, and in turn it caused the Flyers to completely implode their 2010 Eastern Conference Championship team that lost to the Blackhawks in six games.
That chain of events lead to the dismantling of a good team all started with the acquisition of Bryzgalov.
The Flyers played the 2010-11 season with the rookie Bobrovsky along with back-ups Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Bobrovsky put together a pretty good season for a rookie, posting a 28-13-8 record, 2.59 GAA and .915 save percentage in 54 games.
The Flyers boasted one of the best records in the league until a late-season collapse and a game of goalie carrousel in the playoffs lead to the Flyers being bounced in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Instead of looking at the real problem with their demise, defensive woes, the Flyers felt that goaltending was the problem. They acquired the rights to sign Bryzgalov from the Coyotes and extended him to a nine-year deal.
Bobrovsky rode the bench the next season behind Bryzgalov, who was less-than impressive with a shoddy defense in front of him. (Chris Pronger suffered a career-ending eye injury and Matt Carle never stepped up without Pronger as his partner.)
The Flyers abandoned Bobrovsky the following offseason, trading him to the Jackets for a second round pick (turned into top goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz at least) and a pair of fourths; re-acquired Boucher from Carolina and kept Leighton on their roster.
What fans saw during the shortened 2013 season was Bryzgalov play in over 83% of the Flyers' games without a competent back-up while Bobrovsky had a breakout season with Columbus.
I don't want to play the "If" card, but the Flyers could have been in better shape had they not given up on the younger Russian netminder after the 2010-11 season. I have a scenario played out in my head but I am not one to play devil's advocate because who knows what would or wouldn't have been done in the time since Bobrovsky was actually dealt.
The Flyers goaltending situation could actually be in decent shape for the 2013-14 season. If they choose not to amnesty Bryzgalov they will roll with two good goaltenders, locking up $7.1 million in Bryzgalov and Mason, which to Holmgren isn't that bad at all for goaltending.
But that number could have been lower. It isn't, and the Flyers are forced to move on with what they have and hope to fix the defensive problems despite salary cap tightness.
With all the offensive pieces in place and a seemingly new wealth in young defensemen if they have the patience to develop players like Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen, the Flyers could be in good shape.
Good organizations overcome their adversity. It's now time for the Flyers to be tested.