With the Buffalo Sabres offseason well underway, it is a great opportunity to look back on the great players who have made their impact in the Sabres organization. So, presenting this writer’s All-Sabres team, a three part series outlining the best of the gold and blue (and occasionally black and red).
When you look back at the Buffalo Sabres, one position stands out as a strong point in the team’s history: goaltending. So what better place to start, with the All-Sabres team, than in the net. The Sabres have had four goalies, or tandems, win the Vezina Trophy a combined nine times. Dominik Hasek, Ryan Miller, Tom Barrasso and Don Edwards, shared with Bob Sauve. Now, it should be noted, that when Edwards/Sauve won, the award was still issued to the goaltender/s on the team with the fewest goals against. This was before the William Jennings Trophy took over for the goalie or goalies with the lowest goals against in 1982.
For the purpose of selecting the two goalies, career regular season and playoff stats (minimum 25 games played) along with individual honors resulted in the two netminders being chosen.
While it would be nice for the starting goalie role on the all-time team to be close, there really can be little debate that the number one keeper for this All-Sabres team is Hasek. What sets Hasek apart is the fact that he won six Vezina Trophies, the most since the Vezina was separated with the Williams Jennings. His six wins are tied for second most all time, with Bill Durnan, and only trails Jacques Plante who won seven.
Hasek took home the top goaltender award for the first time in 1994, then again in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Since the Vezina was split with the Jennings, Hasek is the only goalie to win it three years in a row. Just for good measures, Hasek also won a pair of Jennings Trophies with the Sabres (1994 and 2001) and then another with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.
To set himself apart a little more, Hasek also won back-to-back Hart Trophies in 1997 and 1998 as the player judged most valuable to his team, the only goalie to ever win the award two consecutive years.
It is not just Hasek’s trophy case that gains him the top honors on this list. He has played the second most career regular season games for the Sabres (491), posted the second most wins (234) and has the best goals against average (2.22), save percentage (.926) and shutouts (55) in team history. Hasek also added 13 assists in his nine seasons in Buffalo.
While the post season is generally a sensitive subject for the Sabres, Hasek does lead the franchise with 37 career wins and six playoff shutouts. Hasek also led the team to the finals in 1999, where they lost to the Dallas Stars. Still, when you look at Hasek’s resume, he gets the nod as the starter on this All-Sabres team.
The second spot is a little more debatable, but when it comes down to it, the decision went to Miller. What sets Miller apart from some of the other notables are not only his stats, but his longevity and consistency. Miller has played 10 seasons with the Sabres, more than any other goalie. This past season, he played in his 500th game, the final one of the season. He has the most wins with 269, meaning that career his winning percentage is over .500, and looking at some of the recent teams he has played for, that is a pretty good accomplishment. Miller is second in career save percentage (.915), shutouts (28) and third in goals against average (2.59).
What helped give Miller a push was his Vezina Trophy win in 2010. In terms of his playoff numbers, he is second to Hasek in practically every category: playoff wins (25), goals against average (2.47), save percentage (.917) and is third in shutouts with three. Miller’s numbers and service to the Sabres give him the backup job on the All-Sabres team.
With so many great goaltenders in the history of the franchise this list cannot be complete without noting some accomplishments.
Not only did Barrasso win a Vezina in 1984, but the following year he won the Jennings. He is also the highest scoring Sabres goalie with 17 assists and the most penalized 182 penalty minutes. Barrasso also earned 124 wins and 13 shutouts in his six seasons with the team.
Edwards played for the Sabres from 1977-82. Along with his Vezina in 1980, he registered 156 wins and 11 shutouts during his time in Buffalo.
Sauve, the co-winner of the Vezina in 1980, also won the Jennings with Barrasso in 1985. He spent nine seasons with the Sabres registering 119 wins in 246 games.
Martin Biron may have been seen as a transition goalie after the Hasek era, but he is fourth in games played (300), fourth in wins (134) and has the second best career goals against average with the team of (2.53).
The final honorable mention is more for a fluky feat. Mika Noronen played only 67 games for the Sabres in his five seasons with the team. Yet he is the only goalie in franchise history to be credited with a goal. On Feb. 14, 2004, Noronen was the last Sabre to touch the puck when Toronto Maple Leaf Robert Reichel scored in his own net on a delayed penalty. Maybe not the most memorable moment, but in the record books it still counts as a goal.
So there you have it, one writer’s list of the All-Sabres team goalies. Stay tuned as the blue liners are up next.