Michael Leighton

Holmgren raises possibility of Leighton being Bryzgalov’s backup


The Philadelphia Flyers got a decent haul of draft picks when they traded Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus. Still, it did leave them without a clear understudy for Ilya Bryzgalov and while there will certainly be appealing candidates on the free agent market, Philadelphia is somewhat limited by its poor cap situation.

They need someone relatively cheap and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren apparently already has someone in mind.

“We talked about Michael Leighton, who is still really our guy,” Holmgren said, according to Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer. “Ilya plays a lot of games and we’re counting on him playing a lot of games next year. We’ll do our work and come up with a good guy.”

Leighton did have one good run with the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2009-10, which convinced them to sign him to a two-year contract worth $3.1 million. Over the course of that deal, he spent almost all of his time in the minors and ended up playing in just one NHL game. Seravalli claims that Leighton “made no friends inside the organization.”

Leighton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and is likely to take a significant pay cut.

It’s worth noting that he did put up good numbers in the AHL, so maybe he’s still capable of being a decent backup under a goaltender that’s capable of making 65-plus starts. That being said, Leighton sounds more like a fallback option that the Flyers should only consider for the number two gig if things don’t go their way in the first week of July.

Giroux on Bryzgalov: “He’s gonna be the best goalie in the league next year”

Bryzgalov Giroux

We’ve seen past instances of Flyers forward Claude Giroux showing public support for his embattled goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov.

On Tuesday, he took it to the next level.

Giroux joined Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic to discuss a variety of subjects — the EA NHL 13 cover vote, his wrist injury, if he’s watching the Stanley Cup finals — with his most intriguing comments came on the subject of Bryz.

On the team getting frustrated with Ilya Bryzgalov’s act during the regular season:

GIROUX: If you don’t know what to expect coming into Philly, it’s not like in Phoenix — they don’t have a lot of media and stuff. It’s Philly, everybody’s a big Flyers fan and it’s great.

He didn’t know how it would be, but at the end of the season, like you said, he kind of adapted himself and he was good with the fans and he was playing his best hockey at the end, too.

Obviously next year he’s gonna know what to expect and if I had to predict anything he’s gonna be the best goalie in the league next year — I’m pretty sure that’s what’s gonna happen.”

As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time Giroux has gone this route. Prior to Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series, he told reporters Bryzgalov was “going to be great tonight” and Bryzgalov responded by stopping 50 of the 54 shots he faced in Games 5 and 6.

But…best goalie in the league? That’s setting the bar awfully high.

Does Philly need a better backup for Bryzgalov?

Ilya Bryzgalov

Over at CSN Philadelphia, John Boruk takes a closer look at the Flyers’ goaltending situation behind Ilya Bryzgalov.

With this year’s backup, Sergei Bobrovsky, coming off a less-than-stellar campaign — and with no real guarantee he’ll be back next season — Boruk figures the Flyers will have to go shopping for a backup if/when “Bob” is dispatched to the AHL.

The Flyers need to find a reliable veteran backup on a one-year contract who can offset Bryzgalov, especially during those stints when he gets lost in that heavily wooded bear-infested wilderness that swallowed him up this past season.

It may not be one of the Flyers’ biggest, flashiest or more-expensive moves, but it could prove to be just as important come July 1. 

Boruk threw five names out: Tomas Vokoun, Johan Hedberg, Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason. All of them are unrestricted free agents with Harding (27) the youngest and Hedberg (39) the oldest.

One name overlooked is that of Martin Biron, the 34-year-old caddy to Henrik Lundqvist in New York that’s received high praise, most notably from CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

If I’m Paul Holmgren, I’m doing what I can to get Martin Biron back in a Flyer uniform this summer. (Biron is a UFA.) You have to get Bryzgalov the best possible backup, a team-oriented veteran who will do whatever it takes to make your starter comfortable. This is your guy. The Verizon Center has a really tight visitor’s room. Biron would leave it during intermissions so Lundqvist had more room to spread out and relax. It’s a small thing, but a big thing and, for all of his friendliness, Biron understands the larger picture. Plus, he’d do a lot of talking, which would also ease Bryzgalov’s burden.

A real, real wildcard would be former Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet. He’s coming off an insanely good year in the Swiss league — posting a 1.99 GAA and .932 save percentage — and starred for Team France at the recently-completed World Hockey Championships.

Holmgren to Bryzgalov: This isn’t Comedy Central

Ilya Bryzgalov

As we’ve previously reported, Ilya Bryzgalov recently opened up about the rough season he had and, in particular, the media scrutiny he endured.

“What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy,” Bryzgalov said – and that’s not the only headline-worthy nugget he’s given this season. If fact, he might have provided some of the most interesting quotes of the 2011-12 campaign.

We’ve gained insight into his personality and learned that, like Stephen Colbert, he has a fear of bears. That’s great and all, but his employers would probably wish he didn’t try to be as quotable as Colbert too.

“His job is to stop pucks and help us win games,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. “It’s not Comedy Central.”

Holmgren took a big risk when he traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while almost simultaneously signing Bryzgalov to a nine-year/$51 million contract. He has a lot riding on Bryzgalov and so far, things haven’t played out like he planned.

“Did he play as good as I expected this year,” Holmgren asked. “I’d probably say, no.”

That being said, Holmgren hasn’t given up on Bryzgalov.

“I absolutely think being here a year will help him,” Holmgren said.

All we know for certain is that one year is in the books and there’s eight more to go on that contract.

Bryzgalov: “What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy”

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 03: Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on after Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils scored a goal against him in the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on May 3, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t want to answer reporters’ questions during the Flyers’ postseason media day on Thursday, but he was willing to give a very open and honest interview to Natalia Bragilevskaya of SovSport.

“What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy,” Bryzgalov said. “. . . I need to keep working. I understand the fans. They paid their money and want the show. But many forget that we are not robots, but living people. We have feelings, worries.”

Bryzgalov was very inconsistent during the regular season. He was a bit more reliable in the playoffs, but not in a good way. With the exception of Game 6 against Pittsburgh, Bryzgalov allowed at least three goals in every postseason contest.

“I got very tired this season, to be honest,” he said. “. . . Now I know what it’s like to be a goaltender in Philadelphia. Maybe from the outside it looks like there’s nothing to it. You only realize it on your own.”

It sounds like the media scrunity he experienced in Philadelphia might have come as a revelation, especially considering he jumped straight from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Flyers.

“People are so concentrated on the negative that they only see the bad in me,” Bryzgalov said. “But I think you need to be kinder to each other.”

Still, Bryzgalov does feel that he’s gained “invaluable experience” this season and he’s not prepared to give up despite the difficulties.

“I have eight more years to work under my contract with Philadelphia,” Bryzgalov said. “If I am criticized, then I will endure it. You can’t tie up people’s tongues. It is their right to let the emotions go.”

Being criticized is just something that’s going to happen if you’re playing for a big city in a key role. That’s not unique to hockey and certainly not unique to Bryzgalov. He wasn’t all bad this season, not even close, but the Flyers need more from him going forward.