• July 3, 2022

Leighton’s Impending Return Mean Changes Are Coming

Michael Leighton has begun skating on his own, three and a half weeks after it was announced that he would need to have surgery for a herniated disc in his spine. If everything goes to plan, he could return some time in December. His return, however, means that somebody on the roster is going to have to move and chances are it isn’t rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Flyers have the option of putting either Leighton or goaltender Brian Boucher on waivers, but will expose both to being picked up by another team. Boucher is less of a risk than Leighton in terms of salary and contract length, but who knows how healthy Leighton is considering the organization thought he was healthy to begin with.

Bobrovsky could be sent down to the AHL without being exposed to waivers, but his spot on this team has been solidified due to his play between the pipes and his dedication to a team he can barely communicate with. That hasn’t prevented his teammates from extolling his worth.

Danny Briere: “He’s up there amongst the best that I’ve seen… he’s a good goalie as far as quickness [goes]… he’s young. Things are looking up. He keeps it going… you don’t want to get too excited too quick, let’s give him a chance to play more games before that but its fun to watch him.”

Chris Pronger: “He’s pretty relaxed back there. He understands… kinda lets the game come to him a little bit. Obviously in the third [period against the Carolina Hurricanes], a lot of powerplays on both sides, he came up with a number of good stops.”

The Flyers have won their fourth game in a row with Monday’s win against the Hurricanes, with the last four backstopped by Bobrovsky. Statistically, Bob is in the middle of the pack. His 2.39 goals-against-average in eight games hasn’t cracked the top ten in the league, but the tandem of Boucher and Bobrovsky are better than any other tandem in the Atlantic Division, aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The option that I haven’t heard many bring up is keeping all three goaltenders. If someone on the current roster has to go, let it be defenseman Matt Walker, who has yet to play a regular season game with the Flyers due to a groin injury. Walker is out indefinitely and has been held off the long-term injured reserve list for the time being to avoid salary cap issues later. The Flyers would be carrying the same amount of healthy players they have now, but with an additional goalie.

The additional time will allow the organization to assess whether Bobrovsky has the capacity to handle the full workload as a rookie. During that process, they can assess whether Leighton is healthy enough to handle the workload as back-up, or starter if he shines. In any case, Bobrovsky will not benefit from any time with the Phantoms, who sadly would only hurt his development between their lack of success and the apparent deficiency in the team’s leadership.

No matter what happens, one thing is certain: one of the Flyers from opening night is going to have to go.

On a separate but interesting note, the top goaltender in the NHL in all categories right now is Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. The Flyers were rumored to be interested in trading for his services over the summer. I dreaded the rumor at the time, as the 36-year old Thomas has three years remaining on a four-year, $20 million contract and was outperformed last season by rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. Needless to say, I have to tip my hat to Thomas, whose ridiculous 0.50 goals-against-average and 0.984 save percentage are what dreams are made of. 

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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  • Could the Flyers Send G Leighton down to the Phantoms on re-hab assignment to work on his game and get back into hockey shape for 3-4 weeks and then made a decision on whether to keep “Boobs”

  • Bob may have a middle of the road GAA, but he makes a lot of tough saves. This guy is more than his stats as the Flyers tend to give up a lot of good opportunities especially with the way that the lines have been changed every night and with Pronger still not at 100%. He is better than Boucher or Leighton now, and he is only going to get better. Those 2 are interchangeable, so one of them has to go.

    I would rather develop the promising young goalie than keep rolling out the other 2. But if you do, then you have to commit to him like they are now. You can’t keep switching back and forth. If that is the case, then you have to send him down to play every day.

  • Bob has been playing against top teams at the NHL level, and more than holding his own. For a rookie playing with basically no ups/downs and with middle of pack stats, that says on an awful lot about the guy… and not even knowing English too and in living in foreign country. Why on earth would you risk screwing him up by sending him down to get blasted in net by lesser quality AHL players and no defense to help him?? Playing time against lesser talent does not guarantee improvement in skills. He needs to stay right where he is until he proves he is no longer effective or that he needs a few games off for rest. As of what you’ve seen so far, who would you rather go into the postseason with as your #1 goalie?

  • Just to add, he’s better off working with Jeff Reese. His lightning quick reflexes will only be improved as he keeps competing against the superstar skills guys at this level. He’s only 21, and emotionally/mentally already very strong. Imagine having him for the next 5-10yrs. When he gets more accustomed to western life and knowing the language, his comfort level will improve dramatically, and he’ll be there with the likes of Richards, Briere, etc to help him along. This club has not had a top prospect since Pelle passed. IF Leighton doesn’t come back and STAY healthy, I’d rather see Boucher stick as backup.

  • Bye bye Boucher

  • they can send leighton down for only a short conditioning stint without having to be on waivers. i suspect that will happen when ready. however this being the flyers goalies lets not get ahead of ourselves and lets be realistic, there is likely another goalie or two who need to be in the picture before it is all said and done.

  • Yeah, Boucher is gone, Bobrovsky and Leighton are better.

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