Give Me a Break: Why Philadelphia Flyer Goalie Michael Leighton DESERVES to Stay

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09:  Michael Leighton #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers handles the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Our collective memory has failed us and the present has clouded our judgment, Philadelphia.

So quick to turn our backs on one of our own. For shame!

Michael Leighton deserves the chance to be the No. 1 goaltender in Philadelphia, no matter how excellent rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky plays.

Let me remind you of what Leighton went through to help us become the 2009-2010 Eastern Conference Champions and complete one of the three GREATEST comebacks in sports history!

Leighton was picked up off of waivers in early December before becoming the No. 1 goaltender. He only became No. 1 because of a hip injury to the experiment that didn’t work—Ray Emery. Leighton played in 27 regular season games before spraining his ankle in March. In that time, he posted a stout 16-5 record with two overtime losses and one shutout.

This waiver wire pickup helped turn around a season that was going nowhere fast.

Backup Brian Boucher filled in for Leighton and posted a 9-18 record in the regular season, including the 82nd game. It took the Flyers winning in the last game of the season in a shootout to clinch a playoff spot.

Boucher helped the Flyers through the first round of the playoffs against the Devils, winning the series four games to one.

The Flyers lost the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Bruins, sparking the orange and black to win the fourth and lead in the fifth before Boucher went down with a knee injury.

Again, when all hope was fading, in stepped Mr. Leighton.

After his triumphant return, the Flyers took the Boston Series four games to three and became only the third team in major sports history (football, hockey, baseball and basketball) to come back from a three-game deficit in a seven-game series.

Philadelphia then made short work of the Montreal Canadiens to become the Eastern Conference champions. Don’t forget who the Canadiens beat before getting steamrolled by the Flyers: the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins!

The finals were tough but the Flyers ran into the best team in the league at that time. Everyone killed Leighton for the weak goal by Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane to end the series, but it just seemed like every bounce was going the Blackhawks' way. It seems that when it’s a team’s time to win, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

Now do you remember? Did you find the Eastern Conference championship shirt you bought?

I didn’t forget and that’s why as good as Bobrovsky is playing, you have to give Leighton a chance. He has proved that he can be better than “mediocre,” as some claim, and that he has the poise to lead us in big situations.

The “Iron Curtain” Sergei Bobrovsky could be the future of the club and I think he has the potential to be great, but Michael Leighton deserves a few starts for what he did last year.

I would send Brian Boucher to the Adirondacks and let Leighton start as the backup. Give him spot starts and let him get his skates back under his feet.

Michael Leighton suffered through a serious back injury and now that he has been taken care of, there is nothing that says he couldn’t perform even better than he did last year. With an improved defense, Leighton could become a late bloomer and take the No. 1 spot back again.

If Bobrovsky hits a rookie lull, then we’ll have Michael Leighton to pick up the slack…again!

I plead with you Philly; don’t give up hope on Michael Leighton yet. If he has earned anything with his romp through the playoffs last year, it’s our benefit of the doubt.


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