DESPERATION ON DISPLAY

As the losses have mounted through 17 games, the demand by fans of the Edmonton Oilers that GM Craig MacTavish DO SOMETHING to change the fortunes of the team have grown louder by the day.

MacTavish gave those fans what they wanted Friday, sending hard-nosed and popular but limited defenseman Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy down Highway 2 to the Calgary Flames for prospects, MacTavish followed that up by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract.

Yes, Ilya Bryzgalov, the goaltender the Philadelphia Flyers just paid $23 million to not play for them two years after signing him to a ridiculous nine-year contract worth $51 million. Ilya Bryzgalov, the oh-so flakey laugh riot, Knob Hockey hero and dressing room distraction represented by Edmonton agent Ritch Winter. That Ilya Bryzgalov.

With the Oilers floundering at 4-11-2 and staring at an eighth straight year out of the playoffs less than two weeks into November during a season in which MacTavish and new coach Dallas Eakins have over-promised and under-delivered, these aren’t the bold moves MacTavish talked about when he took over the chair formerly occupied by Steve Tambellini.

This is desperation on display.

AN UPGRADE?

Make no mistake, Devan Dubnyk left the door wide open for MacTavish to make a deal to address his goaltending – forced his hand, actually – with an absolutely abysmal performance so far this season. That’s on him.

The last straw, obviously, came in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game the Oilers played more than well enough to win. That’s been the storyline more than once this season, one repeated often enough that the upgrades MacTavish has made to the roster on paper haven’t translated to the standings. How could MacTavish stand pat?

Fair question, even if dealing from a position of weakness almost never turns out well. But Bryzgalov, now 33 and coming off back-to-back seasons with save percentages of .909 in 2011-12 and .900 in 2012-13? Bryzgalov, whose career save percentage of .913 on good, bad an indifferent teams is a wash with the .911 posted by Dubnyk, including his horrid start to this season and a career spent on a bottom-feeder team?

I’d argue, and did on Twitter, shunting Dubnyk aside is like deciding to trade in your old Ford because it isn’t reliable enough, then replacing it with a Lada that’s six model years older. In terms of actual performance, I don’t see it as a clear upgrade. Then, there’s the flake factor with a player who has had dubious chemistry with teammates in the past.

WHAT’S THE PUNCHLINE?

Bryzgalov, to understate, has some quirks. He’s out there. He tends to fill the notepads of reporters — never a bad thing for those who work the beat – and wear on the patience of teammates. Bryzgalov, you might remember, once compared Edmonton to the North Pole when talking about why Anaheim teammate Chris Pronger might have wanted out of Edmonton.

"He (Pronger) maybe tried to leave here because here in November months is a minus-32," Bryzgalov said in an interview with The Score. "Could you imagine? It’s eight months in a year of snow."

Might Bryzgalov push Dubnyk to be better or even displace him as the starter if he can reverse the slide in his performance of the past two seasons? I think it’s unlikely, but it’s possible, I suppose. Is it a big gamble? Not really, at least in terms of money, reported to be $1.75 million, or term.

Still, it strikes me as an ill-conceived signing brought on by another season off the rails because it wasn’t supposed to unfold like this again. It’s a just-do-something — ANYTHING, dammit — move. A distinct hint of panic over a plan gone wrong. It’s desperation on display.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m more than fine with the Bryzgalov signing, he has something to prove, the Oil goaltending is shambolic, and this is probably the least “blowing sheet up” option as the summer will hopefully be a very good market for signing a proven number one.

    I think that the Oil were going to have to give something up to make cap room unless something insane happens and league revenue jumps like 10% as the cap is set by the league revenue percentage or something like that, Smid’s contract sadly was the only one that was long term (besides Ference and the kids)

    It’s also nice that every goalie the Oil currently have are playing for their jobs as they are all in the final year of their contracts, with the exception of Tuohimaa who apparently will come to North America next year.

    I do have one possibly irrational fear which is a player like Hiller not wanting to come here in part due to the fact that when the Oil had another Swiss goalie in Martin Gerber who seemed to get the shaft whilst he was here despite his decent play.

  • Bryzarro World

    If I were a betting man……..I would say Mac T has probably talked to every team in the NHL and has probably pitched a dozen trade possibilities with another dozen coming the other way.

    It would be very difficult to make a decision if there are numerous possibilities out there. Nice problem to have if in fact that is the case.

    I for one disagree with the pundits out there ( Sportsnet & TSN) who state that Bryz is toxic to a dressing room……..more like a comedian? I for one don’t care if he is weird, strange, or funny…….just stop pucks. Thats all we need from a goalie.

    This Oil Kings goalie LB……..must be special if MacT wanted him so bad.

  • Johnnydapunk

    @The Anti-Troll

    So you justify that we’re a winter city as a good reason for bringing a player with a bad attitude towards it into a locker room of young impressionable stars in a fragile state of mind. A clearly negative person who enjoys making fun of other teams, cities, and fans. Right, gotcha.

    You also have no problem with a player throwing other players under the bus publicly just because we have Ference. So if Klefbom is recalled and Bryzgalov trashes him to the media because he’s a rookie making rookie mistakes, Ference is there to save the day for you. Gotcha.

    DD is our number one because his numbers are superior to Bryzgalov’s long term. If you want to focus on the short term of this season, you can but that doesn’t make you ‘right’ like I am ‘wrong’ to you. Regardless of whether or not you want to acknowledge it or not, Bryzgalov and LBB’s statistics are more or less equal. Not to mention you completely ignored the whole bit about what if the signing goes south. Nice cherry picking ‘anti-troll’.

    I never once cried for making a change for the sake of making a change. Not once. Anyone who has read my posts here would know this, so clearly you have not, not that I even care if you did. We have tons of depth defensemen players that could have been traded away for prospects for salary cap reasons or roster spots and Smid was one of the poorer choices.
    Smid for Brossoit is what it boils down to and Brossoit can’t (and absolutely should not) help us right now.

    Finally, I like how someone called the anti-troll finishes his post with one. Good one on you, sir, ‘peace out’ indeed.

  • oilerjed

    Dubnyk is on notice now, while Bryz is getting back in form in OKC, Dubnyk is playing for his job. If he can’t get it together now, then he’s not going to this season.

  • Spydyr

    Dubnyk has had more than enough chances. He’s done. Career backup at best. Just complete garbage. Lacavalier from the goal line shelfs it short side over DDs shoulder? Are you f*cking kidding me? I could have made that save.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    This team is a complete joke. They extend contracts and deal with NTCs in good faith only to trade the player, who wanted to be here, in less than half a year. This speaks to the rest of the players in the league about managements integrity.

    I understand that Smid is slow, marginally physical and a terrible passer. I honestly didn’t want him in the top 3. He’s a solid #4 Dman. He was slightly overpaid (I’d say $500k-$1miil) but we’re used to that.

    Honestly, I’d have dumped Schultz Sr. He earns more and does less. Send him away for a 4th rounder, or future considerations. #5Dmen being paid $4mil are useless in my opinion.

    In the end I’m not dissatisfied with the return except that Horvat is another small forward albiet with grit. Hopefully he can learn a thing or two from Perron.

    As for Bryz. Goodness. We’ll see….

  • Gerald R. Ford

    When MacT didn’t pay the ransom for Snyder at the draft this year, I was pretty upset. All Devin Dubnyk’s proven in his tenure here is that he’s better then Jeff Deslauriers. So is a wet piece of cardboard blowing down the Henday. I’m not saying that everything bad that’s happened this year is on the shoulders of the goaltending (today’s effort was a good example of TEAM fail), but this young team desperately needed (and needs) some sort of outward-resonating stability that starts in goal. An insurance policy that they could rely on to save their collective ass when they made their inevitable mistakes, and to make everyone an inch taller, and a little faster. MacT gambling the season on DD because he didn’t want to pay Gillis market value for trading a number 1 goalie to a hated divisional rival still portends badly for this organization doing the safe thing, instead of the necessary thing. Now, desperation has resulted in an ursaphobic clown being brought into town, and the organization being mocked ever more, spiraling further and further into the depths of irrelevance.

    I know the assets that the Oilers retained in lieu of the Snyder trade will help the team eventually, down the road (Nurse is a BEAUTY!), but, I am frustrated thinking how much good, stable goaltending THIS year might have accelerated the overall growth of the existing (and future) team collectively, instead of adding one blue-chip positional prospect at a time.