First off, let's set one thing straight: we're not suggesting that Michael Leighton's back injury is career threatening or that it's going to plague him for the rest of his life or anything, much like the injury Ray Emery suffered a year ago will plague him for likely the rest of his life.
We are suggesting, however, that the Flyers don't have a strong reputation when it comes to disclosing injuries. In other words, they love to downplay this type of thing, and when it eventually comes out that things were much more serious than the team originally alluded to, well... we shouldn't be surprised.
Something is wrong with the way the Flyers have disclosed this recent back injury to Leighton. Ask any of the beat writers who have reported on the topic: they all have admitted publicly that something seems amiss here.
And they aren't wrong. It all began with the MRI results on Sunday night. As we mentioned, the Flyers have five doctors on staff. They can get a read on an MRI immediately, yet they chose to tell the media "we'll know more tomorrow."
If nothing was wrong according to the images, the Flyers would've just said "the MRI results look fine, there's nothing to worry about here." Instead, they decided they needed some more time.
So tomorrow is here. It's Monday, and the Flyers have updated the media on Leighton's condition. Things still seem fishy.
According to the various beat writers in Voorhees today, Paul Holmgren said that Leighton will likely be fine to resume on-ice workouts on Thursday after being re-evaluated. However, as Frank Seravalli points out in his blog this afternoon...
Coach Peter Laviolette received an injury update earlier in the day but declined to disclose it. He seemed much more grim about the information than Holmgren's announcement.
On Monday, Holmgren initially told reporters that he had "no update" and then later made the seemingly benign announcement.
If nothing is seriously wrong with Leighton, then why would A) Laviolette choose not to say anything, B) Holmgren initially say there's nothing to report and C) then say that it's not a big deal?
Why wouldn't they just be straight with the media?
If you're going by the track record the Holmgren regime has set forth, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that something more serious is wrong here. Again, we come back to Emery.
He first went down to injury in November, finally going on the IR in early December after the Flyers let him play with an abdominal tear for just under a month. He was rushed back from surgery on that tear in just four weeks, when initial reports said he would be out six weeks after going under the knife.
Nevertheless, on January 9th, Emery made a rehab start in Adirondack. He returned to Philadelphia the next day and was held out of the lineup in favor of Leighton while he got back into the NHL rhythm. On the 17th, Emery officially took back the Flyers' crease against the Washington Capitals.
He would start the next eight games, which seemed a little odd considering he had just come off of major surgery. Nobody made too much noise about it, however, since Emery looked good in goal.
But after a shutout against Calgary on February 1st, he was scratched for the next game against Edmonton. Holmgren told the the Delco Times that Emery was "completely healthy" and that they only put him in the press box so that they could guarantee rest.
Emery would sit the next game against the Wild as well. As we wrote at the time...
Ray Emery will sit for the second straight game due to 'tightness in his left hip.' Michael Leighton will start again.
Emery missed the game in Edmonton with 'general soreness' but the he was expected to be fine to play tonight. That's not the case, and it's really not reassuring either when you look at the Flyers' history of handling seemingly mild injuries that suddenly balloon into serious ones.
Emery missed another game after the Minnesota game. Here's where the similarities with Leighton's situation now really start to get ridiculous. After a Saturday game in Minnesota, the Flyers returned to Philadelphia on Sunday and Emery underwent an MRI.
(By the way, this is creepy: Leighton and Emery both had their MRI's following a return to Philadelphia after a Saturday game they watched from the press box in Minnesota.)
"It seems to be an issue with a lot of goalies in the league and we’re hoping to learn from what Ray underwent (Monday)," Holmgren said. "Is it something where down the road we need to address this surgically? We need to get a feel of where he’s at right now. We all seem to think he’s going to be fine for the short term anyway. We’ll have a better idea about the long term after we get the results."
"A better idea after we get the results." Yep, sounds familiar. Later that day, the Flyers said they were still looking at the MRI. More stalling. In the paper the next day came the following read from Anthony SanFilippo...
Paul Holmgren told reporters Monday as much. He admitted that Emery’s hip problems were chronic, but that the organization didn’t feel there was much to worry about and everyone was confident Emery would be back on the ice lickety-split.
Oh, no worries. He'll be back. A few days later, the team announced they were shutting Emery down for three weeks -- two of which were during the Olympics. The Olympic break came and went. Emery still hadn't skated.
By March 2, Emery's season was over. His hockey career might even be over, and his Flyers career is definitely over.
Listen, I want to believe the Flyers when they say that they aren't concerned with an injury. But when these similarities are just so obvious, it's really hard to do so. Hopefully, Michael Leighton is fine and he really truly is back on the ice by Thursday, but with the history this team has in these situations, I'm not taking their word for it.