It's Time for Detroit Red Wings To Pull the Cord on Ville Leino

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IDecember 28, 2009

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Ville Leino #21 of the Detroit Red Wings carries the puck in a pre-season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 26, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Red Wings 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

One would think that, on a team that has had so many injuries, and so much trouble scoring goals, playing your way off the Detroit Red Wings' roster would be near impossible.

Forward Ville Leino has managed to do this three times now.

Leino will be benched tonight when the Red Wings take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second game of a home-and-home matchup.

While other players have been benched this season, primarily Kirk Maltby and Brad May, it wasn't necessarily as the result of poor play.

As young Justin Abdelkader is trying to fill the role Kirk Maltby has played on the team for 14 seasons, head coach Mike Babcock was forced to sit Maltby to get Abdelkader playing time.

Brad May is largely a part-time enforcer.  As such, if he's without an obvious dance partner on the opposition side, his presence isn't all that necessary on the Detroit bench.

In Leino's case, despite being given ample opportunity in the form of second-line duties along side countryman and stellar center, Valtteri Filppula, he has repeatedly failed to deliver in anyway to the team's success.

Leino looks to be largely lost playing in the NHL.

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When Leino was signed during the summer, he was looked upon as yet another "diamond in the rough" acquisition by Detroit.

His two-year, $1.6 million deal was supposed to be a steal for the Wings.

As it has turns out, the only larceny being committed is the ice-time Leino is stealing from other players who would likely do more with it.

Despite being the MVP of the Finnish Elite League in 2008, and scoring nine points in 13 games last year for the Wings, Leino has all but proved he is not yet capable of playing as a regular in the NHL.

Leino himself provides evidence of this inability to transition into the NHL inasmuch as he is still unclear as to why he's being scratched in the first place.

Leino has stated that its his lack of offensive production that has him riding pine.

By this logic, half the team could be benched.

No, Mike Babcock's reasons for extracting Leino from the lineup are clear: He simply is not exhibiting the type of effort and work ethic necessary to justify a regular spot on the team.

It must be stated that Leino is not playing on a two-way contract.  That is, he's not a player the Red Wings can simply send down to the AHL in exchange for another player.

Benching Leino means that he's still getting paid an NHL salary, but the team would rather pay him to sit than to play.

That's significant.

So, what can the Wings do with him?

The first option would be to put him on waivers.  This option could be particularly applicable in Leino's case as, being 25 years old, he is clear of any waiver exemptions that might apply to a younger player in his first year of a one-way deal.

If he clears waivers, he can then be sent down to the AHL, ostensibly, for the rest of the season.

If he is picked up, the Wings would still be partially responsible for his salary, but would not have it count against the cap

Another option would be the trade route.  However, given Leino's performance and the Wings' cap issues, it is doubtful that they'd find any deal that would give them a marginally better player in return.

The third, and well exercised option, is to simply continue to have him sit in the press box on game nights.

This would allow the Red Wings to give young players like Mattias Ritola a shot at doing more with the ice time previously given to Leino.

Whatever Detroit decides to do long-term with Leino, the fact remains; when you're playing poorly enough to force your team to forfeit your salary and insert a minor league player in your spot, earning a ticket out of the organization is going to be an easy task.