clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ville Leino isn't exactly working out so far with the Buffalo Sabres

New, comments
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Ville Leino #23 of the Buffalo Sabres skates in warm-ups prior to play against  the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on September 24, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Ville Leino #23 of the Buffalo Sabres skates in warm-ups prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on September 24, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Here's what we had to say back on July 1, when Terry Pegula and his shiny new toy, the Buffalo Sabres, threw all kinds of excited money at former Philadelphia Flyers forward Ville Leino:

The Buffalo Sabres signed him to an unbelievably obscene six year, $27 million contract today. The deal was announced by the team and the details were reported by TSN. It's overpayment in every sense of the word, and it's $1.5 million more per year than the Flyers were willing to dish out. Can't blame him for going after the money at all... but holy crap, Ville Leino is not worth that much money.

We loved the guy during his time here and it was fun while it lasted. Not upset about losing him when all is said and done, though. Everybody is overpaying this year, but think of it this way: Jaromir Jagr for one year at $3.3 million, or Ville Leino at $4.5 million for the next six?

Our major concern: Leino was expecting a major pay day based on what, exactly? An awesome 2010 playoff run, which totaled just 19 games? A relatively mediocre single full season with the Flyers, in which he only put up a pedestrian 53 points in 81 games? 

Yeah, not worth the money or the risk. 

We're only a month into the season, and sure, maybe Ville could break out and turn this season into a 60, 70 or even 80 point campaign by years end. But that would be an unbelievable, incredible turnaround this year. The only way the Sabres are going to be able to justify throwing so much money at the guy is if he's able to complete that turnaround while also sustaining a very high level of play for the next five years.  He's never proven the capability to do that over the course of more than 19 games at a time in his NHL career to date. 

They're trying to help him out. Lindy Ruff has pushed Leino up on to the top line with Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, and maybe that'll kick start him a bit. After all, while he has just two points on the season so far, and while he's not worth the money Buffalo gave him, he's also not as bad as the 16 or 17 point pace he's on, either. 

No matter what, it's going to take a lot for this experiment to work out for the Sabres, and it doesn't seem like it's happening just now. Can you imagine how we'd feel if the Flyers gave him a six year, $27 million contract based on a single 53 point season, only to have him lead off that new contract with two points in 10 games? 

Thank God (or Paul Holmgren, whatever) they didn't. Instead, we get to pity Sabres fans, who are already making comments like these:

Ladies and gentleman, our newest Tim Connolly. With only six years left to gripe about.

He looks lost bringing the puck into the zone, and seems to commit at least two face-palming turnovers a game.  Maybe Lindy Ruff needs to give Leino a bit of a push by moving him up the depth chart a bit, like he did with Brad Boyes on the power play. We'll find out when Leino gets his shot tomorrow, teaming up with Vanek and Pominville on the Sabres' explosive first line.  But if that doesn't work, once Jochen Hecht and Tyler Ennis are ready to come back, could Leino find himself as the odd man out?  Something that seemed so unlikely just a week ago actually may be closer to reality than we think.

That two-face-palming-turnovers-a-game thing sounds pretty damned familiar, doesn't it? 

His high price tag may provide easy fodder for critics looking to label him a "bust" if he struggles early on.  The fact of the matter is, you need to overpay to bring in the hot names, and Leino was one of them this offseason.  Darcy Regier decided to take a risk and pay the man.  Time will tell if it was a savvy move, catching a player on the rise, or a case of panic and overpaying for a perceived roster need.  Luckily, with the deep pockets of Terry Pegula, this team can now afford mistakes like that.    

Yeah, we're not exactly calling him a bust, but we all could've seen this coming back in June and July. Leino was indeed a hot item on the UFA market this past summer, but as we said: why exactly was he a hot item? The league was so enamored with his postseason play in 2010 that they basically overlooked his the entire rest of his NHL career to that point  -- the barely making it to the league thing, the mediocre season with the Flyers. 

He might be able to turn this thing around, but no matter what, I still think we can safely say that Leino will never live up to a $4.5 million a year price tag. Luckily, the Flyers were smart enough to hold back the temptation.