Well, against my wishes, if you’ve followed this blog since the beginning (all of five days ago), the Wild have gone out and gotten themselves a goalie. He’s Ilya Bryzgalov, and he’s possibly insane.
I know, I know, goalies are supposed to be weird. But no one is supposed to be this weird.
Here’s Bryzgalov’s coming out party on HBO’s “24/7” leading up to the 2012 Winter Classic between between his then-team, Philadelphia, and the New York Rangers, when Bryzgalov tried to become the Neil Degrasse-Tyson of the NHL:
If you prefer your quotes without a thick Russian accent, Puck Puck Goose posted them back on New Year’s Day, 2012. As an aside from a goaltender, I will personally attest that #3 makes a lot of sense. But anyway…
While that video made Bryzgalov famous, he hasn’t really been a bona fide no.1 NHL goalie since. He had signed a nine-year deal in Philadelphia in 2011, and lasted just two seasons in the famed South Philly goaltending meat-grinder before he was bought out after last season. He signed with Edmonton in November, and has posted fairly pedestrian numbers this year (granted Edmonton’s defense is awful) of 5-8-5 with a 3.01 GAA and a .908 Save Pct.
Despite my earlier protestations (see above), this move isn’t terrible. Bryzgalov’s best days are behind him, sure, but so are Nicklas Backstrom’s, and he’s perma-injured, it seems. With Josh Harding still out and, sadly, unable to be counted on, the Wild get a slight upgrade on Backstrom who has playoff experience (in fact he beat the Wild three times in their first round series with Anaheim in 2007) for very little the other way; the wild sent Edmonton a fourth round pick that was originally Buffalo’s. For those of you who wanted Marty Brodeur, he would not have been worth the asking price, which I’m sure came with a “legend of the game” bump.
Most importantly, this trade will do nothing to derail the Darcy Kuemper express. Bryzgalov has been a backup for about half of his career, and should have no illusions about being a starting goaltender now. The good news is, the Wild can now give Kuemper a spot day off, something they have been unable to do while Backstrom has been the backup, on account of he’s so banged up he can really only sit in a chair in hockey gear at this point.
Some things to ponder:
1. What happens to Backstrom now? The Wild likely won’t carry three goalies, and he has to be the odd-man out. It’s possible that he’s just done for the season and can now be shut down for good.
2. Ditto Harding. Can someone give this guy a break in life? Never met the man, but he seems like the best of dudes, and terrible things keep happening to him.
3. Just for fun, Bryzgalov becomes the first Russian player to play for the Wild since Andrei Zyuzin and Alexi Nazarov…eight years ago. Also, he’s just the 5th Russian to ever play for the team (not including the late Sergei Zholtok and Anton Khudobin, who, despite being born under the Soviet umbrella, are Latvian and Kazakh, respectively).
Well, this should be interesting. Did the Wild just get the man they needed? Or did they acquire a chemistry-rattling headache who is past his prime? We shall see..