Here's an interesting thought - would everyone be making as big a deal about Ville Leino's success if he didn't arrive in Philadelphia via a trade with Detroit?
Almost every story that you read about Ville Leino's play-off success is preceded by "Detroit castaway" or "Red Wings exile". Would it be the same if he was traded to Philly from the Florida Panthers or Edmonton Oilers?
I feel that the NHL as a whole is pretty much aware that Kenny Holland is the gold standard for GM's when it comes building a sustainably successful franchise. Therefore, people are shocked and appalled when Holland makes a move that benefits other teams more so than Detroit (see Kyle Quincey).
So is Ville's story magnified by the fact that Holland was the one who traded Leino away?
Look, we all knew that Leino was a talented kid. But in 42 games played for a beat up and short-handed Detroit squad desperate for production, Leino only managed 7 points. That just wasn't going to cut it. Leino might have benefited from another stint in Grand Rapids, but Holland had promised him that he wouldn't send him back down to the AHL.
There are two major factors that forced Detroit to deal Leino when they did...
- Gary's Salary Cap
- Holland's integrity
Andreas Lilja was finally getting healthy and we couldn't hide his Cap hit anymore. Lilja was needed to help bolster the PK. Leino was being regularly scratched (healthy). So what do you do with a player who is producing when you can't send to the minors? You trade him. Lilja came back in and indeed helped the PK and Detroit went on a phenomenal run to make the play-offs and earn the 5th spot while Philly squeaked into the play-offs on the last day of the regular season. So it looked like the move was a good deal for Detroit.
But now because Detroit was eliminated by San Jose/the officiating in that series, and Philly is in the Stanley Cup Finals and Leino has 15 points in 16 games...now it's looking like the deal was better for Philly.
I can tell you one person who probably isn't surprised by Leino's success - Ken Holland. If he didn't think the kid was a bonified NHL-er, then he wouldn't have signed him in the first place. But things just weren't working out for Detroit and because of extenuating circumstances, we couldn't wait any longer.
Would Leino have flourished in the Detroit system if he would have stayed? Maybe, maybe not. But the same holds true for whether or not he'll be able to keep the pace as a Flyer.
Regardless, I wish Leino nothing but the best...please beat Chicago, Ville.