The hockey world expands far outside the North American borders — some might even call it humongous big — but if Ilya Bryzgalov can’t find work in the NHL, he’s considering hanging up his skates for good.
According to Russia’s Championat.com, Bryzgalov, 36, has said that so far his attempts to latch on with an NHL club have been unsuccessful and that should he not find a job in the NHL, he wouldn’t even consider coming to the KHL. Family reasons, Bryzaglov said, are keeping him in North America.
“I'm not going to play (in the KHL),” Bryzgalov told Championat. “The fact (is) there are a lot of different reasons. They are not in any way related to the fact, as many people might think, that this is Russia or the level of (play in the KHL). Simply, shall we say, for family reasons, I can not do that. I was thinking about retirement...I play sports and enjoy life. If there are options, we will be glad to consider them, I would love to play.”
The thing is, though, there’s reason for teams to have uncertainty about bringing Bryzgalov aboard. Outside of his big personality that can become a distraction at times, Bryzgalov hasn’t played exceptionally well in his two go-rounds in the league since being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers following the 2012-13 campaign.
In 2013-14, Bryzgalov appeared in 20 games for the Edmonton Oilers and posted an ugly 3.01 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. However, he did get dealt to the Minnesota Wild late in the campaign and turn in decent numbers en route to a second-round post-season defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. With the Wild, Bryzgalov posted a 2.12 GAA and .911 SP in 12 regular season games, but those numbers slipped to 2.63 and .885 in the playoffs.
Bryzgalov has only played eight games since the end of that stint with the Wild, too. In a return to the Anaheim Ducks, who drafted Bryzgalov 44th overall in 2000, he saw eight games of action posting a 4.19 GAA and .847 SP. He hasn’t played an NHL game since.
News of Bryzgalov’s comeback attempt first came in June when he told NHLPA.com’s Chris Lomon that he was recharged “spiritually and mentally” after a year away from the game in 2015-16. “I see it as a fresh start,” Bryzgalov told Lomon. “I feel like I’m 21 again and just coming into the NHL. I have a hunger to play and to face the challenges that come with playing in this league. I’ve been missing that.”
Bryzgalov added that the excitement in his son’s eyes when he was told of his dad’s attempted comeback was something that meant a lot. He said it would be great to have his son watch him play, especially now that his son is at an age where he would better understand what’s happening on the ice.
However, Bryzgalov’s admittance that he could retire if he doesn’t find NHL work shouldn’t come as much of a shock, and he no longer seems too optimistic about his ability to make an NHL return.
“All my life I was a realist and adequately look at things. I'd say that the probability to find a team in the NHL is very small,” Bryzgalov told life.ru in late-August. “I see the direction in which the league is moving…I missed more than a year, I did not play.”
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