Another day, another trade. Our third installment of Checking Out features the Avs’ new forward, Tomáš Fleischmann.
26-year-old Fleischmann, born in Koprivnice of the Czech Republic, started his career in Europe, playing for the Czech-3 league in the 2001-2002 season. He spent time playing for both Vitkovice Jr. and Novy Jicin. With Vitkovice Jr., he amassed 51 points (26g-35a) in 46 games. That summer, he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. The following season, he made his first North American appearance with the Moose Jaw Warriors where he played 65 games and scored an impressive 21 goals while assisting on 50 others. This put him second on the team in points and the top scoring rookie in the WHL. The Warriors made it into the playoffs, and Fleischmann contributed with four goals and 11 assists, leading the team in points in the 12 post-season games they played. After finishing the year in Moose Jaw, the forward represented his country in the World Junior Championships. This would be the first of two consecutive years in which he did.
He returned to Moose Jaw for the 2003-2004 season, making an impressive showing with 75 points, 33 of them coming off of goals. Fleischmann ended up ranked second on the team in points, goals and assists, as well as tied for first with 10 power play goals during the regular season. He also had two short-handed goals that season. During the playoffs, he logged 3 goals, 4 assists and a striking three short-handers.
In 2004, he was traded to the Capitals and spent the year playing in Portland. However, his season was cut to only 53 games due to an injury. He ended the year with only 19 points (7g-12a). Fleischmann made his NHL debut on November 13, 2005. In the 14 games he played with the Capitals, he recorded 2 assists. Although his time with the Caps wasn’t overwhelming, he continued to light it up in the lower-leagues. He was, once again, a powerful force on his team. In Hershey, he scored 30 goals and 33 assists, was the team leader in game-winning goals (6) and second in power-play goals (13) and was second on the team in plus/minus (+14). During the regular season, he had a nine-game point streak and 3 three-point games. He dominated in the playoffs, as well, topping the team with 32 points (11 of which were goals). His 21 assists not only led his team, but was the best of all AHL players. His playoff run included 3 games with 3 or more points, including a 4-point game and a 3-pointer in the final round.
Clearly, Fleischmann’s confidence was high, as was the Caps’ confidence in him. He appeared in 29 games with the big club in 2006-2007, putting up 8 points during that time, most of which came in the last 21 games of the season. He ended the season as one of two Washington players to have a 4-point game (2g-2a). In his 45 games in Hershey, he was more than a point-per-game player (totaled 51 points). Again he scored 3 short-handed goals. He continued his stellar play in the playoffs, registering 21 points (5g-16a) in only 19 games, leading the AHL in post-season assists for a second straight year. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, he set a club record for 5 points in one game (1g-4a).
His hard work and high-scoring efforts landed him a solid spot on the Caps’ roster in the 2007-2008. He appeared in 75 games for Washington and scored 10 goals and 20 assists, placing him 9th on the team in scoring. The following season, he spent another 73 games at the NHL level. He put up impressive numbers in 2008-2009: 19 goals, 18 assists, a 14.5 shooting percentage, 4 game-winning goals, 7 goals on the power play; he averaged 15:04 TOI, had 8 multi-point games, maintained 6 streaks of three games or more where he scored at least one point. Fleischmann played in all 14 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs that season, scoring three goals (one of which was a game-winner) and 1 assist.
Last season—which was hampered by a blood clot which kept him out of the line up for 11 games to start the season—he posted NHL career-high 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points in only 69 games played. He also recorded one assist during the Caps’ six-game post-season run. This season, after being signed to a one-year, $2.6 million deal, he’s put up 10 points (4g-6a) in 23 games, is a +3 and has a shooting percentage of 9.1.
Fleischmann has been the subject of trade rumors since the summer, but Bruce Boudreau, the Caps’ head coach, insisted it wouldn’t happen. The rumors surrounded the return of Eric Belanger, making a trade involving Fleischmann seem plausible. Perhaps it was just timing which made Boudreau so adamant over the summer.
Evaluation of his play indicates that he’s not really suited for the center position he’s been manning with the Caps. His face off percentage is dismal (43.1%). Yet, he is considered a strong play-maker and sniper, so the doubts may be unfounded. Brook Laich commented as such, saying that "results speak for themselves." Washington won 14 straight games with Fleischmann at center. There is much concern, though, about repeated injuries, as he has missed games due to physical ailments every year he has played professional hockey. He is said to be a bit weak in the corners and unwilling or unable to play a hard, physical game. His coaches were never concerned about that, though, as he is said to be intelligent and positionally sound in his own end. His ability with the all-important outlet passes has given him plenty of time on the penalty kill. In addition, he seems dedicated to doing well. Of the questions surrounding his inconsistent performance and questionable spot on the team, Fleischmann said, "I’m just going to do my job the best I can. What can I say if I’m the best choice? I’ve told people I want to be the No. 1 center. I want to be as good as [Backstrom] – that’s my goal. That’s how I want to play. I just want to be good for the team and if I’m the No. 2 center then do my job right."
One of his biggest assets, it appears, is his character. He’s well-liked and a positive influence in the locker room. Given the right linemates, the outlook points to high production and smart, creative play.