The Flyers look as though they have screwed up badly. Again. Their goaltending is called into question by fans and experts alike and given their current playoff status (down three games to two), things have reached a head. But everything that has happened between the pipes for the Flyers is just a crazy collection of coincidences brought on by necessity. Michael Leighton is a quality starting goaltender. He got the proverbial bum’s rush.
Not his fault. Not even the fault of the Flyers.
I think, much like Craig Anderson, Michael Leighton overcame the odds to become a quality NHL starter. But he was injured last summer, may have hid the extent of it to the team, and things grew worse when he started the season (and blew it).
While he was on the IR, rookie Sergei Bobrovsky comes in and does extremely well. Dominates. Brian Boucher was his usual solid, dependable backup self. So Leighton returns and what else can the Flyers do? The best thing they can do is shovel any controversy under the mat – and quickly. So Leighton goes to the minors (and dominates there).
Everything that is happening is exactly what the Flyers should have done. Unfair, but necessary. Bobrovsky was playing like a star. So even though he stumbled down the stretch, and in the second half for that matter, they had to stick to the decision that made in early January.
Waiving Leighton was a no-brainer. The risk was small, since he was not only an unproven starter, but even if he was claimed, the dollars at half-salary were small enough to swallow. But now that Bobrovsky has shown that he is unready for a role as playoff starter (perhaps premature, but there is not a lot of room for error here) and Boucher is showing that he can be steady when needed, but not if that need is every game over the course of several weeks.
So the Flyers are back to Leighton.
Are they doomed? You tell me. In his last 43 NHL regular season and playoff games, here are the numbers:
25-9-2, 2.49 GAA, 0.917 SP
And his stint in the AHL, for a terrible Adirondack team, he managed a winning record. Here are his numbers there this past season:
14-12-3, 2.22, 0.926
Terrible. String him up now. Flyers are toast.
The point is – Philadelphia can win this thing. But it is unfortunate that Leighton was brought in so late. He has no room for error. Zero. So it will be a shame if he loses one of the next two games 1-0 or 2-1. But then again, that would make him a quality dark horse in fantasy leagues for next season.
The Flyers would be smart to roll with Leighton for 55 games next campaign and Bobrovsky for 30 (including some shared games, naturally). We’re still waiting to see what he can do in the NHL as a starter over a full season, but I think he’ll do well.