Earlier this summer I wrote this about Bryzgalov:
“Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, our favorite “love to hate him” netminder is having a tough summer. He was released from his contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and after submitting a statement, disappeared for the summer and has been absent from the Russian hockey Olympic team roaster. Just two summers ago this guy was one of the top goaltenders in the league, now still a free agent in late July and by the looks of it will be watching the Olympics on TV. Bryzgalov has played bad from time to time and had his run-ins with the Philadelphia media but overall he is a skilled goaltender. I was sad to see him leave Philadelphia, although excited to see a door open for Steve Mason. Bryzgalov’s exclusion from the Olympics and possibly from the NHL 2013-14 season speaks volumes of what his peers in the industry think of him. Bill Meltzer took to twitter and put it best that Bryzgalov is his own worst enemy. Who knows what the outcome of the Bryzgalov saga will be but I am hoping that he comes out on top or reappears in the next few years.”
Now Bryzgalov quietly appears back in the headlines days after the 2013-14 NHL season has started. Still a free agent, there has been whispers of interest from the Pittsburgh Penguins, KHL and SEL but Bryz is not headed to the KHL or NHL instead a professional try-out with ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers. What a kick in the pants for Bryz, who just three years ago was a Verzina nominee. The Wranglers, two leagues below the NHL, are an unaffiliated team since 2009-10 season when they were last affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes. Although unaffiliated, over the past few years they have sent players to the NHL, including Deryk Engelland, Adam Cracknell and Adam Pardy.
Hats off to Bryz who is taking this as a positive opportunity. In his official statement he said:
“ ..this is critical for me to be ready for NHL play, and I can’t wait to get on the ice. Everyone’s motivation here is largely driven by an unparalleled passion for the game, and this will offer me a very interesting perspective and be a great opportunity for me to reflect why I started playing this great game in the first place…”
Later he went on to say that he has all intention on returning to the NHL and that this is an example for his children, young fans and future NHL teammates, whom he hopes will come to rely on him again.
Only a few months ago Bryz’s agent was making negative comments on an Edmonton radio show about the situation in Philadelphia, saying:
"…Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled, leaves Philadelphia, goes to Columbus and wins the Vezina Trophy. Yeah, Ilya has to take some responsibility for his performance ... at the end of the day, I think there is more wrong with Philadelphia's goaltending than just the goaltending."
And the last we heard from him, after being released from the Philadelphia Flyers was in a press release in July that ended with: "for further comment, please feel free to walk up to Ilya Bryzgalov next year at training camp. He and his advisors will have no further comment until that time."
Now we are seeing a more humble and hardworking Bryzgalov, who is putting his ego aside to make the necessary changes to his career in order to improve. Only time will tell if Bryz has truly changed but this is a positive step in revamping his imagine among his peers and the hockey community. Going to ECHL camp on a professional try-out cannot be the easiest pill to swallow for a goaltender like Bryz, but you have to respect his determination and love of the game. Wishing you the best Bryz!