By Allan Muir
At this point, Ilya Bryzgalov may not care whether he wears black and orange or some other team's colors next season. But that's not exactly what he said on Tuesday to Courier-Post writer Randy Miller.
In fact, Bryzgalov, whose loquaciousness makes him just about the best friend a journalist could ask for in this game, was wronged by the editor who cobbled together the headline for Miller's piece in today's Courier-Post piece: "Bryzgalov on staying a Flyer: 'To be honest, I don't care.'"
No surprise that the phrasing caused a bit of controversy online. Short of suggesting that the best cheese steaks are found in Pittsburgh, lacking passion for the privilege of being a Flyer is just about the best way to get under the skin of one of hockey's most devoted fan bases.
It's a provocative hed. I got sucked in by it myself when I was putting together this morning's Top Line column. But what Bryzgalov really said was something different.
First, he was asked about the possibility of being a buyout candidate this summer.
“To be honest, I don’t care,” he said. “Really, I don’t care. I have no control on this, so why should I care?"
Fair enough. Miller pressed on, asking specifically if he'd like to be a Flyer next season.
“You know, I have no control in this,” he said. “I can’t read the people’s mind. I can’t project things what they’re thinking, that’s why I’m not worried about things I can’t control. I maybe want one thing and they want a different thing.”
Maybe he could have prefaced it with, "I'd love to finish my career with the Flyers, but..." Even short of that, it still sounds like a pretty reasonable response.
Bryzgalov isn't just a running comedy act. He's one of the league's most thoughtful players and the fact that he offers the insight he does in his second language is something he'll never get enough credit for.
And this smart guy clearly has done the math. He understands the team's cap situation for next season and he knows he's put together the worst statistical season of his career, with a 2.88 GAA and .896 save percentage. His pay-to-performance ratio is wildly out of whack, and that makes him vulnerable to a buyout. Drawing on his Russian fatalism, he knows the target is on his back. But not worrying about it is not the same as not caring. Bryzgalov may not show his passion with a Mark Messier-like glower or by battling like Billy Smith, but he's a competitor. He deserved better.