Bob Ford: Flyers do need help in goal, but that's not all

Posted: June 21, 2011

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That the Flyers will never win another Stanley Cup until they acquire a goaltender worthy of putting his name on it.

Fortunately, that seems to be the conclusion management has arrived at as well. The Flyers traded for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov and, according to all reports, hope to sign the 30-year-old Russian to a contract as soon as Tuesday.

The only remaining questions are whether they get the deal done before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and whether he is, in fact, the answer the Flyers have been looking for.

Bryzgalov is capable of being the goalie on a Stanley Cup team. He won it with the Ducks in 2007, so that line on his resume is complete. It is also no guarantee that past success is a predictor of future performance. (See: Hitchcock, Ken.)

He might be the best option out there at the moment, but - even for the five-year, $25 million deal that has been quoted as his bottom line - that doesn't mean everything will suddenly fall into place for the team.

For his career in the NHL, Bryzgalov has a .916 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average. Good, but nothing eye-popping, and Bryzgalov is only two years removed from the 2008-09 season with Phoenix when he had a pretty ordinary .906 save percentage.

By comparison, Sergei Bobrovsky, the most recent flavor-of-the-month for the Flyers, had a .915 save percentage as a rookie and a 2.58 goals-against average. Those numbers look fairly similar to the career track record of Bryzgalov, but it's already been decided that the 22-year-old Bob isn't the guy for the future. Here's hoping they are right this time.

It's understood that a good deal of what goes into a goaltender's stats is determined by the team playing in front of him. The Coyotes in 2008-09 were a losing team, so maybe that downturn wasn't Bryzgalov's fault.

But that's really the point. How the Flyers move forward will be about the totality of the team, not about a miracle worker in the nets. If Chris Pronger is healthy, if general manager Paul Holmgren is able to re-sign Ville Leino, if Danny Briere holds up at the age of 34, if Jeff Carter and Mike Richards can be who they are supposed to be every night . . . if all that happens, the Flyers can contend seriously for the Cup with almost any reliable goalie.

If that is Ilya Bryzgalov, then great. It doesn't have to turn out that way, though, no matter how much they hope so. (See: Emery, Ray.)

That the Phillies have an opportunity in the 18 games until the all-star break to secure a certain playoff berth.

Starting Tuesday night in St. Louis - where they have the good fortune to play the Cardinals without the services of Albert Pujols - the Phils can get on a run and keep running. St. Louis has lost seven of its last 10 games and this series will be followed by three home games against an Oakland team that is 10 games below .500 on the road this season.

Just prior to the all-star break, the Phils play at Toronto against the mediocre Blue Jays, at Florida against the collapsed Marlins and then home against Atlanta in a series that could be a real statement against their only semi-legitimate division rival.

Oh, yes. In between those stretches is a little three-game series in Citizens Bank Park against the Red Sox that will provide a nice measuring stick, too - for both teams.

Taken together, let's say the Phillies keep their pitching in line, continue their modest hitting resurgence and win 12 of those 18 games. A very good run, but not one that would surprise anyone. It would sent them into the break with 57 wins and require nothing more than a .500 record after that to compile 93 wins on the season.

That would give the front office the luxury of picking its spots at the trading deadline. Doing so would require a singular purpose in the next three weeks and a focus that isn't always apparent, however. It's time, starting Tuesday night, for Charlie Manuel and his staff to make sure the team recognizes the opportunity it has right now.

That if Andre Iguodala hasn't been traded by Thursday night, he's not going to be traded.

There have been plenty of rumors of trading partners for the 76ers (Golden State for Donta Ellis, L.A. Clippers for Chris Kaman), but nothing more than those smoke wisps of hope that the Sixers will finally move one of the most frustrating players in team history.

Maybe that $44 million he is owed over the next three seasons looks more daunting in the face of a looming labor war that could redraw the NBA's salary cap landscape. Maybe the Sixers are asking for too much, or are unwilling to receive some empty salary in return.

Whatever the case, the longer this goes, the less likely it seems that Iguodala will be traded. It could be that a draft day deal was the plan all along and the moving pieces are already in place.

It doesn't seem that way, though. What it seems like is that talk is cheap and Andre Iguodala isn't.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns/

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