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Remembering when Buffalo signed Ville Leino

Jun 16, 2014, 8:05 AM EDT

Ville Leino Getty Images

It was almost three years ago the Buffalo Sabres signed Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million dollar contract. After 137 games, 10 goals, and 46 points today is the first day teams can buy out players and it’s expected Leino will be one of them.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the 30-year-old Finnish forward.

He signed his big deal in Buffalo after a career-year with the Philadelphia Flyers. In 81 regular season games he had 19 goals and 53 points.

That big season came on the heels of his 2010 playoffs performance in which he helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final after scoring seven goals with 21 points in 19 games before the Flyers were bounced out of the Final by the Chicago Blackhawks. As Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald recalled, the Sabres were sky-high on Leino after signing him in 2011.

“We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player to slip by us,” Regier said.

That’s now former Sabres GM Darcy Regier. Former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was similarly eager to get him into action, but it just hasn’t worked.

In three seasons in Buffalo he hasn’t scored as many goals or points as he did in one season in Philly and is now likely about to be sent packing with a $7.3 million farewell check.

It just goes to show you, sometimes answers aren’t always easily found in free agency.

  1. pone27 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    Monsterous bust. Really sums it up.

    • canucks30 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:13 AM

      A bigger BUST than Salma Hayek

      • 3linepass - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:59 AM

        I can assure you I reviewed the Hayek video many-many…….many times. I still say Leino was a bigger bust. But to be sure I better review the video once more…………..

  2. bennydabeata - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I still remember him torching the Sabres when the Flyers eliminated us in the playoffs many moons ago. In terms of moneyball, easily the worst Sabre in team history

  3. tross16 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Yes he was a huge bust but he didn’t have
    Much help but I agree it was a huge bust haha

  4. vbcaps - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    He has to be ashamed with how he played but a $7.3 million dollar you suck good bye present isn’t too bad

    • bullwinkle88 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      He should be ashamed, but he isn’t. Another reason to get rid of him.

  5. phillyphanatic77 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I still don’t get how Leino could be so bad. He was dynamite during his short time with the Flyers. The Leino-Briere-Hartnell line was unstoppable in the 2010 playoffs. He showed excellent puck possession skills here and his hands were some of the best of the team. Still Buffalo paid a support player like a star and that hardly ever works.

    • govtminion - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      Because he’s the kind of player who makes good players around him better (as he did with Hartnell and Briere), but isn’t a great ‘on his own’ player. So once he was made to be ‘the guy’ in Buffalo, he came apart.

      Add Lieno back to a line with good players alongside him, and I’m betting we see something more like the Flyers version than the Sabres version.

      • mjw9326mjw9326 - Jun 17, 2014 at 7:12 AM

        I doubt it. He had ONE good season and playoffs and did absolutely nothing after that. He was tried on many different lines with different guys, from first to fourth lines and rode the bench as well as the press box. Nothing worked with this guy.
        When you are expected to be a goalscorer and a Playmaker and the only goal you score all year is in a Shootout in Overtime, then there is a serious problem. Hell, even John Scott scored this year.

    • bullwinkle88 - Jun 16, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      At the time Pegula was a new owner and wanted to have a Stanley Cup contender within 3 years. He thought the quickest way to do that was to go after the top UFA’s. He was wrong. I don’t blame Darcy, I blame Pegula.

      • mjw9326mjw9326 - Jun 17, 2014 at 7:13 AM

        At least the Sabres did not land Brad Richards. They would have been paying even more for a big bust.

    • 3linepass - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      One thought that no one has mentioned and can’t be dismissed (although we often do) for the highest level athletes is that he had at least one (maybe 2?) hip surgeries since being signed in Buffalo. Add that with no time to create chemistry once healthy or maybe even no one even on the roster to compliment his skill set (lets face it Buffalo doesn’t have any 2010 caliber Hartnell’s or Briere’s on it’s roster). That’s a recipe for disaster. It fits perfectly with the comedy of errors that have occurred in Buffalo since Terry bought the team. Bad timing. Bad team. Bad money. Plenty of articles have been written that July 1st & July 2nd signings nearly never yield the results related to the cost. This could have been the worst.

  6. djshnooks - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    Yes. He is made of glass. He never hit anybody or went into the corners. He was too scared to battle in front of the net.

    He had plenty of talent around him in year one and he produced jack-poop. So then he got shuffled around the lineup, barely finding his way on the 4th line…before he started to be a healthy scratch every game.

    Terry Pegula came in and saved the team, don’t forget that before you blame him. Ruff and Regier were also both high on Leino…and ultimately it was Regier’s move.

    Terry Pegula also got Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff to waive their “NTC” to be able to come to Buffalo…and both of them turned out to be pretty good moves.

    You can hardly blame Pegula for saving the team, and wanting to spend his money on players that his GM approved of.

    He has been a savior to the city of Buffalo, the Sabres…and soon to be the Bills. I don’t blame him at all for being open to spending his money on whatever it takes to make his team better. The GM screwed the pooch when it came to that move and many others…that’s why he’s unemployed.

    Terry Pegula is the only reason the Buffalo Sabres have a chance at players such as Ryan Callahan this year and Patrick Kane next year…they both have brand new built homes in the area, and they both know they will be given a blank check by the Sabres, if they choose to leave their respective teams and come back home.

    Terry Pegula is as good a owner as any…he just had to go through his “fanboy” stage, like all owners go through at first when they buy their favorite sports team.

    Terry Pegula is the reason Buffalo is probably getting the NHL scouting combine. He is the reason they have the multi-million dollar facility to do such a thing. He is good for the community, he is good for the Sabres…and I hope, soon enough, he will be good for the Bills too.

    People need to realize that without Terry Pegula, downtown and the waterfront wouldn’t be making a comeback…and the city of Buffalo wouldn’t have a pro hockey team or soon a pro football team. 😉

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