Disaster. The dictionary defines disaster as a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, which causes great damage or loss of life. While the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov did not result in the loss of life, Flyers fans would certainly say it was a disaster. A horrible horrific disaster that might end up burning the organization for years to come.
It wasn’t just the contract, of which the Flyers will agree to pay $23 million to Bryzgalov as he suits up for another team. It wasn’t the fact that he came into town as a savior, and left town as an overpaid space cadet. It was the fact that the move helped facilitate the trade of Sergei Bobrovsky, the current Veznia trophy winner. There isn’t a Flyers fan around who isn’t cursing the name of Paul Holmgren for trading off the 23 year old goalie for a 2nd & 4th round draft picks. But before you point the finger at Holmgren, point it first at his boss.
What if I were to tell you that everything you’ve been made to believe wasn’t as it appears. What if I were to tell you that Al Davis lives, and Al Davis wants a Stanley Cup. The current mess of the Philadelphia Flyers was constructed by its matriarch Ed Snider. Snider brought the Flyers to Philadelphia in 1966 and saw them hoist back to back Stanley Cups in 1974 & 1975. The taste of champagne from the cup has eluded Mr. Snider since that 1975 season and he wants so desperately to press his lips to the cup one last time.
Snider isn’t getting any younger. At the age of 80, he has embraced the Al Davis motto of “just win baby”. But like Davis, he is driving the franchise into the ground. He is a man who thinks he knows best, because after all, he won back to back cups over 40 years ago. He has no problem telling his general manager how to do his job, and that is exactly what happened with Bryzgalov.
It was Snider, and not Holmgren who wanted Bryzgalov. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the fact that Holmgren still has his job today. You don’t make a $23 million dollar mistake, trade away a future Veznia winner to make room for said mistake, and still keep your job. That is unless you weren’t the one who wanted the move in the first place.
At some point in the 2011 offseason Snider got it in his head that his 22 year old rookie goalie wasn’t good enough. Even though Bobrovsky played well, but did break down towards the end of the season, it was lost on Snider that Bobrovsky had seen a rise in playing time that he had never seen before. He went from playing in 35 games in 2009-2010, to playing in 54 games in 2010-2011. Anyone with a brain could figure out that Bobrovsky was simply overworked, but Snider figured that Bobrovsky simply wasn’t good enough.
So on that day in 2011 Snider contacted Holmgren and demanded he go out and get Ilya Bryzgalov. I wrote a piece back in 2011 on why I didn’t think the Flyers needed Bryzgalov, but Snider disagreed, and Bryzgalov was signed to a 9 year, $51 million dollar deal.
Phoenix tried to warn us. Former players came out of the woodwork to bash Bryzgalov, claiming he was a horrible teammate, but Snider didn’t care. Snider figured he had the final piece to the puzzle that would allow him to taste the champagne again. He was never more wrong in his life.
He didn’t play well, but he was amusing. Fans got a taste of his “quirky” personality on HBO’s 24/7 series. While players and coaches claimed to like the weird Russian. It just didn’t pass the smell test. Little things, like Bryzgalov being left at a table to eat by himself, or eating with his backup goalie, and an often healthy scratched Harry Zolnierczyk. But the guy was a walking sound clip, and fans figured his slow start would eventually turn to multiple wins. Finally in March the players got sick of his shtick. A closed door meeting with a couple of Flyers veterans was held, and Bryzgalov was told to cut the crap. The players didn’t want to hear about the universe, or China law, they wanted him to stop the puck. Shortly after that closed door meeting Bryzgalov started to play better and his attitude towards the media changed.
But what didn’t change was his relationship with his teammates. Just like in Phoenix, they couldn’t stand him and he could care less. A perfect example was Bryzgalov falling asleep during meetings. It was also reported that Bryzgalov would walk around the locker room bragging that he was going to be bought out and would get two paychecks for next season. One from the Flyers and another from whatever team decided to sign him the following season. More stories are likely to come out in the coming weeks from beat writers who have been sitting on stories, and teammates who won’t be able to bite their tongues.
So finally the relationship has come to an end. The $23 million dollar mistake, that cost the Flyers a Veznia winner, is walking out the door and couldn’t be happier. But don’t blame Holmgren, who is forced to face the media regarding a decision that wasn’t his in the first place, blame Ed.
Ed Snider is the man that didn’t have time to develop a goalie, because he wanted to win, and win now. But instead of winning, the Flyers are once again searching. Searching for the franchise goalie that they haven’t had since Ron Hextall donned the orange and black. Snider will continue to meddle in the affairs of the team. Just like Al Davis, he thinks he knows best, but he doesn’t. He does more harm than good but what are you going to do? He’s the boss. But until Ed Snider is gone this team won’t win.
While it is convenient to point the finger at Flyers GM Paul Holmgren just remember that he’s got a man trying to tell him how to do his job. A man that has become the hockey version of Al Davis. And because of his “just win baby” mentality, the Flyers will now pay $23 million to a goalie to just go away. A goalie that he wanted when he didn’t need one.