The Philadelphia Flyers shifted their philosophical strategy on June 25, when they chose to exercise a second amnesty option and bought out the remaining seven years on Ilya Bryzgalov’s contract.
For many, this day will feel like Christmas in June. For the Flyers, the move represents a salary cap decision that improves roster flexibility and acknowledges a personnel miscalculation.
It’s all about the Cup
Contrast the Chicago Blackhawks’ stunning come-from-behind rally in Game 6 to defeat a solid and emotionally-fueled Boston Bruins squad to win the Stanley Cup last night with today’s news about ‘Bryz’.
The Blackhawks dramatically defeated the Flyers in overtime of Game 6 to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. Then, that organization retained some key players and continued to retool, revamp, revise (or whatever other cliche could be inserted at this dull stylistic point) their roster.
Chicago started this shortened-season by winning an ungodly number of consecutive games and then went 16-7 on their way to the 2013 championship. Both Cup runs hardly happened by accident. Instead, their leadership team executed a plan by making the right adjustments.
The path to a championship season in any professional sport isn’t easy. But, big-market teams have a double-edged sword that can be wielded along the way. Their money is used to create and to correct mistakes as the quest for Lord Stanley’s approval is pursued.
The business of Bryz
The Flyers were embarrassed in the playoffs the year after they were defeated by the Blackhawks. Then, founder and chairman Ed Snider decided that his organization’s long-standing goaltending dilemma had to be addressed. So, he directed general manager Paul Holmgren to obtain a steady goalie.
Holmgren, using whatever vetting system his staff had in place, decided that he should work out a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes for the rights to their soon-to-be free agent backstop. Bryzgalov then gladly signed a nine-year, $51 million deal. The rest became orange-checkered history. As to why the organization believed that Bryzgalov’s personality would fit in Philadelphia remains a mystery.
Based on the front-weighted nature of his deal, the Flyers ‘only’ owe the 33-year-old another $23 million. Two-thirds of that amount will be paid out during the next 14 years, at $1.63 million per year.
Steve Mason made a strong (albeit short) impression at this season’s tail end, after his acquisition from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and is currently in the mix to become the Flyers’ number 1 goaltender. The 2009 Calder Trophy Award winner ironically became Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky’s backup last season.
Mason’s newest crease-mate will be selected in the very near future.
Based on the amount of money he was given, his subsequent performance and numerous public relations issues, Bryzgalov wasn’t just another goalie on this Philadelphia hockey team. But, this is just another summer in Flyers’ land.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region and has written professionally for over two decades. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his blog Insight.
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