The Philadelphia Flyers made everyone excited last summer when Ilya Bryzgalov was signed. Flyers fans like myself thought it would finally end decades of goaltending problems, and put the team on the doorstep of a Stanley Cup. But when that didn't happen last season, we lived to regret Bryzgalov's nine-year, $51 million contract - yet we are still ready to put our faith in an even more massive deal this offseason.
The clock is ticking for the Nashville Predators to match the Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet for defenseman Shea Weber. If they can't match it, Philadelphia will get an All-Star defenseman that can replace Chris Pronger and lead a defensive powerhouse. Of course, we thought similar things when the Flyers signed Bryzgalov, and the reality was another matter.
Bryzgalov still has eight years at the most to turn things around, and getting Weber to defend him would certainly help. But if Bryzgalov never pulls through and lives up to his extravagant contract and hype, GM Paul Holmgren will never live it down. However, that would be nothing compared to what would happen if Weber signs this gigantic deal and is a letdown himself.
This could easily be a case of Holmgren and the Flyers not learning their lesson, as they are repeating a plan that hasn't really paid off yet. For the second straight year, they want to bring a Western Conference star over to fill a major defensive need. Yet while Bryzgalov excelled in Phoenix, where the pressure wasn't so great and he was protected by the Coyotes' system, adjusting to Philadelphia was a challenge he hasn't mastered so far.
Is Weber made of stronger stuff, or will becoming a Flyer - especially with that contract hanging over him - be too much for this small market star too? He doesn't appear to be as eccentric and as flaky as Bryzgalov, but Philadelphia had no idea how eccentric and flaky Bryzgalov was until it was too late. We are all just finding out more about Weber and are being told he is the last piece of the puzzle, but Bryzgalov proved there are no guarantees - especially when it comes to the Flyers.
Philadelphia has a habit of turning sure things into something much more problematic. Bryzgalov has a long way to go to prove he is the exception, although his task will be child's play compared to what Weber would be in for. And if Holmgren isn't right about trying this strategy again, he will have tied the Flyers' future to two long, expensive, ill-advised contracts and underachieving saviors.
We all trusted Holmgren when he went over the moon to get Bryzgalov, at least until he actually started playing. As such, despite the hype and hope attached to the Weber offer, the Flyers and their fans have to have a little more skepticism even if he comes here - especially since Holmgren went over the galaxy this time around.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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- Ice Hockey
- Sports & Recreation
- Ilya Bryzgalov
- Shea Weber