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.

  • watkinator

    With the Oilers goalies posting a league-worst .874 save percentage, down from last year’s .917, something had to be done. How many more games can we bear to watch where our goaltending costs us points? The boys have raised their battle level on the road trip and are cutting down on the still too frequent giveaways, but they will never turn this around until they get at least average NHL goaltending, in the .912-.913 range. Bryz will have to start in OKC and should be ready to play in a week or two, which gives Dubnyk time to get his act together.

  • watkinator

    Wasn’t Smid the only Oiler defender with at least a passing familiarity with actually playing D?
    Which of the organization’s score of 5s, 7s and 9s will fill that hole?

  • watkinator

    Bad trade. Not only did MacT give Smid away just to make cap room, but he gave Smid away to a division rival. On top of that, the Oilers’ 50 man roster gets further cluttered with mediocre prospects who are highly unlikely to amount to anything. Trading Nick Schultz for a seventh round draft pick would have been a better deal than this one (assuming someone who have taken the other side).

  • watkinator

    I like that karma has come back to bite Bryz in the backside and I respect the crow he’s eating right now for it. Hope he turns things around for his sake and the Oilers.

  • O.C.

    I’m honestly perplexed by the amount of people who think that this was a decent signing.

    2m for a goaltender whose statistics are literally awful barring a couple of decent years (equivalent to Dubnyk’s usual numbers!!!) in a highly defensive oriented system implemented by Tippett.

    2m for a goaltender a goaltender that has expressed his honest and heartfelt feelings, not to mention disrespect, towards Edmonton and its fans just a few years ago – a sentiment that likely didn’t change until he was bought out and started to feel that desperation as the summer went on and realized nobody wanted him.

    2m for a goaltender who has previously and publicly thrown his teammates under the bus when he feels they were the real reasons why he let in so many goals.

    2m for a goaltender that will make a 3 headed monster of our goaltending situation made even worse if he can’t play well. What happens if he sucks, as his previous numbers show that he does? Do we waive him? How many games do we give him if he is sucking? How many does he get as a free pass or is LaBarbera the odd duck out here no matter what?

    2m for a goaltender that forced one of our better veteran defensive defenders off to our rivals to the south. We just got smaller, weaker, and easier to play against to make room for him. Hope he can make up for the loss as Smid was one of like two defenders willing to make space for our goaltenders in our crease.

    This makes no sense and especially not at that price. If Bryzgalov wanted to prove himself so badly he should have been willing to sign for 1m. We overpaid, we lost a good asset to make room for him, and we can’t even say we got an upgrade on LBB much less DD.

    How are you guys not perplexed with me.

    • Bryzarro World

      Wrong

      So what? It’s close to the truth. We’re a winter city so pull your head out of your backside and deal with reality.

      Were they the reasons for the goals? Have to have a strong captain to deal with that which I think we do.

      3 headed monster? LMAO Are you kidding? We have no number 1 goalie and you are diluted if Little L is included in that mix…

      You know exactly what the reason was to trade Smid? Need a change but people like you will always cry when they do something. Never happy and you always know better…. Lame…

      It makes total sense if you see they doing something out of desperation and that DD is partially making them do it.

      We aren’t perplexed because we don’t have our panties on as tight as you apparently do…

      Peace Out

  • Jay Gray

    Clearly the price was too high to obtain a #1 goalie by trade. It would’ve been nice to get Lehner, Gibson, etc, but not at the price I’m sure their gm’s are asking. Something had to be done and I’m fine with signing Bryz. 1.75m is a very reasonable, low risk deal.

    I’ve loved Ladi’s dedication and sacrifice, but the young guys are knocking at the door, bodies have to move to make room. Was happy to see Brossoit come back in the deal.

  • Sevenseven

    Maybe after getting bought out, a newly humbled Ilya Bryzgalov comes in and challanges Dubnyk to play better, and he responds. Our season can’t get any worse, and signing a player to a one year contract means if it’s a failed experiment, just walk away. I liked smid, but he’s not the top pairing defenseman we need. IMHO I think we are deep at defense, the ahl call ups have been pretty good. Iit’s just too bad they are all 4,5,6 guys. Mac t at least tried here to address the goalie problem, and although this may not be a top 10 NHL goalie, he didn’t really give up anything to make it happen.

  • 27Ginge

    Bryzgalov couldn’t handle the fans or the media pressure in Philly, you think he can handle it here? How about living in the North Pole now? This guy’s a joke and a clown who made his career and money off successful defensive systems of superior teams and has proven that when those systems fail, he can’t do any better than Dubnyk is faring right now. I’ve been linking that stupid video for ages and the fact that we actually signed him just lowered MacT several notches in my ‘capable’ category.

    For the love of this team and what it used to be, I honestly hope the signing works out because if it doesn’t it’ll just be another domino in the chain of events that’s making this organization a true mockery.

  • 27Ginge

    I honestly love the Bryzgalov signing. There is little to no risk in a one year deal. The best case scenario is that he comes in and plays well and raises the level of Dubnyk’s game. Duby proved before that he could handle having a veteran Russian backup that wasn’t exactly the most polished guy off the ice. Worst case scenario is that the guy is a head case that plays as bad as Labarbera has and gives us all something to laugh at while the Oilers slowly die a thousand deaths for yet another season.

    • Serious Gord

      Love is a strong move. Anyone who “loves” this move is not a real fan of this team and is one who accepts the joke that Oil have become.

      I want MacT and Co. to build a competitive team and not make knee jerk reactionary “low risk” moves like bringing in journeymen.

      And to bring in a “high risk” character player into that locker room, to me, makes no sense.

  • Chris.

    Yes its desperation but what exactly are they supposed to do? wait for DD to “find himself”?
    and I think Brgy’s save percentage is still miles ahead of Labarbera and Dub so where is the hurt?
    You having a bad night?