Tomorrow night, the Flyers will host the Phoenix Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center in what promises to be an emotional affair for Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
It was in Phoenix where Bryz rose to prominence. He averaged 33 wins per season as the Coyotes’ starter and backstopped them to consecutive playoff appearances after a six-year absence. In 2009-10, he was the runner-up to Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller.
That rise to prominence saw him sign a nine-year, $51-million deal with the Flyers this summer, making him one of the highest-paid players in hockey.
Needless to say, Bryz looks back on his time in Phoenix with fondness.
“I really appreciate everything they did for me,” Bryzgalov told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia. “I wish them the best. I’m really glad they are doing well without me because they deserve it. They work extremely hard.
“They have beautiful people in that organization. Management and coaches and a good group of guys. Maybe not like superstar players, but a group of guys like Shane Doan, Keith Yandle, a good defense and all the team works together in the offensive and defensive zone.”
Speaking of Yandle, he’s an interesting character in the Bryzgalov-Phoenix-Philly saga. This past summer, the ‘Yotes had two key free agents to deal with: Bryzgalov (UFA) and Yandle (RFA). Phoenix deemed Bryzgalov expendable but broke the bank for Yandle — five years, $26.25-million, making him the highest-paid player on the team.
If that wasn’t a clear indicator of who the Coyotes thought was more vital to their success, they then turned around and signed former Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith to a modest two-year, $4-million deal…and are chugging along just fine. Phoenix has a lower goals-against average this year (2.44) than last (2.68) and is just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”
The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.
Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.
Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.
“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”
Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:
- He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
- Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
- The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.
Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.
Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?