Dealing Leino a Mistake? No.

Update (10:28 AM): Edited to flesh out thoughts a bit more, brush up some wording, etc. – Matt

Chris at Nightmare on Helm Street suggests it was a mistake to get rid of Ville Leino, given that the guy’s lighting it up for Philadelphia now.

Maybe it looks like a mistake at a glance, but when you consider the apparent issues Leino had in Detroit, I can’t see it as one. The guy just didn’t mesh with the coach or the system here. I’m not an expert in what Laviolette is doing in Philly, but it seems to me that something about him or his system has sparked this change in Leino. If that’s true, keeping him in Detroit would have just perpetuated the suck because the team wasn’t going to change to suit the needs of one player. The Wings have a coach and a system that requires everyone be on the same page, or close to it. Leino wasn’t there.

Chris cites Howard as an example of Holland’s usual patience and contrasts it with his apparent lack of patience with Leino. I guess the difference there is the Wings could wait for Jimmy in GR while they had fine goaltending in Detroit. Leino, on the other hand, had effectively blackmailed his way onto the team and then didn’t back it up consistently. It’s sort of apples to oranges to compare a kid in the AHL to a guy leeching on your roster in the NHL.

Some players just don’t work out in a given situation. That they end up working out in another is not necessarily a mark against the GM who moved him. Keeping him in Detroit would have been a waste of a roster spot and cap space at best and a drag on the on-ice product at worst. Holland had no idea how Leino would work out elsewhere. All he had to go on was how he was working out here.

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  1. AllanM88 says:

    Well put. People seem to be so quick to forget how frustrating it was to watch Leino as a Red Wing. Clearly he had talent, but just couldn't put it together to work within the system. There were many nights where I sat yelling at my TV because of him. Letting him go was a good move for the Wings and I am glad he's doing well in Philly.

    Remember when Larry Murphy was booed out of Toronto and then came to the Wings and fit like a glove? Sometimes it works for you as well. And in the Red Wings case, it works out for us more often than not.

    • Matt Saler says:


      Yeah, the Murphy comparison's a great one. I guess my thought on Leino is "why couldn't you do it here, Ville?" not "why'd you let him go, Kenny?".

  2. Garth says:

    It wasn't a mistake because Detroit had to make a salary cap move, and that was the best move to make.

    That whole article is a nice piece of revisionist history.

    Who should the Wings have traded in place of Leino? Every other player on the team contributed more than Leino was at the time. I'm 100% positive that if they didn't have to free up cap space Leino wouldn't have been traded, but Detroit needed cap space and he was the obvious choice.

    As I said in response to the article, the only reason Leino is even in the lineup is that Carter and Gagne went down. If Jeff Carter doesn't get injured, Leino isn't even in the lineup.

    Is it unfortunate that Holland couldn't afford to give Leino more than half a season to prove himself? For sure. But in reality, it was the only move to make.

    • Matt Saler says:

      I completely brain-cramped on the cap space needs that led to the Leino trade…thanks for the reminder, Garth. You're probably right. I doubt he'd have been dealt without the need to clear up that space, but I still don't see him as a guy who would have panned out in Detroit, even with more time here.

      • Garth says:

        I think you're right about that, I really don't see how/where he was going to fit in on Detroit. They say he "needs to play with talent", but there was little chance he was going to crack the top 6 in Detroit anytime soon.

        I'm fine with the trade. It wasn't ideal but had to be made. Oh well. I wish him luck.

  3. Chris says:

    Garth, revisionist history? Really? I just saw talent, which was obvious, and thought we had the case of a kid having no confidence and on the coach's shit list. Ken was placed in a shitty situation, but I don't know if I agree with the decision made, that's all.

    Matt, I don't disagree with most of your arguement, except this part.

    "Leino, on the other hand, had effectively blackmailed his way onto the team and then didn’t back it up consistently. It’s sort of apples to oranges to compare a kid in the AHL to a guy leeching on your roster in the NHL."

    Blackmailed his way onto the team? He led the Griffs in scoring last season and everyone counted on him to take Hudler's place this season. He did his time in the AHL and was ready for the show. Sure, it didn't turn out well. Still, blackmail is not what I would describe it as.

    • Matt Saler says:


      I guess blackmailed is a little strong, but he did make it clear he wanted to be in the NHL, not the AHL. The Hudler defection forced the Wings' hand, but Abdelkader's waiver exempt status may have played a role in there too.

      I wouldn't characterize him as ready for the show. Without Hudler leaving, he'd've been the AHL or back in Europe. Leading that Griffins team was not exactly a major feat and there were plenty of signs that year that he was having issues with the longer schedule.

    • Garth says:

      I think you misunderstood what I meant by revisionist history.

      You missed big chunks of the story, like the fact that Holland HAD to make a deal to get under the cap. End of story. This isn't Ken Holland coming out and deriding Leino, badmouthing him and trading him for a bag of pucks, this is a GM who has been put into a difficult position because of the cap. He HAS to dump salary and Leino a) had potential that everyone can see, thus giving him trade appeal that the likes of Meech and Lebda simply don't have and b) was underperforming, especially against the likes of Eaves, Miller and Helm.

      Add in the Abdelkader was sent down and we STILL needed to dump salary. Add that Williams was injured, so he wasn't going to be traded. Add in that Bertuzzi was producing.

      Who else do you trade? Filppula? Cleary? Osgood?

      No, you trade the underperforming Ville Leino.

      This transaction falls under the exact same scenario and Kyle Quincey. You know they didn't want to let him go, especially for nothing, so they got what they could for him and managed to become "legal" under the cap.

      That's why it's revisionist history, because you ignored the reasons he was traded in favour of claiming Holland made a mistake.

      • Chris says:

        That was simply an error on my part and fixed it in the post.

        My bad.

        I still think there were ways to attempt to keep him (send him down/etc) that could have been explored. Sure he might have left, but maybe not.

        Matt, now you say he wasn't ready for the show, but again, everyone said he was at the end of last year.

        • Matt Saler says:

          I don't remember being all for Leino at the end of last year (though I did think he'd have plenty of motivation to prove himself at the NHL level), but I can look back through posts and see that after Hossa bolted, I talked about Leino needing to stick around. That definitely picked up after the Hudler defection. I think the combination of those two things led to Leino being in line for a roster spot and maybe sparked the discussion you mention. I dunno.

          It is easy to look back now and say he wasn't ready. But my mentioning his issues with the longer AHL season doesn't fall under that category. That was stuff we talked about in GR at the time when he slowed down mid-season.

        • Garth says:

          In order to send him down he'd have had to clear waivers, which he wouldn't have done. AND, if he had been sent down and did clear waivers, it's not unlikely that he would skip town and go play in Europe. Either one of those options means we get nothing for him, which is, admittedly, only slightly less than what they got for him.

          "That was simply an error on my part and fixed it in the post."

          Fine, but I was referring to the post as written, not to your later-revised version.

  4. Ellen says:

    Totally agree with you on this Matt. Funny, because I was just thinking yesterday that I want to scream every time I hear the MSM talk about how Leino was such a loss for Detroit, and a bad move by Holland to let him go. To that I say, pshhhhh. It's just one post-season so far, by a player who's fairly desperate to prove that he's NOT a bust. Give it time before proclaiming it a victory.

    • Matt Saler says:

      Yeah, that's the other thing. He's proven nothing by racking up points now. Plenty of players have strong playoff years and fade. Who's to say Leino isn't the next in a long line? The MSM's looking to spill pixels over another Quincey-ish story.

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