Sep 30, 2010, 1:00 PM EDT
The Philadelphia Flyers went from a solid team to a dangerously deep group in large part because injuries thrust lower line players (and even guys who were often healthy scratches) into bigger roles during the playoffs. Danny Briere ended up being the leader in playoff points even though many in the hockey world gave up on him. Claude Giroux had a fantastic run as well.
Perhaps the most surprising development was Ville Leino’s growth from a disappointing Finnish League project with the Detroit Red Wings to a red-hot scoring force with the Flyers. Leino put up 21 points in the playoffs skating on a line with Briere and Scott Hartnell. With his contract expiring after this season, it will be interesting to see if Leino can follow up that great playoff run with a full season of success.
As coach Peter Laviolette likes to say, though, in hockey, injury breeds opportunity – it’s all about who wants to take advantage of it.
For 19 games last spring, Leino did just that. Partnered with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell to complete the most dynamic line in the playoffs, Leino finished with 21 points in the postseason, an NHL record for rookies. Considering he had a hard time even getting on the ice for the Flyers prior to the postseason, that’s a pretty remarkable figure.
Now, Leino is set to be a fixture on a deep Flyers team with plans of going one step further than it did last season. He will start the season with Hartnell and Briere on what amounts to the Flyers’ second line, and he is being counted on to provide a good chunk of offense for the first time since his days playing in the Finnish Elite League.
Leino has the talent to be a 25-goal scorer. In his final season in Finland (2007-08) he had 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points for Jokerit. Of course, that was the last time he was allowed to play the game in his style.
“I feel more confident and I have the trust of the coaches and (other) players,” Leino said. “They’re not thinking, ‘What’s he doing?’ I feel confident to play the way I want. You need that confidence and trust if you’re going to go out there and play (well).”
Leino, Giroux and Jeff Carter all have the dangling monetary carrot in front of them this season, so the Flyers could be driven by normal contributors such as Mike Richards and Chris Pronger while benefiting from an especially inspired supporting cast. Many will critique their goaltending, but if Leino & Co. play well enough it might not matter.
- Leafs hire 28-year-old stats advocate as assistant GM 2
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 12
- Stars, Roussel agree on four-year, $8 million deal 0
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation 53
- Return that toaster: Ovechkin-Kirilenko engagement broken off 51
- Report: Leafs sign Franson to one year, $3.3 million deal 8
- Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M 54
- Report: Blue Jackets, Johansen make ‘significant progress’ toward deal 5
- Red Wings unveil plans for new arena, look to open in 2017 57
- Columbus trying to figure out ‘the right thing to do’ with Johansen 39
- Kane, Toews could’ve commanded $13.8M cap hits, says agent (83)
- Babcock fires back over allegations that free agents avoid him (77)
- Babcock: Cleary a ‘calculated risk’ after playing last year ‘on one leg’ (70)
- Report: Zuccarello wants $4.5M per on new deal, Brassard eyeing $5.5M (58)
- Lucic regrets handshake-line actions, but isn’t apologizing (58)