Saturday, May 22, 2010

Trading Ville Leino wasn't a mistake for Detroit

With the sudden surge of Ville Leino with the Flyers in the post season many have started to ask: Did Detroit make a mistake when they traded Ville Leino?

If you want to look at the here and now with Detroit out of the playoffs and that the Flyers are up 2-1 in their series with the Canadiens then I guess you can say it was a mistake; however, if you want to look at the bigger picture I say no.

Ville Leino was resigned by Detroit over the summer for two years on a one way deal after his one year 'trial' contract was up. Leino was never drafted and the Red Wings picked him up after the 2007/2008 season which he spent in the SM-liiga (Finnish Elite League). After spending most of his first contract in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins he was given a shot to make the big team with the second contract.

At the start of the 2009/2010 season for the Red Wings the Ville Leino/Valtteri Filppula/Jason Williams 3rd line was the best line the team had. They were on fire. Then Williams broke his leg and Filppula broke his wrist. Leino never got back to form with the Red Wings.

Coach Mike Babcock tried Leino with a number of differnt player combinations but it just was not clicking like Detroit needed Leino to click. Ville just wasn't fitting the system. This isn't to say Leino isn't a good player. He is a very good and highly skilled player you don't need me to mention his 2008 Lasse Oksanen trophy to understand that (basically the SM-liiga equvelnt of the Hart Trophy).

With all the injuried the Red Wings faced in the regular season players were being asked to have a bigger impact than expected. Players were even brought in like Justin Abdelkader (who was project to spend the season with the Grand Rapids Griffin's in the AHL spent the majority of the season with a Winged Wheel on his chest instead) and Drew Miller (brother of Buffalo Sabres and Team USA goalie Ryan Miller) was claimed off of a wiaver from Tampa Bay Lightning. When players started coming back from being on long term injured reserve Detroit had to clear up the cap space that was now being used to get other players back. So what did Detroit do first? Traded Ville Leino to the Flyers for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th round draft pick in 2010. Doesn't seem like much for a highly skilled player like Ville Leino (especially since I have read that Tollefsen has now signed with MODO of the Swedish Elite Leauge), but who knows what Detroit will do with a 5th round draft pick - odds are they wont "get lucky" but they'll just find another Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk. I mean really they found Leino who was never drafted.

Trading Leino meant that the Red Wings would not have to put players on waiver (other than Brad May who did clear and made it to the Griffins) or trade anyone else to clear up cap space with Johan Franzen and Andreas Lilja came off of LTIR. Kirk Maltby was the only player other player to be displaced. On the last year of his contract and late in the grinders career Maltby decided to opt for surgery and cleared up the last of the space needed so that no other players would be lost. Maltby took one for the team and for that has my greatest respect.

The lose of Leino from the Detroit system that he wasn't fitting in with for the ability to keep players that are fitting the system and getting another late round draft pick that the Wings' have made it their office to find talent.

The real question is: When Flyers get their injured players back (ie Cater) where does he fit into the system there?

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