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Flyers Buy Out Ilya Bryzgalov: Odds For An NHL Return

See this face? This face doesn't care.

See this face? This face doesn’t care.

The Philadelphia Flyers recently decided to part ways with their goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was equal parts colorful and combative, after just two short seasons. Like really short seasons, considering half the 2012-13 season was lost to the lockout and the Flyers failed to make the playoffs.

Although it will provide for nearly $6 million in salary cap room for the next seven years, it’s still an extremely costly move for Philadelphia. In 2011 the team signed Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract worth $51 million. A questionable move at the time that looks downright stupid two years later.

If the NHL operated like the NFL, the player would be SOL and the Flyers would only be out two seasons worth of salary. That’s not how it works in hockey though, which is why Bryzgalov will be $1.643 million dollars each of the next 14 years not to play for them.

Don’t you wish you could get paid that kind of money to not work? The Flyers shouldn’t feel too bad about this mess though because it could have been a whole heckuva lot worse.

Like New York Mets and Bobby Bonilla worse. In 1999 he had one-year left on his contract, but the team was desperate to get rid of him. But rather than pay him the $5.9 million they owed him at the time, their mentally challenged owner Fred Wilpon and then GM worked out an awesome deal—for Bonilla.

Instead of paying it out in a lump sum, the Mets would pay it back over 25-years, with interest, starting in 2011. So on July 1st of that year he received his first $1,193,248 check and he’ll receive his last check on July 1st of 2035—he’ll be 73-years-old. Talk about a retirement plan! The Mets managed to turn a a $5.9 million buyout into nearly a $30 million buyout.

A deal so shockingly terrible that only the Mets could've concocted it.

A deal so shockingly terrible that only the Mets could’ve concocted it.

So now that we’ve established it could’ve been worse for the Flyers, it’s safe to say that the whole situation has been an abject disaster for the team. It makes you wonder why they decided to sign Bryzgalov to begin with and what ultimately led them to pull the plug so quickly.

His on-ice production did take a mild downturn during his tenure in Philadelphia, but statistically speaking, other than a few extremely bad showings, the downtick in his stats was marginal at best. Certainly not enough to get someone with a contract like his cut after 1.5 seasons.

Bryzgalov was was cut because, quite frankly, everyone in Philadelphia hated him. And he, in turn, hated everyone in Philadelphia—particularly the local media. In fact, Bryzgalov went downright John Rocker in an interview with a Russian sports site in March 2013. He’s been well known to speak his (crazy ass) mind with little regard for any potential PR repercussions.

The controversial interview was quickly pulled, but not before Deadspin, whose writers have a sixth sense for detecting hilarious controversy, posted it permanently. The translation isn’t good, which actually makes it even better. Here’s what Bryzgalov had to say on the following issues (I’m paraphrasing):

On Philadelphia: It sucks. It’s old and grim, like New York. A realtor once took him to an 87-year-old house and he assumed someone died there because it smelled like mildew and old age—which he said “Americans like.” He likes Boston and Dallas because they are “newer” and “cleaner.”

On Communism: Capitalism is obviously failing in the United States and Europe, everything you think you know is a lie.

On Ghettos: Philly is stacked with them. Nobody works, everyone lives on welfare and food stamps because they’re lazy. They’re just relying on the hard work of rich guys like him.

On the three people (dead or alive) he’d invite to a dinner party: Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, and Albert Einstein. (How lucky for Einstein)

Add Kim Kardashian and this is OFFICIALLY the worst dinner party in history.

Add Kim Kardashian and this is OFFICIALLY the worst dinner party in history.

On Joseph Stalin: Bryzgalov is a fan. He sees the logic in his actions and respects his methods. Russian had just come through a revolution when he came to power and “there were so many spies, enemies, [and] traitors.” (If you wanna make an omelet, ya gotta break some eggs—right?) “He knew what he was doing. His described as a ‘bloody tyrant.’ … Yes, there were innocent people who were victims of repressions, but it happens.”

If you’re not a history buff, it should be noted that Stalin actually killed approximately three times more people than Adolf Hitler did in the Holocaust. And most of them were his own people.

Moving on.

Bryzgalov’s love and admiration of evil dictators aside, he’s been a thorn in the Flyers’ side since day one. Someone of his comments over the last two years have come across as borderline insane. Initially you could blame it on the language barrier, but eventually it became clear that he wasn’t just his comments that were borderline insane.

During a playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in April 2012, Bryzgalov expressed his lack of concern, explaining: “I’m not afraid of anything. I’m afraid of bears, but bears in the forest.” Obviously a joke, but it really fell flat and became the subject of intense mockery. The Pens lost the series, but the Flyers were the ones that really lost in the end.

A month later Bryzgalov was asked what job he would have if wasn’t playing and he replied “astronaut.” Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it at that. According to a CSN Philly report:

“Bryzgalov began a long dissertation about the American space program versus the Soviet/Russian space program and which was superior. He noted that the first two animals in space were Russian dogs, which led to strange exchanged between Bryzgalov and a reporter about who had lost more monkeys in space—the Americans of the Soviets. [He] conceded that too many monkey had lost their lives in that vocation.”

“The problem with monkeys,” Bryzgalov quipped, “they push the wrong buttons.”



Stupid idiot monkeys not knowing how to fly spaceships!

Honestly, that kind of stuff could’ve endeared him to the local media, if only he wasn’t such an antagonizing jagweed to them all the time. If Bryzgalov wasn’t directly demeaning the Flyers beat reporters, he was talking trash about them behind their backs. He made no secret of his disdain for the local media.

When the Flyers failed to make the playoffs in 2013, Bryzgalov was in no mood to answer their questions about the hows and whys. Instead offering this gem: “You guys are just here to blame someone … Never look yourself in the mirror, huh? You’re always good, never make mistakes, your articles are always perfect. But in reality what have you done for this city?”

How any of the reporters in the room could resist the urge to turn Bryzgalov’s question on himself is beyond me. Especially if they are really the “unprofessional bullies” he’s described them as in the past. And considering it’s Philly, he’s lucky they didn’t start chucking batteries at his ass.

When Bryzgalov was cut earlier this week, Randy Miller of the South Jersey Courier-Post tweeted that he and three other reporters on speakerphone had reached him via phone for a comment. According to Miller, Bryzgalov “answered the phone and said ‘Congratulations to you guys,’ then hung up on [him].”

Bryz is laughing all the way to the bank.

Bryz is laughing all the way to the bank.

Actually, it was Bryzgalov that won.

The Philadelphia sports media will miss needling him, so no victory there. The Flyers are out $51 million and a goalie. And we’re all out one of the most eccentric, unintentionally hilarious, and personally and professional erratic athletes in the history of the league.

So what are the chances we’ve seen the last of Bryzgalov in the NHL? After all, there’s nothing, aside from the fact that he’s a crazy locker room cancer, preventing another team from signing him. And he’d still get the same payout from the Flyers either way—it’s not like alimony.

Well, let’s just say they’re not great, but they’re not terrible. The oddsmakers over at Bovada give Bryzgalov just a 33 percent chance of starting for another team in the opening game of the 2013-14 season—which is much higher than I would’ve guessed.

Granted, that’s pretty limiting. Starting the very first game of the season? It will certainly take more than a few months for teams to get the rancid taste Bryzgalov left out of their mouths.

That being said, I think the chances of Bryzgalov ever making a comeback to the NHL slim to none. And it has nothing to do with his craziness, unpleasant demeanor with the media, or the way he left Philadelphia. It’s because he’s a goalie who has been proven to be afraid of hockey pucks. 

Seriously. Bryzgalov has been caught more than once on video purposefully dodging them.

Which means the market for Bryzgalov as a goalie in the NHL is about the same as the market for a blind driving instructor: Zero.

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