Even though it has been confirmed that the Jackets will face Devan Dubnyk in net for the Oilers tonight, and not Ilya Bryzgalov, I am sure a lot of discussion surrounding tonight’s game will still revolve around the backup.
I for one am happy to see Bryzgalov get another chance to be a NHL goaltender. Whether he was a product of the Phoenix Coyotes shutdown defense, or a victim of the Flyers defensive mess, I always felt that Bryzgalov belongs in the NHL.
Ilya Bryzgalov was the victim of a pricey contract (one that everyone wouldn’t think twice about signing) that very few players could live up to. Had his contract been smaller, his poor play would have been excused and blamed on a porous Philadelphia defense. But, when you are making superstar money, then superstar play is expected, whether that is possible or not.
One of the explanations I saw for Bryzgalov not being on an NHL roster to start the season was that he was a “distraction” in the locker room. While I will admit he is an interesting character, most of the apparent distractions were created by a media circus, hungry to get the next funny or outgoing Bryz quote.
Bryzgalov is eccentric, outgoing, and sometimes is a little too honest during interviews, but to say that is the type of thing that divides or distracts a locker room is just ridiculous. I saw his appearance on HBO’s 24/7 as a refreshing look at a player who isn’t going to give you the same “put pucks on net, give it 110%, have to establish a good fore check” canned responses. He is different and sometimes a bit strange, but that is what makes him exciting.
The Oilers went as far as interviewing those who have coached or been around Bryzgalov in the past, to make sure he “wasn’t a terrible guy”. How is it that we see more of a response from a team and the media regarding someone with an eccentric personality than an actual terrible guy like Semyon Varlamov. I think we have vilified the wrong Russian Goaltender here.
But, it seems this time around the media may have ruined one of the better personalities in hockey. Already we have seen Edmonton limit his media availability, and Bryzgalov just shrugged off questions in Oklahoma City that were obviously trying to bait him into a “classic Bryz” type response.
Hockey needs more interesting personalities like Bryzgalov. I am tired of the same vanilla responses to interviews. The media and fans claim they are tired of canned responses too, but every time someone strays outside of the box, they are immediately criticized for either being insensitive (see: Joe Thornton and Sean Avery) or a distraction (See: Ilya Bryzgalov). Welcome back Bryz!