What Went Wrong in 2013 Part 1: Ilya Bryzgalov vs The Media
This is the first of a five-part feature series on TCL Flyers titled "What Went Wrong in 2013."
By Jordan Kuhns (@playsbyKuhns)
When a certain eccentric Russian goaltender made his way to Philadelphia, fans joked about the one time he made fun of the city of Edmonton, and his then-Anaheim teammate Chris Pronger's departure from the freezing tundra.
"Why you heff to be mad?" he asked. "It's only game."
In that video, you could see Ilya Bryzgalov had fun with the reporters, giving them a unique perspective into his world. He laughed along with them, being as colorful as ever.
Perhaps he should have taken his own advice from the outset to remain happy in Philadelphia. "Why you heff to be mad," indeed.
Over the course of two years, said game he spoke of drove him to speak about being unafraid of anything except bears, being lost in the woods, being terrible, loving the universe, comparing his husky to a "hot girl," prematurely announcing him backing up Sergei Bobrovsky in the 2012 Winter Classic against team rules, being sick of losing, having no answer to what "Flyers Hockey" entails, allegedly sleeping during a team meeting, and in his latest two capers, endorsing the actions of the master of Communism, Joseph Stalin, and tweeting about Angry Birds: Star Wars while at the IIHF World Championships.
Is that everything?
All of this came out through the media, of which he has, as a whole, dubbed unprofessional. Perhaps the report about sleeping through a meeting was a red herring, and completely false, but the other instances were his own doing.
He simply took the bait. His reputation in Philadelphia is in shambles because of his own words.
He will always be the media's jester because he simply can't shut up.
The Flyers organization tried to shut him up once, placing a gag order on him. The Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association cried foul, and they got their wish. General Manager Paul Holmgren aptly said that this was "not Comedy Central."
From that point on, Bryzgalov answered in short spurts, offering sparse answers to a very critical group of writers that saw a ludicrously overpaid netminder stop the puck significantly less than expected. After all, the decision to sign Ilya stemmed from cap space freed up by shedding Mike Richards and Jeff Carter from the roster.
One Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings later, meaning rings for many former Flyers, and now impatience rides high in Philadelphia.
Could the decision to bring in Bryzgalov have been a mistake from the outset? Holmgren acquired the rights to Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov before trying to make a move on Bryzgalov. Both Turco and Nabokov said "no thanks." Who could blame them?
That's what everyone in the media wants to know. That means roasting the 32-year-old on his thoughts of what it means to be a Flyer, whether or not he wants to stay, whether he believes he is a professional, so on, so forth.
This is no attack on people trying to do their jobs, nor is it a slight on a guy whose job it is, in the grand scheme of things, to stop a tiny piece of rubber from going into a 4x6 area surrounded by metal and netting. However, it is a call to order -- is it worth showing this man the door due to his correspondence with the outside world?
According to a report by Howard Eskin of FOX 29 and Sportsradio 94 WIP, Bryzgalov will not be bought out this summer, meaning he will return for a third season in the orange and black. Unless ties plan to be repaired with journalists this offseason, next season's scandals might be even worse.
Bryzgalov's candor and intelligence may make him one of the most candid hockey players to ever play the game. If he does not know an answer, he will tell you.
Instead of giving a half-baked answer, he will not give one. In the process of being candid in a world full of deception, the brutal honesty reflects badly on a proud organization.
Unless Bryzgalov posts numbers along the lines that he did in 2009-10, with 42 wins, a save percentage of .920, and a goals against average just under 2.30, then perhaps his honestly will be received with perked ears.
Until then, Bryzgalov will appear to be what he has made himself out to be.