When it comes to forwards in the history of the Buffalo Sabres there have been many great names. In total six players who have donned the blue and gold have their name in the Hockey Hall of Fame. For the most part, these players spent a large amount of time with the Sabres, with the exception of Dick Duff and Clark Gillies who only suited up for 61 and 86 games respectively. Still, the names of current Hall of Famers include Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Dale Hawerchuk and Pat LaFontaine, but with the likes of Dave Andreychuk, Alexander Mogilny and more, it might only be a matter of time before we see more Sabres forwards in the Hall of Fame.
French Connection: Perreault, Martin And Robert
There is no doubt that the starting line of forwards on the All-Sabres team has to be the French Connection of Perreault, Martin and Rene Robert.
Perreault was the first player drafted by the Sabres in 1970 after the Sabres won a spin of the wheel with their expansion cousins, the Vancouver Canucks. It turned out to be one of the best things to happen to the organization. Perreault played 17 seasons all with the Sabres and is still the team’s all-time leader in games played (1,191), goals (512), points (1,326) and game winning goals (81).
In 1971, Perreault was joined by Rick Martin who the Sabres selected with their first pick in the draft. Martin is second on the team’s all-time goals list (368) and third in points (804). He remained with the team until 1981.
Finally, the third member of the French Connection, Rene Robert was acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins near the end of the 1972 season, thus completing the line. In eight seasons with the Sabres, Robert scored 222 goals and had 552 points. He was later traded to Colorado.
Line Two: LaFontaine, Hawerchuk And Gare
Sticking with the Sabres Hall of Fame forwards, two of the next three players on the team are also in the hall, while the third has his number hanging from the rafters at First Niagara Centre.
Pat “La La” LaFontaine, as once announced by the great Rick Jeanerette, played in Buffalo from 1991 to 1997. He scored 285 points including 227 goals during that time. When he retired in 1998, he was the second all-time U.S born scorer. One of Lafontaine’s greatest accomplishments was returning from a knee injury that kept him out for most of the 1993-94 season, but the next season he returned in a big way and was named the league’s recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Dale Hawerchuk made his impact as a member of the Winnipeg Jets, but still had plenty in the tank when he got to Buffalo in 1990. In five seasons, he still managed to average a point per game and finished with 385 points for the Sabres, including 110 goals.
Danny Gare might not be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he does have his number retired by the Sabres. Gare played for the Sabres from 1974 to 1982. Impressively, he scored 18 seconds into his first NHL shift. In 503 games with the Sabres, Gare was a point per game player finishing with 500 points, 267 of them goals.
Line Three: Andreychuk, Ramsay And Luce
The next trio of players are a solid group who all have or might be part of future hall of fame conversations.
Dave Andreychuk was drafted by the Sabres out of the nearby Oshawa Generals program in the Ontario Hockey League. He holds down second place on the Sabres all-time scoring list with 804 points. He is third in goals with 368 and second in assists at 436. What made Andreychuk special was his ability on the man advantage. He scored 161 power play goals, which is a franchise record, but over the course of his career scored an NHL-record 274. He has played 1639 games, the sixth most in history, 837 of those were with the Sabres.
Craig Ramsay will forever go down in Sabres history as one of the best defensive forwards. Ramsay holds the franchise-record for +/- with Buffalo at +328. In 1985, his final season in the league, Ramsay was finally rewarded for his defensive play with the Frank J. Selke Trophy. He played his entire 14-season career with the Sabres and finished with 672 points (382 goals). Ramsay also holds the franchise record for most short-handed goals with 27.
Don Luce’s name appears near the top of every statistical category in Sabres History. He has played the fifth most games by a forward at 766, scored 527 points, has the second best +/- at +216, the second most short-handed goals (25) and fifth most shots. After being drafted by the New York Rangers in 1969, he bounced to Detroit before landing in Buffalo. He spent 10 seasons with the club where he put up the best numbers of his career. In 1975, Luce was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Line Four: Mogilny, Vanek And Ray
When you look at early 90s Sabres teams, you cannot help but remember some of the speed and quickness that was displayed by Alexander Mogilny. After winning a gold medal with the Soviet Union in the 1988 Winter Olympics he joined the Sabres in 1989. He remained there until 1995 but scored 444 points in just 381 games. In the 1992-93 season Mogilny scored 76 goals and tied as the league’s goal-scoring leader. He was a six time All-Star during his career, a Stanley Cup champion, with New Jersey, and captured the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2003.
Much like part one of this team, the forwards group features a current Buffalo Sabres player: Thomas Vanek. Vanek is the most dangerous current offensive threat on the team and has never had a season with fewer than 20 goals. During his 585-game career with Buffalo, he has 488 points. In 2009, he was an All-Star, he was named to the 2007 Second All-Star Team, played in the Young Stars game and won the Plus/Minus Award at +47 all in that same year.
The final player on the team adds something different than the above players but still is always mentioned as one of the team’s more memorable players. You cannot have an All-Sabres team without Rob Ray. Ray played the third most games by a forward with 889 and totaled a whopping 3,189 penalty minutes, a number that is fifth all-time in the NHL. Ray was never afraid to drop the gloves, which provided for dynamic moments. In 1999, Ray was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice.
And with that, this writer’s All-Sabres team is wrapped up. Forwards are a tough group with the Sabres because of how many great ones there are. Still, when looking at the players that have come through the organization in all positions it is hard to fathom that they have not brought a Stanley Cup to the City of Buffalo. That task has been given to the next wave of players who will have to be great if they hope to crack future All-Time Sabres teams.