The goaltending position has been the bane of the Philadelphia Flyers’ existence for as long as it seems like anybody can really remember. In order to find the last great goalie the organization has had, you would probably have to look at Ron Hextall, who retired in 1999 after eleven seasons with the team. Since then, it’s been a revolving door of sorts for Philadelphia netminders, a problem which may have been solved, had the team not traded now All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus in exchange for Steve Mason.
The organization felt the trade necessary after the Ilya Bryzgalov debacle (or disaster, or tragedy, or however you’d like to word it). Mason had his fair share of troubles since the transaction, and this past offseason the Flyers opted not to re-sign the 29-year-old who joined the Winnipeg Jets on a two-year deal.
The next to enter the revolving door, Brian Elliott, signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract in the offseason. Elliott, after a just-okay season with Calgary last year, put together a string of pretty respectable seasons with St. Louis over his five-year stint with the club. His career averages in GAA (2.43) and Sv. % (.913), are pretty much on-par with a netminder like Pekka Rinne (career 2.39 GAA, .917 Sv. %), who in this past year backed the Nashville Predators to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
The terms on Elliott’s contract are good for a 32-year-old player starting toward the back-end of his career, and if he can return to the form of his days at a St. Louis Blue, could be one of the better Flyers’ netminders in recent history. At this early point in the season, Elliott has sort of stumbled out of the gate with a 3.67 GAA and .876 Sv. %, but much of this can be attributed to four-straight road contests to start the year, one against the reigning Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators. Philadelphia hosts the Washington Capitals in their next contest Saturday night, and facing a red-hot Alex Ovechkin will be a good test for Elliott early in the season.
Combined with a younger D-core in front of him, it is not unlikely that we will see Elliott’s numbers improve in time. If not, the team will have to return to Michal Neuvirth and perhaps newly-signed AHLer Dustin Tokarski for another season of mediocre goaltending.
Philadelphia is itching to get back into playoff contention after missing the postseason last year. They hope Brian Elliott is the man to get them there.