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Ilya Bryzgalov’s reputation precedes him, which is problematic when his reputation is that of a bear-fearing Cosmonaut who’s loopier than a roller coaster and isn’t seen as a model teammate.
The Edmonton Oilers knew that reputation when they began mulling over whether to sign Bryz this month. So they looked into how accurate it was, as GM Craig MacTavish told Pierre LeBrun in an enlightening piece on Tuesday:
"We did homework in terms of the character," said MacTavish. "You hear both ends of the spectrum. You heard people say, 'He's a good guy, he's not a problem, he's going to be very easy to work with.' Then you also heard, 'He's a terrible guy.' I've never seen this varied an opinion on a guy. Normally people focus in on the same conclusion. But this was quite different."
"These are the yes factors: he's going to be highly motivated, he's got a history of having a high-level game, and he's on a short-term contract," said MacTavish. "Plus, it didn't cost us anything but the contract to get him, we didn't have to spend the assets to trade for a goalie. The downside was not much at this point."
LeBrun reports that Oilers Coach Dallas Eakins sought the advice of Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Randy Carlyle, who coached Bryzgalov with the Anaheim Ducks. Eakins and assistant GM Scott Howson (ahem, that’s SPECIAL ASSISTANT to the GM, thanks) also visited Bryzgalov and his family in Philadelphia. Where they presumably met his huskie, a.k.a the most beautiful woman he's ever known.
MacTavish pulled no punches: This is a chance for Bryzgalov to change that reputation in the NHL. From ESPN.com:
"Everybody likes an underdog story, and he can quickly get into that position here," said MacTavish. "He's a colorful character. If he plays well, he's got a chance to really resurrect his image and his game. There's a lot on the line. It probably won't be seamless, but he's got a chance.’’
That he does, because the Oilers took one on Ilya Bryzgalov.