With all of the "All-Time Top-Whatever" lists circulating at the close of the decade, I can't help but feel the pull of making one of my own. I did, however wish to go in a different direction than most. Not many people understand what makes the Sabres' history so special to the people of Buffalo. As the fourth decade of Buffalo Sabres hockey comes to a close, let's look at the top five moments that shaped Sabres' history.
The Sabres won a special lottery-style wheel spin for the right to pick first in the NHL draft in 1970. They used that pick to select Perreault, who played his entire career for the Blue and Gold and centered the famed French Connection. To this day, Perreault still holds the Sabres' records for games played (1,191), goals (512), assists (814), and points (1,326).
There it is, plain as day. The "goal" that ended the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. Dallas Stars winger Brett Hull (the very same inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year) is steadfast in his belief that he maintained control of the puck after the rebound off Dominik Hasek. The NHL saying that it was "going to change the rule next year anyway" is a poor excuse.
The lock-out had several ripple effects to the Sabres' benefit. First, six future Sabres got a ton of playing time together in the AHL affiliate Rochester.
Second, the rule changes opened up the game for Buffalo's speedy team. Third, it gave coach Lindy Ruff a full year to prepare his team for the "New NHL", and Buffalo had its most successful two-year run in team history—two Conference Finals appearances, a Coach of the Year award, a division championship, and a President's Trophy
What a punch in the junk this one was. The Rigas family bought a team that just opened a new arena, had the best goalie in the world, and one of the top centers in Pat Lafontaine (who was lost to a severe concussion early in the season. What happens next?
Hasek turns in two consecutive MVP seasons, Ted Nolan wins Coach of the Year (and is promptly fired), John Muckler wins Executive of the Year (and is promptly fired), and the Sabres still go to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999.
Which is why it hurt so much when The Rigas family turned out to be crooks in the summer of 2002. The NHL took over the team and the Sabres nearly folded until Tom Golisano bought the franchise in 2003
In the summer of 1992, the Buffalo Sabres pulled off possibly the biggest heist in the history of sports: they traded Stephane Beauregard and future considerations (which ended up being Eric Daze) to the Chicago Blackhawks for the slinky-spined goalie from the Czech Republic.
The Sabres got six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Trophies, a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and an Olympic Gold medal (no, wait...that was the Czech Republic) from Hasek.