Florida Panthers crazy crease

Panthers invite Thomas, Bryzgalov to camp Photo: Pens Through My Lens

AMSTERDAM, September 12, 2013 — Sometimes the stars just align. In a hockey world full of surprises, where fans do not always get what they want, there are few sublime moments of perfection. This could be one of them. The Florida Panthers have invited both Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov to training camp.

Fans who follow the National Hockey League know all about these two and their shared propensity for eminent quotability. Goalies are traditionally an odd breed, eccentric to extremes, but these two are in a class by themselves. 

Bryzgalov became a post game favorite for reporters due to his random, babbling soliloquies, which had little, if anything, to do with the game he had just completed. Thomas made national headlines when he refused to attend the traditional Stanley Cup champions White House visit because he opposes the government. Thomas later elaborated on this with social media posts, which make him a perfect candidate for Florida residency.

The end of summer is always a frenzied time for NHL players without contracts. The music is about to stop and there usually are not enough chairs to go around, especially for goalies, where there are precious few jobs available. Inevitably the most desperate players finagle their way into a PTO, professional try out contract, somewhere, hoping to prolong their time in the show for one more season. The Panthers used three goalies last year and, while they may be back at camp, none of them played well enough to lock down a roster spot for the upcoming campaign.

Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmenson are both veterans who are reaching that point where, under the current collective bargaining agreement, they will all but price themselves out of a job. Jacob Markstrom, Florida’s second round pick in 2008, played 23 games last year and, while many in the organization see him as the future, he still finished with a poor 8-14 record and a 3.22 goals against average. 

While chances are slim that both Thomas and Bryzgalov will stick in south Florida, it might make sense for the Panthers to keep one of them while Markstrom continues to work toward becoming the franchise goalie they thought they were drafting. Both veterans have been starters and have been dominant at times throughout their careers. Thomas has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume and is coming off a year away from the game. 

Each player has something to prove, both to themselves and to the hockey world. The Panthers are due for another season of sub par hockey and Markstrom may not be ready to shoulder the load just yet. Thomas and Bryzgalov are both completely off their rockers but, again, they are goalies after all and what difference will two more crazy people make in Florida anyway?

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.


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Russ Rankin

Raised in the decidedly non-traditional hockey region of Santa Cruz, California, Russ Rankin fell in love with the game as a kid while watching the "Miracle On Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He began playing recreationally as an adult when the Sharks joined the NHL in nearby San Jose and regularly attends Sharks home games. His favorite NHL team is the New Jersey Devils, which he has been following since the 1987-88 season. In 2007, with more and more U.S. born players (particularly from California) making an impact in the WHL, Rankin pursued his passion and knowledge of the game into a job scouting California for WHL clubs. He can be seen at rinks all over the state searching for the next great crop of players.

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