Monday, December 7, 2009


Yes, this post may make it seem like I have some sort of personal axe to grind with Ville Leino, that I dislike him as a human being and think that he tortures kittens and leers at small boys and lights nursing homes on fire in his spare time. So, to be fair, let me state that I don't think any of these things. What I think, is that it's time for him to "nut up, or shut up."

A lot of people seemed to think that Leino would be a big part of our success this season, that he would step in for the loss of a player like Hudler, or at least Samuelsson, and make the off-season defections nearly a wash in terms of production.

Yeah, hasn't happened.


So why did people think this? Well, Leino played with us last season, and man, he was on fire. In 13 regular season games, he put up 9 points (5G, 4A) and was a +5 with only 6 penalty minutes. His shooting percentage was 29.4. Yes, you read that right. He followed this up with 7 playoff appearances that cleared no goals, but managed 2 assists, a +2 rating, and no time in the box. Pretty respectable for a new kid. So was that what we should be expecting from him now that he's permanently up with the big boys? I'd like to think so.


I haven't seen it yet this season. Trust me, I was looking. Especially at the beginning. I wanted Ville to succeed. After all, the more success he had, the more success we could expect the Wings to have. What's not to love about that? But instead, I've seen the 25 year old Leino being out-skated, out-shot, and out-efforted (Yeah, I make up words. Suck it up.) by two 22-year-old kids who only the die-hard fans were talking about during the off season, one of whom wasn't even supposed to make the roster this year: Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

Consider the evidence:
In the same number, or fewer, games than Leino, Helmer and Abby have each put up the same or better numbers in terms of production. They've been better defensively. And just from watching them play game-in and game-out, I've seen better and more consistent effort out of each of them. The only things Leino has to show for himself are the ability to stay out of the box and a slightly higher shooting percentage. Yet the younger kids have anchored the 3rd and 4th lines, while Leino has been mostly hopping back and forth between lines 1 and 2.

Helm has actually totaled more TOI than Leino, but that's likely a reflection of the fact that his line has consistently been the hardest working on the ice and Babcock had been willing to recognize that. But Abdelkader's equal or slightly better stats have come while he averaged just under 12 minutes per game to Leino's 15 (11:57.6 vs 15:01.8). So who is it we should be looking to this season? The kid who was supposed to slide right into a solid support role, or the kid who was supposed to spend the season in Grand Rapids?

Don't get me wrong. I'd love it if Leino went on a tear, pumped up his numbers, and proved me to be a total nimrod. That would be great, because the Wings would likely wrap up a few more wins in the process. But I'm looking at Leino's play this season and his stats back in GR, and I'm comparing those to Helm's and Abdelkader's play this season and their stats back in GR, and frankly, I think that painting Leino as the Hope of a New Generation might have been a tad premature. His run last year was phenomenal, but was that what we should expect to be his norm, or was it a fluke? At the moment, I'm leaning toward fluke.

Go ahead, Ville. Prove me wrong.


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