Contract: Signed through 2016-17 at $4,500,000 (oh god).
Soon-to-be-contract: UFA, bought out exactly 48 hours and one second after the Cup Final ends.
Report Card Grade in 2013: D- (link here)
Introduction: When Ville Leino was signed to his now-ridiculous contract, it was a result of both his excellent statistical outlier of a season (2010-11 in Philly) and the Sabres inability to lure Brad Richards to Buffalo. He was brought in to be a top offensive player, a top center even, and when he scored a goal in his first game for the Sabres it helped to ease some of the concerns over giving such a massive contract to such an unproven player. However, it's been all downhill for Leino after that first goal, and Leino is now best known around the league as an example of poor free agent decision making. With all that said, and with all that's been said about him over the past 12 months, can we still find some good in Leino's game this season? (Fair warning, there's going to be some justifiable ranting coming up. It's my catharsis for having to watch Leino all season.)
Key Stat: I'm going to skip the obvious something something goals point and instead say that the key number in Leino's season is 38. That's the number of shots Ville took this year in 58 games played, less than Henrik Tallinder, Mike Weber, and Matt Ellis.
There are people out there who argue that Ville Leino gets an unfair rap, that he actually does some good things on the ice, or that there's a European bias in Buffalo and around the NHL that prevents him from getting a fair shake. While I'm not going to argue against any of those points, it's because none of them matter in the argument against Leino. Consider this - the logic behind why Leino was brought to Buffalo was to produce offense. Nothing else. He's not a defensive or penalty kill specialist, he doesn't have incredible locker room leadership, he's not a faceoff wiz, and brings little physicality or playoff experience to the game. Leino earned his Buffalo contract solely because of the offensive numbers he put up in Philadelphia, and the Sabres signed him to do the same for them, something at which he has failed to do in a monumentally laughable way.
Did his big contract produce unfairly high expectations? Absolutely, but Leino has $4.5 million ways to dry his tears over the summer, so I'm not too worried about him. The fact that Leino, the Sabres highest paid forward, took a paltry 38 shots in 58 games and scored ZERO GOALS (again, highest paid offensive player!) is an offensive idea in a different sense. Lord knows it's the most offense he produced this season.
Thumbs Up: We're really going to this section? *Deep breath*...OK. Leino's assist numbers were actually pretty good in comparison to his teammates, and he finished 6th on the team with 15 assists. His Corsi numbers were somehow on the positive side of the Sabres equation, so he clearly helped limit his opponents chances. Leino had a positive giveaway-takeaway ratio, as well as one of the best penalties drawn/taken ratios on the team. He tied the longest point streak of his career this season at three games, and logged both the second and third most minutes of his career in two of his games this year. Heck, somebody even won $1,000 thanks to his offensive ineptitude, so Leino technically contributed to the local economy more than any other player this season. Hey, that's not so bad, why did we hate this guy so much again? Oh, right.
HE WAS THE TEAM'S HIGHEST PAID OFFENSIVE PLAYER AND SCORED ZERO GOALS IN 58 GAMES.
Memorable Moment: It was tough to pick from all of Leino's highlights this season, but we think this video sums things up nicely:
Okay, okay, that was mean. Leino's most memorable moment this season came as the 17th shooter in a 9 round shootout against the Devils late in the year. It was a magical moment due to both the length of the shootout and the crowd realizing "Oh my god, Ville Leino might actually play the hero here." Just listen to the crowd roar after he scores.
Voting: We're grading on a curve this year, adjusting for the Sabres organizational ineptitude. So, using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season (again, for the worst team in the league) grade Ville Leino on his performance this year.