It’s more or less human nature to want to fit in and “keep up with the Joneses.” There are at least two fundamental problems with that mindset, though: 1) it is expensive to stay on top of trends and buy the latest gadgets and 2) you might lose your own identity in the process.
The Philadelphia Flyers seem primed to finally kowtow to conventional wisdom by locking up Ilya Bryzgalov to a hefty, possibly long-term deal. Rumors are floating around that he could want as much as $6-$7 million per year or a dangerously lengthy deal if Philly wants to shave down the cap hit a bit.
While many people fixate on his 12-13 career postseason record (even though he still has a respectable .917 save percentage in his playoff career), there are two bigger questions that make the Flyers’ quest to nab Bryzgalov a little bit worrisome.
1. Will Bryzgalov thrive in Philly?
While the Phoenix Coyotes allowed more shots than you might expect from a supposedly stingy defense, it still seemed like the team’s M.O. revolved around limiting scoring chances. Every team claims that as one of their objectives, but the Flyers tend to attack far more on offense. Much like Tomas Vokoun – a nice goalie who played on two conservative teams in Florida and Nashville – I cannot help but wonder if Bryzgalov will struggle in a more wide-open system. (Especially if Chris Pronger’s healthy days are behind him.)
There is also the hard-to-ignore factor of the brutal Philly market. Breezy is a colorful character who might be a little sensitive to criticism at times. He had it easy in two far-from-intense markets in Anaheim and Phoenix, but how will he respond when the vultures circle him in low moments in the City of Brotherly Love?
2. Could a Bryzgalov signing dilute the impressive depth that made Philly special to begin with?
One thing people continuously overlook is the fact that the Flyers are able to afford more quality players because they don’t overspend on goalies. As I pointed out in this post, 11 out of the 14 teams who missed the playoffs spent $3.5 million or more on a single goalie while half of the teams who made the postseason went with more affordable options.
The Flyers are already hard against the cap with Ville Leino among their pending free agents, so they will need to shed some useful players to have a chance to afford Bryzgalov. The difficult question arises: would they still be an elite team in a more top-heavy form?
Signing Bryzgalov would make executives happy, soothe irritated fans and force media members to come up with a different storyline after hammering the same point for what seems like decades. But when you look around the league, it’s clear that plenty of teams aren’t doing that well even if they’re paying exorbitant prices for their goalies. The goalie position is undeniably important in hockey, but making a huge investment in such an unstable property is proving again and again to be a big gamble.
The Flyers are one of the most consistently successful NHL franchises because they do things their way, but it seems like they’re finally going to do what everyone insists they must. Their front office is bright enough to find a way to blend a more shallow roster with a more stable goaltender into something special, but I cannot help but wonder if they’re making a mistake by striving for the status quo.
At least they’ll get the chance to answer a different set of questions if this option flops, though, right?