|Table of contents|
2 Players of Note
3 External link
The Buffalo Sabres joined the NHL in 1970 after having a successful American Hockey League team for several years. They got off to a good start before they even hit the ice, picking future star center Gilbert Perreault first overall in the NHL's Entry Draft. He would score 38 goals in his rookie season (enough to earn him the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year), but the Sabres would miss the playoffs.
René Robert hit his stride as a new player for the Sabres in 1972, and he Perrault and Rick Martin would form one of the league's top forward lines in the 1970s. The Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in 1973, losing in the quarter-finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens.
After a sub-par year in 1974 (missing the playoffs), the Sabres (with the French Connection - the Robert-Perrault-Martin line - combining to score 131 goals) finished in a tie for the best record in the NHL in the 1974-1975 regular season, and reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1975, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The French Connection, joined by 50-goal scorer Danny Gare, would continue to produce for the Sabres in 1975-1976, but the team would lose in the quarter-finals to the New York Islanders. The Sabres continued to coast through the late 1970s behind those four players, but would not come close to the Stanley Cup.
Robert would be traded to the Colorado Rockies in 1980, Martin to the Los Angeles Kings in 1981, and Perreault retired in 1987 after spending 17 years with the Sabres. Stars for the Sabres in the 1980s included tough Mike Foligno, defenseman Phil Housley, and left-winger Dave Andreychuk. However, only twice in the 1980s would they get past the first round of the playoffs.
In 1989, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, one of the top Soviet players to defect to the NHL was Alexander Mogilny, who signed with the Sabres. He hit his stride with 76 goals in 1992-1993, and they would finally reach the second round of the playoffs before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Canadiens. (The end of the first round, against the Boston Bruins, gained long-time radio announcer Rick Jeanneret league-wide fame, with his famous "MAY DAY!" call on Brad May's game-winning goal in overtime of game 5.)
1992-1993 was also goalie Dominik Hasek's first year in Buffalo (after spending two years with the Chicago Blackhawks), and "the Dominator" would become one of the best goaltenders in the league during the 1990s.
The Sabres, behind Hasek, enforcer Matthew Barnaby, left-winger Miroslav Satan (who led the team in scoring), right-winger Donald Audette, and center Michael Peca, reached the conference finals in 1998, but would lose to the Washington Capitals.
In 1999, Satan (accent on the second syllable) scored 40 goals, they would pick up centers Stu Barnes from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joe Juneau from the Washington Capitals, and Michael Grosek had the best season of his career, and the Sabres would reach the Stanley Cup finals. They made it to game 6, before losing to the Dallas Stars on Brett Hull's triple-overtime goal - one that remains in dispute by Sabres fans who think Hull's skate was in the crease. A disappointing season in 1999-2000 culminated with a first round playoff loss to the Flyers.
Peca sat out the 2000-2001 season in a contract dispute, and eventually signed with the Islanders. The Sabres would still make the second round of the playoffs, but lose to the Penguins.
Hasek signed as a free-agent with the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2001, and the Sabres disintegrated, missing the 2002 playoffs. The team continued to fall in the summer of 2002, as Adelphia Communications, the team's owner, went bankrupt. After being run by the league for a short period of time, the Sabres were sold in 2003 to local billionaire and former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano.