WITH THE HEAD coach apparently returning for at least the start of next hockey season, and the general manager likely to survive the Flyers season that wasn't, this star-crossed team seems poised for yet another franchise-shifting decision.

And wouldn't you know it, it revolves around a goalie.

Alas, who to use their amnesty buyout on - Danny Briere or Ilya Bryzgalov?

From a performance standpoint, Briere seems to be the no-brainer. He's 35, just back from a concussion, just a few months removed from a hand injury suffered while playing in Germany, which began his worst season since he was an underachieving kid in Phoenix. He's due to make $5 million over the last 2 years of his contract and has a cap hit on the team of $6.5 million.

Bryzgalov's stats have been unimpressive this season, but he has played with a revolving-door defensive corp that has, at times, been more AHL than NHL. Bryzgalov has been one of the Flyers better players on more nights than not, at least over the first half of this season.

Ah, but the intangibles. Briere wants to stay. Bryz doesn't seem to care. If I am reading the tea leaves right, he may even want out. "You gotta understand every year I get older and older," he said the other day on Long Island. He will turn 33 in June. His contract with the Flyers takes him to almost 40.

"I'm not getting younger and younger. Believe me or not, some veterans tell me how could you be tired? I said wait until you get 30. You can feel everything. Your body changes."

His departure also gives you more cap relief in the short- and long-term, which could expedite Paul Holmgren's attempts to rebuild his defense this summer.

On a team of young, talented but inconsistent players, Briere also remains a respected teammate and leader. He took Claude Giroux into his home when he was a rookie. He had Sean Couturier stay there his first year too. He believes he has plenty more elite-level hockey in him too. So do I.

I also believe what Bryzgalov told reporters when he said that "Stats are for losers." Bryz was brought to Philadelphia from Phoenix because of some gaudy numbers, and despite highly critical reviews from teammates who played with him there and those who watched on a nightly basis.