Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Target Ilya Bryzgalov


Ilya Bryzgalov backing up for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

With James Reimer signed to a very reasonable salary over the next two seasons (read here for more on just how reasonable it is), the Leafs may now be able to find a trading partner for their backup goalie. He’s not likely to be hotly pursued but the Leafs could relieve themselves of some locker room tension by dealing Reimer away for late round picks or a long shot prospect. If dealt, could Bryzgalov fill in as the backup in Toronto?

A look through the remaining UFA goalies reveals some interesting, low cost backup goaltending options that remain unsigned. Using Corsi and GSAA stats, here are the most interesting UFA goaltenders who could fill in as the Leafs’ backup next season.

Ilya Bryzgalov

May 6, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) makes a save during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks in game three of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t believe I’m even discussing this absolute nutbar. Though he’s only 34-years old, he’s already contributed a lifetime’s worth of insane quotes (I mean it. Check here or here to see for youself.) But then again, I can’t help but wonder… Could the Bryzgalov Sideshow actually be helpful? By acting as a quote machine for the Toronto media, could Ilya “I’m only afraid of bear in forest” Bryzgalov help to prevent things like, oh, I don’t know, Reimer and Randy Carlyle having a slap fight over the use of the word “okay”?

The stats are fine. .909 SV%. 2.68 GAA. Advanced stats tell the same story. The Edmonton Oilers/Minnesota Wild combined to provide him with a 45.9% Corsi. So, he had to work harder… He registered a -4.23 GSAA. Not great. Not even good. Just fine.

But still, at a reasonably low salary, couldn’t Bryzgalov distract the media enough to let the camera shy hide from the spotlight a little? I can’t believe I’m saying this… but maybe Bryz is the man.

(Maybe I’m the nutbar.)

Leafs Suitability Grade: B

Apr 13, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) is honored by fans after his 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Brodeur

At 42 years old, Brodeur is set to accept a full-time backup role, if he chooses to return next season. And at 42-years old, Brodeur is also almost certain to choose a team that has a strong chance of competing for the Stanley Cup. The Leafs may not be the right fit for him.

The disinterest should be mutual.

Last season, Brodeur posted a SV% of .901 and a GAA of 2.51 in his standard stats, clearly showing he is at the end of the line (stats here). Advanced metrics are more damning. The New Jersey Devils posted a team Corsi of 53.9% while Brodeur was on the ice, meaning that the Devils tended to control the play, making Brodeur’s work much easier. Brodeur also posted a GSAA of -12.33, meaning that he gave up 12 goals that the average NHL goalie would have stopped last season. Brodeur ranked 89th in the league in GSAA. Ouch.

Name value? Sure. Veteran leadership? Maybe. But Brodeur is a goalie best left to cheerlead from the bench somewhere else.

Leafs Suitability Grade: C

Tim Thomas

Apr 13, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Tim Thomas (30) takes a drink prior to the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Another oldster, Thomas is now 40 years old. Despite being the star of the hated Boston Bruins teams that warred with the Leafs in the past, Thomas gives the impression that he is just enough of a jerk to sign on with an archrival. But should the Leafs be interested?

Last season, Thomas’ standard stats took a nosedive. His SV% ranked 40th at .908 and his goals against ranked 42nd at 2.88 (stats from NHL.com). The advanced metrics don’t help either. Though his teammates tended to carry the play (team Corsi of 50.4%), Thomas’ GSAA ranked just ahead of Brodeur’s at -8.23 (85th in the league).

Thomas’s tale was inspiring but this former star is probably washed up and his grating personality probably precludes work as a veteran leader as a backup.

Leafs Suitability Grade: C

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Sep 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender J.S. Giguere looks to glove an incoming shot during an NHL preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

At a relatively young 37 years old (young for this list, anyway) Giguere backed up for the upstart Colorado Avalanche last season. With his lengthy track record of experience and success, he could make a great fit as a backup.

Last season, his standard stats were reasonable in his limited action (22 games). He posted a .913 SV% and a 2.62 GAA (here). These marks are more impressive as the young Avalanche struggled to possess the puck when he played, maintaining only a 45.9% team Corsi for his starts. With a GSAA of -0.61, just below league average, Giguere showed an ability to stop the pucks you expect your goalie to stop, even though his team gave up lots of extra possession time.

Despite the decent showing, Giguere’s age and troubled past with the Leafs likely rule him out of a return to Toronto.

Leafs Suitability Grade: D

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.