In Philadelphia, is there any one group fans love to hate more than the Philly media? For good reason, members of the press have gotten rather defensive when called out. I'm a pretty big media critic myself, but today was a new one even for me.
A quick recap: on Thursday night, the Flyers lost to Winnipeg 9-8. Everybody played poorly. After the game, Ilya Bryzgalov goes on a rant in which he proclaimed "I'm terrible." He blamed himself and nobody else. It was a story for the next three-plus days. Friday, goaltending coach Jeff Reese claimed Bryzgalov was distracted by the media.
Monday morning, the Flyers announced that they were limiting the press' access to Bryzgalov. Certain media members proceeded to lose their shit on Twitter, some even in stories. (Broad Street Hockey has a nice recap.)
Here's the wrinkle: The media is right this time. The Flyers should not limit access to their players and it is well worth fighting to maintain the access they have.
The problem is that the media picked a fight they couldn't win. The Flyers came out and said Ilya Bryzgalov is struggling because the media are distracting him. In essence, the Flyers claim that they are losing hockey games because of the media.
Rather than show some humility and self-deprecating humor, certain (and I'll continue trying to avoid generalizations, since media is too broad a brush to paint every credentialed member of the press) writers proceeded to argue that it is their right to interview Bryzgalov. Maybe it is. I happen to think they need to continue interviewing any player they want, but that's not the point.
To casual fans, let alone a large portion of die-hards, the Flyers just made a reasonable request for the media to go easy on one of their most important players in the hopes that it lets the Flyers win more games. Reaction has been of the petulant "No, we need access!" variety.
Instead of pointing out that asking a player questions for five minutes at noon has little to no effect on how well he plays hockey 31 hours later, it has been reported that the Philadelphia Hockey Writers Association has filed a formal complaint against the Flyers, which could lead to a fine.
Instead of asking how less press access is going to result in Bryzgalov controlling his rebounds better and staying square to the shooters, the story is now how the media would rather complain about access than give a guy a day off from nagging questions.
It all reminds me of Deadspin's take on how big-market media members would rather blame themselves for John Lackey's struggles than examine why his fastball has slowed down and why his pitch selection has changed.
I'd like to think the Flyers did this on purpose. Bryzgalov fell on the sword and took the attention and criticism away from his teammates on Thursday night. To repay him, the Flyers changed their interview policy knowing the attention and criticism would move from Bryzgalov to the media.
Even if it wasn't on purpose, that's what happened. And it's all because a few writers couldn't see through the smoke and ask "how are we to blame for his struggles? We can't possibly be that powerful."