Friday, May 19, 2017

Buffalo-centric tidbits featuring Leino, Bills, Sabres & 30 Thoughts

Published by, 5-17-2017

Former Buffalo Sabres forward Ville Leino hoodwinked the Sabres into a six-year, $27 million contract back in 2011. Now he's hawking a "artist series" hoodie because, apparently, the $1.2 million annual tag for the compliance buyout by the Sabres through the 2019-20 season isn't enough of a financial cushion for his exile from the National Hockey League.

Leino performance was universally panned and contract is widely considered one of the worst free agent signings of all time. His career with the Sabres spanned 137 games in which he scored 10 goals and added 36 assists. Leino pocketed $16 million in those first three years with the Sabres which comes out to $1.6m/goal and another $7.33 million for Buffalo to say good riddance.

But the dude has some serious issues with his final year in Buffalo that needed to be expressed artistically, so he drew some kids scrawl artwork featuring a crude face, cross and the word "Jail," as if to imply that his last year in Buffalo was like being in jail.

Here's his quote about the "work":

"One of my most personal works. I was playing my third year in Buffalo Sabres with long and big contract. Things weren't working with me and the team. I was getting a lot of pressure and heat and there was no way out of it. I felt trapped and down. All I could do was get up every morning and go to work and try to make it work. This painting reflects those feelings that I was going through on that perioid of time." - Ville Leino.

He seems to have put more work into that than he did on the ice in Buffalo and my God, when you signed that contract there, Ville, you mean to tell me that you weren't prepared for the pressure and scrutiny of a lucrative long-term contract like that? And there was no way out? Really?

Get real.

It's an intriguing piece in a way, and I'd certainly be interested in buying it.

*Reaches into pocket*

I've got 17 cents, a ball of lint and some crumbs from the pizza I ate last night. How's that? I'd say it's about equal to what you gave the Buffalo Sabres organization while you were here.


The Buffalo sports scene has been in a rut and, like Leino, has been universally panned lately, or in the case of the Buffalo Bills, the entirety of this century. However, and I say this cautiously, things look to be getting better.

When the Pegula's took over the Sabres and the Bills they soon found themselves in way over their heads. Terry Pegula headed a very successful energy company but he soon found out, unlike the man in the Oval Office, the world of pro sports is a completely different beast and it's best to surround oneself with those who know how it works.

To their credit, the Pegulas gave the incumbent general manager and coach the opportunity to continue on with the new owners. Unfortunately both tandems failed which lead to a dual GM search this spring and two new coaches this calendar year. However, there is still no "guru" at the top of either organization.

In lieu of that, the Pegulas are heading in the right direction with quality front office hires for their football operations. It actually started with the hiring of new head coach Sean McDermott and although he has an unusual amount of power for a head coach, at least he seems to be putting the Bills on the proper course.

McDermott was at the forefront of hiring Carolina Panthers AGM Brandon Beane to be general manager in Buffalo and as the Bills begin to build a scouting department that was let go along with the firing of former GM Doug Whaley, they've added two more quality people. Joe Schoen, the Miami Dolphins director of player personnel was hired as an assistant GM and Brian Gaine as new vice president of player personnel. Gaine was brought over from Houston where he served as director of player personnel with the Texans.

Both are roundly accepted as quality hires for Buffalo as they try to break out of a 17-year playoff drought.


Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts for is a mainstay for hockey fans and he had plenty to say about the Buffalo Sabres in his latest edition.

The Sabres have a new GM in Jason Botterill and are looking for a new head coach. Botterill gave a general framework as to what he's looking for in a head coach and also said that experience is not a necessity. Yet he wants the new head coach to have respect when he walks into the locker room, something that was apparently missing last season with departed head coach Dan Bylsma.

There are only two teams in the NHL without a head coach right now--Buffalo and the Florida Panthers. Friedman points out that Cats GM Dale Tallon is in Europe taking in the IIHF World Championships as part of Team USA's leadership. Among the names mentioned in association with Florida are, Marc Crawford (OTT), Phil Housley (NSH) and Paul MacLean (ANA).

Crawford is an interesting name to crop up in the conversation as he won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996. He's coached over 1100 games for four different franchises and is presently an associate coach with the Ottawa Senators.

Friedman then brings some other names to the fore.

"Botterill knows Todd Reirden (WSH) and Rick Tocchet (PIT) very well," he wrote. "He almost hired New Jersey assistant Geoff Ward for AHL Wilkes-Barre, eventually choosing Mike Sullivan. Housley and San Jose’s Bob Boughner could be interviewed here, too. And I do wonder if he’d ask Jim Rutherford about Montreal’s Kirk Muller. Rutherford hired Muller in Carolina."

Botterill is in no hurry as he has other things on the front burner, but those are some names to keep an eye on.


In more front office work, Friedman also mentions Botterill's under the radar search to fill scouting vacancies.

"Botterill said there have been 'no restrictions' on who he can take from Pittsburgh to Buffalo, with one caveat: no lateral moves. So, if he’s taking anyone, it has to be a promotion. He wouldn’t comment on specific names, but two are making the rounds. One is former Ottawa and Florida GM Randy Sexton, who is the Penguins’ director of amateur scouting. The other is Derek Clancey, director of pro scouting."


Finally, Friedman touched upon Russian defenseman Viktor Antipin who opted out of his KHL contract and is said to be headed to Buffalo.

The previous regime got the wheels turning on this one and there were questions as to whether or not Buffalo and Antipin is still in the works with a new GM. "The vultures circled, wondering if the changes in Buffalo meant Antipin would waver on his decision to join the Sabres," wrote Friedman. "But it sounds like he’s sticking with his original decision. Not for lack of trying."

Which is good news for a Sabres defense which seems to be priority-one from a roster perspective. And just for good measure, Friedman had to bring forward Evander Kane into the conversation as Botterill mentioned using every possible avenue to try and fix the defense. "[Botterill] wouldn’t discuss specifics, but the organization has to make a decision on Evander Kane. Do they let him play out his contract, re-sign him or try to move him for that defender?"

Good question. It's one that should be in the news for a while.

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