The Edmonton Oilers are at a cross roads with what do in their goal. Do they continue to play Devan Dubnyk despite his early season struggles, hoping he turns it around while precious points fade away game by game? All the while Jason LaBarbera gets ample playing time in the mix and brings mediocre goaltending to the team. Or do they make a deal and bring in a fresh face, someone who can make the big save when the team needs it. One option that is available brings the question on whether or not the Oilers pursue Ilya Bryzgalov?
A free-agent after being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, Bryzgalov is still waiting for that NHL contract offer that would see him return to the elite league. Choosing not to follow some of his countrymen back to Russia to suit up in the KHL, Bryzgalov was offered a tryout with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. But that too has ended prematurely and now the 33-year old is uncertain of his next move.
Everyone around the hockey world knows that the Oilers struggles in goal are a major concern and Bob McKenzie of TSN confirmed that GM Craig MacTavish is busy working the phone lines to get a sense of what the market looks like for goaltenders. We’ll look at trade options for the Oilers in a piece that will run tomorrow, but for the time being, Bryzgalov is an interesting option to say the least.
The Russian netminder can play, there is no denying his talent. Last season with the Flyers he put up a winning record but concerns lie in the fact that he put up a GAA of 2.79, his worst in five seasons (2.79) and recorded a career worst save percentage of .900.
His career numbers are good with a save percentage of .913 and a GAA of 2.55. But Devan Dubnyk had similar numbers the last three years and if he can return to that form then the waters in Oil Country will again be calm and the season will proceed as planned.
But what if Dubnyk can’t turn it around? We know Mac-T is feverishly trying to get a grasp on what it would take to lure a legitimate number one netminder and in this case Bryzgalov wouldn’t cost him anything other than a few million bucks. If it would take that much given he could likely have the man who’s petrified of bears for a cheap one-year salary.
The problem is not necessarily what you might get from a performance standpoint on the ice with Bryzgalov, but what you get off it as well. Falling asleep during team meetings, lashing out at the media and general funkiness that creates a distraction could also be called the travelling Bryzgalov road show.
Some might argue that the Oilers could use the distraction to take the attention off of their pitiful start, but in the grand scheme of things, this hockey club needs a netminder who can be relied upon when in goal and have the assurance that off the ice he’ll fit in the room and not disrupt any chemistry that may be forming.
His best season was four years ago when he was still apart of the Phoenix Coyotes. That year he posted a record of 42-20-6 with a GAA of 2.20 and a save percentage of .920, along with 8 shutouts. That was a Phoenix team that had a solid blue line in front of him and played a conservative, defensive game; something that isn’t the case in Edmonton.
All signs point to staying away from Bryzgalov, even if his services could help in the short-term. The negatives with him out weigh the few positives and the Oilers need to focus on a trade, if they feel inclined to upgrade in goal. Then again, what do you do with Devan Dubnyk, a whole other problem that MacTavish would be faced with. His trade value is non-existent but surely a team would take a chance on him and claim him if put on waivers. It’s a risky play either way you spin it if the Oilers wish to make a move in goal.
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