No reason to see Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov again this year

Posted: April 23, 2013

ILYA BRYZGALOV has appeared in 98 games with the Flyers since signing a 9-year, $51 million contract in 2011. There is no reason he should play in another one - at least not this season.

The most obvious question facing Paul Holmgren this summer is whether to use one of his compliance buyouts on Bryzgalov. The Flyers' front office seems split on the idea.

It would be easy to cut Bryzgalov loose and write off $1.63 million for each of the next 14 years as a bad debt - something all major businesses sometimes do after making a risky acquisition. The hard part is finding a replacement.

The simple truth is that we don't know enough about Steve Mason yet. He improved to 2-2-0 with a .931 save percentage after Saturday's win in Carolina. Has Mason's career turned the corner after a dismal, four-season stretch in Columbus? Or are the Flyers being teased by a second-wind, change-in-scenery blur spurred by his April 3 trade?

It's impossible to tell. Courtesy of BroadStreetHockey.com, here are the save percentages of a few recent goalies after their first handful of games with the Flyers: Bryzgalov (.940), Michael Leighton (.943), Brian Boucher (.930), Antero Niittymaki (.961), Marty Biron (.928), Jeff Hackett (.940), Ray Emery (.922).

That's not to suggest Mason will follow the same, sorry path as those wayward goalkeepers. It's just to show how ridiculously small a sample size of four starts can be.

There are three games left in this entirely forgettable season. That would nearly double the same size collected on Mason. We already know what we're getting from Bryzgalov, who has a mediocre .904 save percentage here. Not starting him over the final three games doesn't preclude the Flyers from bringing him back next season - he's under contract.

Can you base a summer of serious decisions around just three more starts? Of course not. But it would provide a little more background to make an informed decision - something the Flyers clearly didn't do when signing Bryzgalov to that ridiculous deal 22 months ago.

Early awards

Even in a successful season, it would have been hard to vote on the Flyers' annual year-end awards in a truncated, 48-game campaign. Throw in the fact that the product was particularly gruesome to watch in most positions - and it all becomes a bit harder. Votes were due last week. I'm already regretting one of my choices.

The Flyers' defense was a train wreck for most of the season, so deciding on the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defenseman wasn't all that easy. My top vote went to Nick Grossmann.

Initially, I had some debate as to whether Grossmann played enough games (30) before succumbing to various injuries. In my eyes, the Flyers' net seemed a whole lot easier to attack without him. Grossmann also led the team in blocked shots with 82 before Luke Schenn rallied past him last week.

If I could vote over again, I'd move Schenn from No. 2 to No. 1. He was particularly impressive over the last 2 weeks, stepping up to lead a mostly minor league defense corps. He has logged a lion's share of minutes and played some of his best hockey when there wasn't that much to play for.

No player truly separated himself as "most valuable player," for the Bobby Clarke Trophy, but my vote went to Jake Voracek. He led the team in goals, had very few dry spells and seems like a long-term anchor for Claude Giroux.

The players vote for the Pelle Lindbergh Trophy as "most improved player," but is there really an argument for anyone other than Zac Rinaldo?

Phantoms done

The Phantoms (31-38-3-4) finished off their fourth consecutive season in Adirondack on Sunday without a playoff berth. Icing an already talent-depleted roster, the Phantoms were decimated by injuries and call-ups to the Flyers. They finished 28th of the AHL's 30 teams.

Late-season newcomers found moderate success: First-round pick Scott Laughton collected three points in six games, free-agent signee Kyle Flanagan had seven points in 13 contests, and former University of Minnesota defenseman Mark Alt added two points in his first six games as a pro. Head coach Terry Murray will be returning to the bench next season.

After his impressive five-game tryout with the Flyers in January, Laughton, 19, will receive a long look at a permanent roster spot in September.

'Yandled' it well

There likely will be few dry eyes in the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night when the Bruins visit for the first time since last week's horrific Marathon bombings. In addition to Lauren Hart's stirring "God Bless America" performance pregame, the Flyers will wear "Boston Strong" patches on their jerseys and then auction the game-worn uniforms off to benefit OneFund Boston. The other half of the "50/50" raffle on Tuesday will also go to OneFundBoston.org.

In many ways, the Bruins - who had two games either postponed or delayed because of the tragedy - were the face of normalcy last week in Boston. And the hockey community banded together for support leaguewide.

Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, a Boston native, wrote "Pray for Boston" on his skate blade for last Monday's game. On Saturday, he wore a jersey with "Martin Richard" on the nameplate in warmups on a No. 8 sweater, in honor of the 8-year-old boy who was killed, and then Yandle had his teammates sign the jersey for charity. Hockey players just get it.

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