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Quit Hatin' On Leighton

On Tuesday, the Flyers announced that goaltender Michael Leighton had been placed on re-entry waivers. He was not claimed by any other team, and rejoined the Flyers on Wednesday. According to Leighton, it was a move that the organization had been planning for a few weeks. It was somewhat of a risky move, placing him on waivers with just two games left in the season, but the organization got the end result they wanted - he was back.

The announcement was met with a large amount of criticism. Judging from what I saw on Twitter and read on various blogs, not many people were happy about Leighton being called up. The apparent hatred for Leighton is nothing new; in the past few weeks, I’ve seen different tweets and blog posts written about how much he sucks. Every opportunity presented to make a joke about a 5-hole, someone makes it. And what did I do when I read or heard those things? I got irritated. I tweeted something passive aggressive. Why? Because I just do not understand the hatred. Why are people so down on this guy? Why all of the negativity directed his way?

Now, look. I know that he gave up the worst possible goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year. I understand that. Just like every other Flyers fan, seeing footage of that goal hurts. However, while I know many people blame him for the Flyers not winning the Cup, I think he was a scapegoat. (That’s an entirely different story, for an entirely different post, though.) Unfortunately, he will always be associated with that one goal he gave up. No matter what he does in the future, no matter how well he plays, there will still be hostility toward him because of that. He could help the Flyers win the Cup one day (maybe that’s stretching it, but it’s possible!), and people will still be making their “Michael Leighton’s 5-hole” jokes.

The goal he gave up to Patrick Kane that won the Blackhawks the Cup will always be the postseason story he’s associated with. People seem very quick to forget what else he did during the playoffs. Leighton came in and took over after Brian Boucher got injured during the Bruins series - keep in mind, he’d once been the backup backup goaltender - and was solid. In the playoffs overall, in fourteen games, he went 8-3 and had three shutouts. He struggled against the Blackhawks, but so did a lot of his teammates. I’m not placing blame on anyone - I’m just saying that I think Leighton gets blamed a lot more for the Flyers not going all the way than he should.

Leighton had back surgery in October, and played his first and only game for the Flyers this season on December 30th against the Los Angeles Kings. He gave up four goals, but ultimately got the win. Just a few days later, he was placed on waivers and sent down to the Phantoms, where he’s put together a decent season. In 30 games, he’s gone 14-12-3 with a 2.22 GAA and .926 save %. He finished his stint in Adirondack with back-to-back shutouts, two of the five he posted this season.

Sergei Bobrovsky was named the starting playoff goaltender for the Flyers this week, with Brian Boucher as his backup, so it’s doubtful that Leighton will get much - if any - ice time during the playoffs. But if he does, we as Flyers fans need to be supportive of him. I know he’s not the best goalie in the world, and I’m not trying to say that he is. He’s been successful in the AHL, but there is a world of difference between the two leagues, and I fully understand that. Still, there are plenty of players in the NHL, all-stars, even, who had stints in the AHL - Danny Briere, for one. (I’m not comparing the skill sets of the two, so please don’t go there - I’m just saying.)

Whether Leighton finds success with the Flyers remains to be seen. He’s not going to be a number one goalie - not anytime soon, at least - but as he’s proven in the past, he’s capable of doing well in the NHL. He has an opportunity to prove himself again, and I really hope he finds success.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this: one goal, regardless of how weak it was and how much it hurts to remember, does not and cannot define a player. Michael Leighton is more than that one weak goal, and more than a punchline. Just give him the chance to prove that.

4 Comments

Adam Pardes's picture

Way to go, Kim. Great work and I agree! Gotta give him a chance and remember how little he'll probably even play.

George Prax's picture

As a Habs fan, I don't understand how this guy went unclaimed for half the price, and with another year at a reasonable price... whether he's good or not, the guy went to the finals, and the fact that the Flyers are calling him up with two games to go in the season is pretty clear evidence that they're desperate to stabilize the goaltending situation. I don't understand why the Habs didn't claim him. You get a goalie for next season to back up Price at a good number, and you keep him away from the Flyers. Maybe they think they can get to him, I don't know, but it's pretty dumb not to take anything away from the Flyers at this point, as they're clearly hurting. Whatever you think of his ability.

mikemck15's picture

I've never had someone put down on paper my exact thoughts like this. Honestly. Ridiculous. Awesome article. Still love Leighton for what he did in the regular season and post season. The collapses he had against Chicago are the same ones that Roberto Luongo had, Pekka Rinne had, and Nabokov had. AND, it's the same collapses our goalies have this season! Where a team is just tanked and lets the other team just skate all over them (most instances an entire period). For example, game 6 the blackhawks put I believe 38 shots on net and completely outplayed the Flyers. Then Leighton lets in a squeaker and his 5hole becomes more of a dead horse than McNabb throwing up in the Super Bowl. The Blackhawks were by far the deepest team in the league after looking through all their role players. They outplayed the Flyers in almost every game of that series, Leighton could do nothing more but try to make saves through traffic from a fast paced, overly in shape Chicago team with an injured pronger in front of him and a defensive line like kraijek and bartulis who got like 10-11 minutes a game. what a pair those two were man. Anyway, it wasn't his fault in the end, Blackhawks were the better team in almost every game and would have pounded us in game 7. (P.S. Jeff Carter should have scored with less than a minute left in game 6 but shot it right at Niemi, should be bring that up too?) That is all.

George Prax's picture

The one thing I get is that the fans may still have a sour taste in their mouth from the whole situation with the injury earlier in the year. Honestly, when I heard he was on waivers, I thought they only did it to get rid of him so they wouldn't have to put his name on the cup if they won or something lol. Like I said, made no sense to me because I honestly thought the chances of him getting picked up were close to 100%.