Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov would rather play in Russia than Winnipeg next season

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With the Phoenix Coyotes out of the playoffs and their future as to where they’ll play in the future up in the air, there is one thing they can count on. If the team moves to Winnipeg they can count on impending unrestricted free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov playing for another team or league next season.

After last night’s 6-3 loss in Game 4 to Detroit, Bryzgalov was asked about his future as a free agent and the prospects of re-signing with the organization. To say he’s not a big fan of Winnipeg would be a wild and hysterical understatement.

“You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?” Bryzgalov said after the Coyotes lost to Detroit, Wednesday night. “Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it’s cold. There’s no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family.”

The 30-year-old Russian’s knowledge of Winnipeg comes from a visit or two when he was with Cincinnati in the AHL.

“I’ve been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors. It was really cold,” Bryzgalov said. “I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold.”

I know things are a bit different in Canada, but I didn’t realize it was a country without parks or entertainment. It’s either that or Winnipeg really is a frontier outpost in the middle of nowhere. I should really shut up when talking about places I’ve never been before.

It’s not the first time Bryzgalov has bagged on the bad weather in a central Canadian city, he sounded off similarly about Edmonton years ago while a member of the Ducks. Bryzgalov has been a bit spoiled in his NHL career having played in Anaheim and Phoenix, that’s some really good weather during the winter to have to call home.

Of course, with free agency coming up for him and a potentially very wealthy owner to sign his paychecks in Winnipeg (should he be open to going there) we’d like to think that David Thomson would build Bryzgalov his own climate controlled biodome should that be what it takes to lure him north of the border.

Would he even listen to an offer from the new owners? It doesn’t sound too likely.

“Probably not. I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest. Because KHL is Russian people, it’s family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language.”

Ah yes, the KHL option. Bryzgalov is an interesting enough character to take seriously on such a threat to go back to Russia but it’s one that didn’t work out too well for guys like Ray Emery and Evgeni Nabokov the last couple years. The comparison to Nabokov is appropriate because he too is Russian and thought he could get paid well and be at home. That didn’t work out too well as he was allowed to leave SKA St. Petersburg to come back to North America and ultimately end up in limbo after being claimed on waivers by the Islanders.

If he wants to go back to Russia that’s more than fine and that’s his decision. Of course, there may be a warm weather team with an opening at goalie next season if things don’t work out with Phoenix. Tampa Bay has Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith both becoming unrestricted free agents next year. Perhaps Bryzgalov would be interested in some beach front property in Florida instead of a home on the prairie in Winnipeg.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal