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Buffalo wants a little more out of its $27-million man

Oct 31, 2011, 12:51 PM EDT

Ville Leino Getty Images

John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports the Sabres shuffled the deck at practice today. Normally not a huge story, but the shuffle is noteworthy as head coach Lindy Ruff moved Ville Leino onto a line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.

Leino’s been a major disappointment since the Sabres wildly overspent on signed him to a six-year, $27-million deal. After scoring in the season opener, he’s registered just one point in his last nine games while going minus-5 over that same stretch. Buffalo has tried a myriad of things to get him going — different linemates, even moving him to the wing — but today’s move is the boldest yet: Putting him between red-hot wingers Vanek and Pominville, who have combined for 13 goals and 29 points.

It’s a curious decision to say the least. Rookie C Luke Adam‘s had great success (3G-6A-9PTS) centering Vanek and Pominville — the line has been one of the league’s best through 10 games — which harkens back to the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.

That said, the Sabres’ investment in Leino makes it tough not to pair him with their best players. He’s being paid like a first-line center, so the conventional wisdom says Buffalo should probably put him there.

Fortunately for Leino, he’ll get plenty of practice with his new linemates. The Sabres don’t play again until Wednesday against Philadelphia, which promises to be a special affair — it’ll be the first time Leino faces the Flyers and former linemates Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell, a trio that was unstoppable during Philly’s 2010 Stanley Cup final run.

  1. icelovinbrotha215 - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    People shouldn’t be surprised. We like Leino in Philly but we knew his production was a major part of the chemistry he had with Harts and Danny B. Buffalo overpaid for Leino’s services. They better find chemistry partners or you won’t be seeing much more as the session progresses.

    • danphipps01 - Oct 31, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      He’s kind of a luxury guy. He needs a lot of support from top-calibre players to himself be useful. Kind of like Mike Cammalleri – if you don’t have your best guys dedicated to supporting him, he’s not going to produce.

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Oct 31, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        I agree. That’s why you don’t break the bank for players like that.

  2. bluesrawesome - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Buffalo has a really good team but they over paid a lot of their players.

  3. tcclark - Oct 31, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    The guy is a right wing who has only played well with Briere and Hartnell. And to be honest, he really wasn’t great for the second half of last season. The Flyers traded a 7th defenseman for him cause he couldn’t even get on the ice in Detroit. He had a great playoff run and a good start to last year, but he was anything but special. Buffalo’s paying a 45-50 point right wing top line center money. Why was this considered a good signing?

    • danphipps01 - Nov 1, 2011 at 2:35 AM

      New ownership, big, look-at-what-we-can-do moves meant to show the fans their desire to win. It’s actually worked to some degree – Ehrhoff’s been a great acquisition, for instance – but Leino was the result of the desire to make waves overwhelming financial prudence. In fairness, players going on hot streaks like that often wind up overpaid as a result. Look at Dustin Byfuglien.

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