FLYERS: Leino’s Big Chance

This entire season for the Flyers has been about failed opportunities. Aside from the injuries and the uninspired play at times throughout the season, it’s hard to imagine a Flyers team that’s been less opportunistic than the current group. Whether it’s concerned a player who is trying to win a starting job outright, or just a chance to move up in the standings, it’s been difficult for the Flyers to really be advantageous for themselves.

Leino struggled to crack Peter Laviolette's line-up before Carter's injury

However, there may just be one Flyer who knows all about the whole “Seize the opportunity” idea. Ville Leino, a slick Finnish winger who the Flyers acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth round pick before the Olympics break, is looking to make the most of the position he’s been put in. With Jeff Carter out of the line-up for the remainder of the regular season, the Flyers suddenly must rely on depth players the rest of the way if they’re going to have a shot at the postseason. A player like Ville Leino will be crucial to the Flyers success the rest of the way. Leino, who only stands at 6’0”, 182 lbs, isn’t really a noticeable body – at least in a physical sense – out on the ice in a given play. However, it’s what Leino shows when he has the puck on his stick, and the on-ice vision he displays that gets him noticed more and more as games wear on and he is featured in a Flyers uniform.

These skills were brought into the lime-light in the Flyers’ most recent game – a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils – where Leino was arguably the best player on the ice throughout the contest. Leino had a goal and an assist, as well as finishing the game +2 in a big win for his team. He showed remarkable stick-handling skills that many Flyers fans had only heard about – but had not yet seen – from the Finn. Most importantly, however, he looks like he’s gelling with his teammates. The slick moves that he and Danny Briere were pulling throughout the contest had me sit back on my couch and smile plenty of times, because it’s obvious that if Leino stays in the Flyers’ long-term plans, the team may have just found a real diamond in the rough. That’s not saying he’s a 30 goal guy- trust me, I’m quite the realist. Instead, I’m thinking more along the lines of a guy that’ll get you between 25-30 points a season, and hovering around 15 goals.

Leino celebrates his goal Sunday night against the Devils, his second as a Flyer

If he’s a full-timer for the Flyers next year, it’s possible. He wasn’t all that productive with Detroit the past couple seasons because he was in and out of the line-up, and dealt with being a third line and fourth line player on a team that was loaded with top-end talent. The Flyers aren’t as deep as those Red Wings teams were in the past, and it’ll be interesting to see if they have Leino as a plan for the future. The winger was a Finnish League MVP a few years back, and although he is 28 years old, he’s shown promise that he still has a lot to offer.

Of course, the future is irrelavant. As I said in the beginning of this post, the Flyers as a whole have been far too in-opportunistic this season. That needs to change down stretch here from this group, so that they can seize their opportunity at hand and make the playoffs. As far as Ville Leino is concerned, his time is now. The Red Wings deemed him unworthy of their franchise and shipped him off the Philadelphia. He has a chance in the City of Brotherly Love to become a golden boy if he can play a vital role for this team down the stretch.

If Sunday night’s showcase was any indication, it’s hard to believe Ville Leino won’t be ready to seize his opportunity in Philadelphia.


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March 2010
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