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A Closer Look At The New Sabres: Ville Leino

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The Sabres welcomed a few big acquisitions on July 1, and we've been taking a look at what they can offer the team in the 2011-12 season. Chrisitan Ehrhoff was covered last week and Robyn Regehr yesterday, so today it's new winger center Ville Leino's turn.

Let's begin as we did with the defensemen by going over TOI - Leino averaged exactly 16 minutes per game last season in Philadelphia, playing mostly with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. Leino will almost certainly center either Buffalo's first or second line, and will also help out on the power play, likely on the second unit. He will not, under any circumstances, ever be out on the penalty kill, averaging 0:00 on the PK last season.

Speaking of playing center, Leino will be converting back to his original position this season after having played on the wing for a few years with Philly and Detroit. Leino's faceoff win percentage of 57.4% would have been second on the Sabres to Paul Gaustad, but it's a very small sample size of just over 100 faceoffs. If Buffalo fans are worried about the transition, Ville does have the necessary skills to play center as he's been described as a playmaker and puck-possession expert  who helped Danny Briere live up to his gaudy contract. Will he be able to do the same with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville? We'll find out come October.

2010 - Ville Leino 81 19 34 53 14 22 5 0 2 117


Advanced stats, playoff production, and some negatives after the break.

When we dive into the advanced stats, we now discover what may be a problem for Buffalo; last season Leino played against some of the easiest competition the Flyers could give him, while playing with the best quality of teammates possible, though to be fair, his line of Leino, Briere, and Hartnell leads Philly in that category. That quality of teammates allowed Leino (and the rest of his line) to produce the highest points per 60 minutes of any Philadelphia forwards. Start dreaming up those line combinations now, folks, and make sure you put a bit of grit on Leino's line to help him out.

The new #23 won't block many shots or lay the lumber very often, but his relative Corsi numbers are dead even, meaning there are exactly the same number of shots for and against his team when he's on the ice. It's not great, but I'll take that from a playmaker with a 16.2% shooting percentage any day.

Part of the reason the Sabres front office must have loved Leino so much is his playoff production. You probably remember his record-setting postseason in 2010, and for his career he's got 28 points in 37 games for a .76 PPG average, better than his regular season .65 number. Along with Regehr and Ehrhoff, the Sabres have now added three gamers who can step up their production in the postseason.

Before we get too excited though, let's talk negatives - though he's strong on the puck, Leino's play has been described as soft, and very European. There's a worry that his success was in large part due to having linemates who could eat up the tough minutes while giving Leino the opportunity to play against weaker competition. He also has had a reoccurring hip injury plaguing him for the past few seasons; I for one hope the Sabres medical staff did their due diligence on Leino's hip before signing him or we can all prepare for six years of "Leino is the new Connolly" rants on the Whiner Line.

So that's Ville Leino in a nutshell. We'll definitely have more to debate on whether or not he can be an effective top or second-line center as we get closer to training camp, but let's hear your thoughts halfway through the summer.