I’ll gladly admit that I’m beating a dead horse at this point. But after reading the comments on this morning’s Flyers post, and continuously getting bombarded by Type OB (Orange and Black) nuts who refuse to admit that, overall, Ilya Bryzgalov has been disappointing*, I can’t help myself.
*We’re defining that as: 1. Not nearly as good and consistent as we expected when the Flyers unloaded their core to make room for Bryz and his $51 million contract. 2. Not the all-world goalie we’ve dreamt of for 20 years.
Here’s the argument in a nutshell:
Wait, no. Here it is: Some feel that Bryz is never going to live up to expectations (superstar, top-five goalie being paid a historic sum of money) and is too inconsistent and nutty, regardless of the defense in front of him, to be relied upon. The sample size of more than a full season is large enough to draw that reasonable conclusion. He’s a fun quote, sometimes streaky (all goalies are, btw– see Leighton comma Michael comma 2010 comma he’s played in two games since), and is better than the current alternative, but he frightens the shit out of you.
Type OB: No. The Flyers have a prep school defense and any goalie would struggle to find consistency playing behind that. Everyone is too hard on Bryz. Give him a break. He’s been one of the best goalies in the league this year. There’s a full team in front of him– you can’t blame it all on the goalie.
Here’s the problem with that argument: Almost reflexively, like Republicans and Democrats voting along party lines, the Type OB folks who defend Bryz also champion the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades (and everything else the Flyers have ever done, ever. Ever. Period. Ever.). When you casually bring up that little massive silver chalice Richards and Carter won just a year after being shot by Paul Holmgren, the Type OB folks are Quick to point out that the Kings were carried by their goalie. That Richards and Carter had little to do with their team’s playoff success (despite them both being in the top five on the team in playoff scoring and Carter being tied for most goals). It was all about the hot goalie.
Yet, those very same people defend Bryz by pointing out that the players in front of him don’t play defense. That it’s not all about the goalie. That it’s a team game.
See the issue?
Many of those folks don’t want to acknowledge that two-way forwards Richards and Carter played a big part – scoring goals and killing penalties – for the Kings last year. Sure, the goalie was stellar, but he was helped by the players in front of him. Conversely, Bryz is being hurt by the players in front of him. No one is debating that. But woefully inconsistent defense aside, Bryz continuously gives up soft or suspect goals (two of them last night) and fails make game-altering saves. He’s not terrible. Not the worst goalie ever. He’s maybe even decent. But for $51 million… for being the guy for whom the Flyers traded key players to clear cap space… for being expected to be a difference-maker… Bryz has been anything but. He’s simply been average, maybe a little bit better. Some argue that a good defense and a few two-way forwards would catapult him into some elite pantheon of ‘tenders… but many of those people hate to be reminded that the Flyers traded away a few of those two-way forwards to make room for Bryz. And that’s the problem. That’s why I’m so hard on Bryz. It’s not because he’s awful (he’s not), it’s because he was supposed to be the goalie we haven’t had since Bernie– the Flyers acknowledged as much when they decided to pay him $51 million and trade two players with decade-long contracts to make room for him, to change the structure of the team. And, thus far, Bryz has fallen way short of expectations. It’s all fucking connected.
[You can, of course, debate the other reasons for trading Richards and Carter, but the answer to one of these questions is yes: Did the Flyers know Richards and Carter were cancers and sign them to decade-long contracts anyway? Were the Flyers somehow unaware of it when they handed out massive contracts like they were candy?]
Yes, we’re beating a dead horse. But at least one of those trades made room for Bryz. Many people defend the strategy. Yet those same people refuse to criticize the goalie, saying that he doesn’t have defensive-minded players in front of him… the type of players the Flyers traded away.
In return for those trades the Flyers got Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, and made room for Bryz. Schenn has been up and down. Couturier has already shown that he’ll be a good two-way player. Voracek and Simmonds are proving to be a reliable, above average scorers. But the Flyers, right now, are incapable of playing the type of well-rounded hockey that led them to Game 6 of Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 and toward the top of the league standings in 2011. That summer, they got younger, and got goaltending. Problem is, the goaltending hasn’t made a difference.