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The Case Against Michael Leighton

Many Philadelphia Flyers fans are excited about the play of Michael Leighton in net. Yes, he’s been pretty good, especially when you consider what would be expected out of a guy who was out of the NHL to start the year.

But has he really been that good? Or could he be benefitting from a tough defense led by Chris Pronger?

When Pronger was traded to the Oilers, they made a Cinderella run through the playoffs and all the way to the cup finals against Carolina behind goaltender Roloson. In game 1…Roloson was knocked out with an MCL injury and in came backup Jussi Markkanen. Markkanen posted a 2.17 GAA and pushed the series to seven games. Not bad for a backup goalie? Problem is, he didn’t stay in the NHL long and signed with Jokerit a year and a half later. So was it that he was a good goalie? Or did he have a hell of a defensemen in front of him like Pronger?

In 2007, Pronger was traded to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Ducks get to the Cup finals and face off against the Ottawa Senators. In the series, Jean-Sebastien Giguerre posts a 1.97 GAA and wins the Con Smyth Finals MVP award. Immediately following that “amazingly great goaltending” he signs a four-year deal. In the first year of that deal he goes 17-31-6. Where is he playing now? Toronto? He is still in the league, but is he as great as we all thought after that series? Or did he have a hell of a defenseman in front of him like Pronger?

In 2010, the Flyers acquire Pronger. Cinderella run into the Cup finals seeing the starting goaltender, Boucher, go down. Enter Michael Leighton who has played very well. But I caution you to honestly ask this question: Is he a great goaltender who is posting shutouts while standing on his head? Or does he have a hell of a defenseman in front of him like Pronger?

It’s easy to look at goalie stats and attribute them to high-end play, but sometimes (and most likely this time) it has way more to do with who is playing in front of you. Pronger should get a percentage of all these new goalie contracts.


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