Yet another press conference was held today with regards to Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton’s back injury. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single bit of good news. What was previously explained as a bulging disc in his lower back has now been upgraded to a herniated disc, which is a much more serious issue. Leighton will undergo a partial discectomy and is projected to be out 6 to 8 weeks, which puts his return somewhere in mid-December if everything goes to plan.
That’s a big “if” considering the Flyers went through the same ordeal last season with goaltender Ray Emery, who is currently recovering from avascular necrosis of the hip and is training in Toronto. There aren’t many goaltending options available on the market should Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and back-up Brian Boucher be unable to perform the task. In a bit of irony, Emery may be an option to replace Leighton if he can get back into playing form.
The frustrating part about this whole mess is that Leighton admitted today that the injury started towards the end of last season and got progressively worse over the summer. He apparently never disclosed this information to the Flyers organization. According to CSNPhilly, Leighton said in the conference,
“I first felt it in playoffs last year…I gave it time to settle down, and obviously it was injured and it never really went away. So when I was working out in the summer and doing activities it was flaring up a little bit, but nothing to the point where it is now…I got some tests done and it wasn’t very severe in the summer. All through training camp it was still there, but it didn’t bother me on the ice so I just kind of worked through it. I was told to do exercises and work through it…Then in that Toronto game, it kind of jumped to a new level and totally did different things. I’m obviously disappointed with the way it went.”
General manager Paul Holmgren’s take?
“Obviously I’m not happy about this now, but we certainly didn’t know this in the summertime when we were going through the contract negotiations.”
This past summer was the best offseason in a long time for teams to pick up free agent goaltenders. I didn’t mind that the Flyers opted to re-sign Leighton because he was one of the main players responsible for improving the team from 14th place in the Eastern Conference to a playoff position. The team wanted to give him a shot at proving himself as a starter, and as unwise as it may have been from a business sense, I was willing to take the gamble too.
The fact that he hid a nagging injury while negotiating a contract shows a lack of professionalism and dedication to his teammates. He could have had this looked into in the summer, undergone surgery, and been ready in time for the home opener without a problem. Any loyalty that was felt towards Leighton in his signing by the organization must be wearing thin.
If Bobrovsky turns out to be a diamond in the rough, though, count your blessings that Homer picked him up when few other teams were really paying attention.