Greatest Sabres: No.1 Dominik Hasek
This is it. Today is the final installation of the "Greatest Sabres" countdown. It shouldn't have been hard to guess that it would come down to this individual, but there are plenty of reasons why Domink Hasek is the Greatest Sabre of all time.
After being drafted 199th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1983 NHL Draft, Hasek toiled in the organization, never able to get his chance because of star goalie Ed Belfour's clutch on the starting role.
In 1993, he was traded to Buffalo for goaltender Stephane Beauregard and future considerations, which turned into the pick that was used on Eric Daze.
He initially began by backing up Tom Draper and, later, Grant Fuhr. After Fuhr suffered an injury, Hasek was elevated to the starting spot and quickly became a top-tier goalie.
He would go on to win the 1994 Vezina trophy as the top goaltender and finished as a runner up for the Hart trophy. The next year, he would repeat that feat, winning the Vezina and becoming a Hart finalist.
In 1996/1997, Hasek's success would be overshadowed by a conflict with then-head coach Ted Nolan, despite Hasek winning league MVP. It developed into a clique-like atmosphere in the Sabres dressing room.
After taking himself out of a first round playoff game against Ottawa while suffering from a sprained MCL, the media and some teammates speculated that he was bailing out on the team.
All this led to an article by Buffalo columnist Jim Kelley, which detailed his injury and conflict with Nolan, then questioned Hasek's mental toughness. After a game five loss, Kelley approached Hasek for an interview and was attacked by Hasek.
The feud came to an end with Nolan when, after 1997 Executive of the Year John Muckler was fired, Hasek suggested it would be better if Nolan was let go.
So, despite winning the Jack Adams Award and being incredibly popular with the fan base, he and the franchise parted ways.
Hasek would shake off the feud and have a dominant 1997/1998 season, setting a team record with 13 shutouts on his way to winning his second straight Hart Trophy, as well as the Lester B. Pearson and the Vezina again.
He is one of six goaltenders to ever win the Hart and the only one to win it back-to-back.
In 1998/1999, Hasek would capture Vezina no.5, his third in a row, and finish as a finalist for the Hart and Pearson.
He would help lead the Sabres to their second ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance, losing in a controversial sixth game that saw Brett Hull score in triple overtime on a play where many debated that his being in the crease should have led to the goal being disallowed.
Hasek would suffer a tough 1999/2000 season, hampered by a nagging groin injury that would force him to miss 40 games and not win a major NHL award for the first time in years.
In 2000/2001, his final season in Buffalo, Hasek set a modern era record by winning his sixth Vezina trophy. He would add a second William M. Jennings trophy for fewest goals against.
Hasek was then dealt to Detroit the following season in an attempt to trim payroll and send him to a contender. He would go on to win two Stanley Cups in Detroit before retiring at the end of this past season.
Hasek will forever be remembered as the man with the slinky spine. The man who would use his head to make a save and use his blocker to cover shots. He'll be known as one of the most decorated goalies in NHL history.
But most importantly, he'll always be remembered as "The Dominator."
Thanks for reading!
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