The twelve greatest Sabres of all time
Editor’s note: This is a piece that was published on January 30, 2017 at Kukla’s Korner.
What started out as a debate on Phil Housley not being selected as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players of All Time turned into this piece.
I made it clear on hockey twitter that I agreed with Housley not making the list, mentioning that the offensive defenseman isn’t even one of the top ten greatest Sabres.
A number of disgruntled fans, most of whom likely never saw Housley play and based their opinions on stats from a career points leaders list, found fault with this and asked for my All-Time Sabres Top Ten.
I accept this challenge head-on, with a caveat that I can only narrow it down to twelve. I can’t in good conscience take any more Sabres greats off the list. It’s perfect just the way it is.
In the spirit of this weekend’s format of the NHL Greatest 100, these legends are unranked but sorted by era.
This is the #SabresDozen — the 12 Greatest Buffalo Sabres of All Time:
Danny Gare – One of the best wrist shots of his time. Fourth all-time in goals (267). Team captain from 1977-82. Tied for NHL goal scoring title with 56 in 1979-80. One of seven Sabres to have his jersey number retired.
Richard Martin – Second greatest goal scorer (382) in team history. Terrifying slap shot. Referred to by former Sabres coach and GM Punch Imlach as “the greatest natural goal scorer I’ve seen”. Scored over 40 goals five times and over 50 twice. Passed away in 2011 at age 59.
Gilbert Perreault – The original Sabre. The greatest ever. Leader in most offensive categories. 1191 games, 512 goals, 814 assists. No other Sabre is within 500 points of him on the career leaders list. And he could fly like the wind from end to end.
Craig Ramsay – The true definition of a shutdown forward. Eight consecutive 20-goal seasons. In the top ten in nearly every offensive category. 1976 NHL All-Star and 1985 Selke Trophy winner.
Rene Robert – The third link of the French Connection line, Robert ranks ninth in goals (222), fifth in assists (330) and sixth in points (552). Four seasons with over 30 goals. First Sabre in history with 100 points in a season.
Jim Schoenfeld – Gritty defenseman, captain and heart-and-soul player during the mid-70’s glory years. Two-time NHL All-Star and Norris Trophy vote getter. Relentless body checker and shot blocker. Fearless against brutal opponents in an age when courage mattered.
Dave Andreychuk – A mainstay around the net, especially with the man advantage. Career leader in Sabres power play goals (161). Third in goals (368), second in assists (426), and second behind Perreault in points (804).
Mike Ramsey – A member of the fabled 1980 US Olympic team who became the best Sabres defenseman of the decade and beyond. Four-time NHL All-Star and Norris Trophy vote getter. If the Sabres feel the need to retire another jersey number soon, they should look no further.
Dominik Hasek – The second-greatest Sabre in history. Six Vezina Trophies. 55 shutouts. At his peak, it felt like when the Sabres scored their second goal of the game that two points were virtually locked up. At times he seemed literally unbeatable.
Pat LaFontaine – 1984 Olympian who tallied 385 points in only 268 games as a Sabre. Buffalo’s all-time leader in per game averages in goals (.59), assists (.85) and points (1.44). Formed second-best forward line in Sabres history with Alexander Mogilny and Andreychuk.
Alexander Mogilny – Perhaps the greatest combination of speed and sniper Buffalo has ever seen. Six seasons, 211 goals and 444 points, highlighted by his incredible 76-goal, 127-point season in 1992-93.
Thomas Vanek – The lone representative from the great Sabres team that came out of the 2004-05 NHL lockout and nearly won a Stanley Cup. Fifth all-time in goals (254), tenth in points (497). Was Buffalo’s leading goal scorer six times.