Leighton's performance on Wednesday, a mere four and a half hours following the 1st Flyers inactive trade deadline in the last 15 years, did not instill us diehard Flyers fans with much confidence. Every goalie has bad games and despite not getting credited with the loss Leighton and his gapping five hole cost us the game. Prior to FLA Leighton has been stellar for the Flyers posting a 13-3-1 with a 2.18 GAA and a 0.928 SV PCT. But it has been for what seems like forever in Philadelphia we will once again enter the playoffs with a question mark in net.
Goaltending has been a huge topic of discussion on the BSH over the last week or so leading up to the deadline and it is hard to out right refute any of the points brought whether arguing for postseason success or failure. Here of some of the arguments that stuck out most from what I have been reading in no particular order.
- The Flyers are not the only team with question marks in net in fact the vast majority of playoff teams can't feel too comfortable with their man between the pipes.
- Can't find another team that has won the Cup with less than 2 million spent on goaltending starter and backup.
- Cam Ward shocked the World under Laviolette in Carolina no reason why Leighton can't do the same.
- Leighton is a journeymen who was waved by Carolina and his play in the Flyers uniform is aberration and sooner rather than later the real Michael Leighton will return.
- Leighton's aforementioned statistics are better than any goal the Flyers could have gotten at the deadline including Tomas Vokoun.
- Unexperienced in the NHL and zero playoff experience doesn't bold well for success.
- Post lockout the one thing that all the Cup winners have in common is a good offense goaltending is no longer the be all end of all of playoff success.
- Other than the last year of Roman Cechmanek goaltending performance has truly cost the Flyers a playoff series.
The list of valid arguments goes on and on only time will tell, can Michael Leighton come out of nowhere and stand on his head carrying our beloved Flyers to the promised land or will he cave like a shack in Haiti under the spotlight and the pressure of the NHL playoffs?
One final point that hasn't been mentioned is who exactly is this Leighton fellow besides a guy cut by arguable the worst team in the league. His career has certainly been interesting.
Leighton was drafted after only a single season in the OHL by the Chicago Blackhawks in the all important 6th round of the 1999 entry draft. His numbers that season certainly did not impress in 28 games Leighton posted a horrendous 4-17-2 record with an enormous 4.84 GAA and 0.867 SV PCT for the Windsor Spitfires.
After two more seasons in the OHL Leighton signed a entry level contract with the Blackhawks after a more improved junior year 32-15-5, 2.73 GAA, and 0.912 SV PCT. He play two seasons in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals before making his NHL debut on January 8th 2003 where he recorded a shutout in a 0-0 tie against the Coyotes.
He was traded to Buffalo in 2005 for Milan Bartovic never appearing in a game for the Sabers and after an unimpressive season for Buffalo's AHL affiliate the Roschester Americans 15-22-1, 3.21 GAA, 0.887 SV PCT, he was signed as Free Agent after training camp by a team that knows their goalies the Anaheim Ducks.
With both Bryzgalov and Giguere injured he was recalled to fill in however he was claimed by Nashville on re-entry waivers. He played only 20 minutes of hockey for the Predators giving up 2 goals before being waived again this time he was picked up by the Flyers on January 11th 2007 in the season that shall not be named making this his 5th NHL franchise.
He was 2-2-0 for our horrendous Flyers posting a 3.69 GAA and 0.882 GAA for the Orange and Black but a much more impressive were his numbers for the Phantoms during his conditioning stint. 5 games played 2-0-2, 1.56 GAA, 0.948 SV PCT. He was waived again and this time he was picked up the Canadians where he did not play a game and was traded to Carolina for a 7th round draft pick at the 2007 Entry Draft, making Carolina his 7th Franchise in 8 years after being drafted.
He spent the 2007-2008 season playing for Carolina's AHL Affiliate the Albany River Rats where he was a machine not getting much goal support he carried Albany to the AHL playoffs with a 28-25-3 record, a 2.10 GAA, and 0.931 SV PCT. For those Phantoms fans out there he was amazing in the playoffs against the Phantoms that the River Rats would eventually lose in 7 games. In that 7 game series he posted 2 shutouts and an AHL record in the 98 saves in the longest AHL game ever a 5 OT thriller that the Phantoms eventually won on a Ryan Potunly goal. He made 62 of those 98 saves in over time and the Phantoms out shot Albany 98 to 67 in that game.
In following 2008-2009 season he played backup to Cam Ward in 19 games has backup he posted a decent 2.92 GAA and a 0.901 SV PCT. Carolina advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals Leighton did not make a playoff appearance but he was there with the pads on for a nice run. Carolina got off to a horrible start this year Leighton played in 7 games posting a 4.28 GAA and 0.825 SV PCT including 6 - 1 loss to the Flyers on Halloween. He was waived and claimed again by the Flyers on December 15th.
That is the Michael Leighton story and it is pretty amazing. I will leave you with one last note and hopefully this will inspire some confidence. Leighton has been a monster in the AHL playoffs especially that last season in Albany when he put up a 87' Hextall like performance playing out of his mind despite losing the series. In the 7 games against the Phantoms Leighton's numbers were 3-4 with a 1.18 GAA 0.980 SV PCT with 2 shutouts. How the hell you lose a series with numbers like that is beyond me. Hopefully Leighton's AHL playoff success will translate to some NHL playoff success. For his AHL career in 19 playoff games Leighton posted a 1.25 GAA with a 0.980 SV PCT with 5 shutouts. With the deadline passed all we can do is hope, because like or not Leighton will in net come playoff time.