Daniel Briere has seen the best of Ville Leino. The two were paired together in Philadelphia and their chemistry was obvious — Leino scored 21 points in 19 games en route to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, Briere had 30 in 23.
Now, Briere’s seeing the worst of Leino — he has just four goals and 15 points in 45 games for Buffalo — and is shocked at the decline in production.
“I’m very, very surprised with that, especially with the amount of offensive guys they have on that team,” Briere told the Buffalo News. “I thought it would have clicked with a few of their players at least. I always felt that myself and Ville were kind of on the same page as far as the way we saw the game offensively when we were on the ice.
“I know when I was in Buffalo I had some great years as well playing with [Jason] Pominville and Jochen Hecht, so I thought for sure at least those two guys would click well with him.”
While it’s too early to write him off entirely, Leino’s one of the biggest 2011 free agency busts and, if things stay like this, he’ll go down as one of the biggest all-time.
Leino’s six-year, $27 million deal has an albatrossian feel to it, mostly because the Sabres can’t find anyone for him to play with. They tried playing him on a wing with Derek Roy, but that didn’t work. They tried putting him at center between Pominville and Thomas Vanek, but that didn’t work. They even bumped him down to the third line…but no, that didn’t work either.
Briere thinks he might know what’s wrong.
“Chemistry is a funny thing,” he explained. “You just never know, and you never know from year to year just how things are going to come back. It’s one of those things you can’t take for granted.”
As for Leino, he admits to feeling the heat — but also thinks things are turning around.
“There’s always more pressure if you’ve got a good contract and people are looking at you to contribute,” he said. “I think I finally feel a lot more comfortable in the system and playing my own game. The last five, six games, I’ve been feeling good and been playing my own game pretty much the first time this year.”