• December 4, 2021

The Story of Villedelphia

After the second game of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, I phoned in to the radio show “Hockey Night in Canada Radio” and asked host Jeff Marek what he thought the chances were that “this guy Leino” had of breaking into the line-up in the post-season.

“He’s too slow and hasn’t really matured.” (Paraphrasing here)

A month or so later and Flyers winger Ville Leino broke franchise records for playoff points (21) and goals (7) by a rookie, as well as tied an NHL record for playoff points by a rookie.  The skills and apparent speed shown by the 26-year old quickly drew praise from fans who may not have remembered we even had this player.  Where did “Villedelphia” come from?

Ville Leino was signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 on a one-year deal, coming to North America after dominating in the Finnish ice hockey league SM-liiga.  He began with their AHL farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, and was recalled during the 2009-2010 playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He showed flashes of brilliance much like he did this year, earning a one-way, two-year contract extension and a spot on the 2009-2010 team.

To the frustration of Red Wings fans, the relationship between Leino and the ‘Wings grew tenuous throughout the 2009-2010 season.  Leino couldn’t break into the top two forward lines and was cast into a checking role by coach Mike Babcock that didn’t fit his style of play.  Ask a Red Wings fan “what gives” and you’ll likely hear one of two answers: either the coach discouraged his skills and didn’t know what to do with him, or Leino tuned out the coach and just stopped playing.

Injured players returning to the line-up and a one-way contract forced the Red Wings to deal Leino to avoid taking half of his salary if he was claimed on waivers by another team.  On February 6, Detroit traded Leino to the Flyers for oft-injured defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefson and a fifth-round draft pick.

Leino sat for many of the remaining games in the regular season, although he did show some chemistry with Danny Briere that raised some eyebrows. The Flyers managed to squeak into the playoffs, and injuries to Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter allowed Leino another chance to prove his worth.

The rest is history.

Josh Janet

Josh Janet was raised in Northern New Jersey, but by an odd set of circumstances, is a Philadelphia sports fan. While recently converted to the Phillies, Josh is a diehard Flyers fan and can be expected to stay on top of the latest NHL news.

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One Comment

  • Briere and Leino have a similar style of play that really fed each other in the playoffs. Hartnell seemed to add a little bit of grit to the pair that kept the line from being a complete nightmare on defense.

    Signing him to a longer contract now would be a bit of a risk, since he may have just been lucky (remember RJ Umberger). On the other hand, maybe he did so well because he’s a clutch playoff performer, which would be a nice change of pace from the kind of players Philly usually sees in all of its different sports teams.

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