Buffalo Sabres History: Part IV (2003-2014)

The watershed moment of this stage of Buffalo Sabres history and NHL history was the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-2005 NHL season. This was the first time an entire season in a major professional sports league was canceled due to a labor dispute. The Sabres had difficulties prior to the lockout but as the NHL left a lost season behind them, the Sabres were well positioned with their roster to be successful.

Buffalo had an exciting team out of the gate after the lockout. However, the club was unable to win a championship during two playoff runs that ended at the Eastern Conference Finals and management failed to keep the team together. While the Sabres did not reach the Stanley Cup Finals, many have argued that Buffalo had their best shots at winning a championship during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. The playoff run during the 2005-2006 season was marred by injuries and the Sabres fell to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Buffalo went on to win the President’s Trophy during the 2006-2007 seasons and showed tons of promise but ultimately fell short at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. The dynamic of the team changed in the summer of 2007 with the loss of co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere via free agency. Buffalo has had some early playoff exits since 2007 and have not been able to match the success of the Sabres teams during those two magical seasons.

[See Also: Buffalo Sabres History: Part I (1970-1981)]

The team changed uniforms twice during this span of Buffalo Sabres history. They traded in their red and black for blue and gold once again during the 2006-2007 season. Only this time, the club’s logo was a charging buffalo that many referred to as ‘the slug’. Then, during the 2010-2011 season the club re-introduced their traditional logo along with an updated uniform. The Sabres also unveiled several alternate sweaters during this span.

In February 2011, Tom Golisano sold the Buffalo Sabres to billionaire Terry Pegula. Sabres fans were on cloud nine with the announcement of this transaction after Pegula declared that the new purpose of the Sabres’ franchise was to win a Stanley Cup. Pegula promised to provide the financial and hockey resources necessary to win a championship. This allowed GM Darcy Regier to spend big money on free agents – a luxury that had never been available for the Sabres.

[See Also: Buffalo Sabres History: Part II (1981-1992)]

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
Despite his departure from the Sabres, Lindy Ruff remains one of the most respected figures in Buffalo Sabres History (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Unfortunately, the money was not spent wisely by the Sabres’ front office and Buffalo fell into a tailspin. Buffalo’s recent short-comings ultimately led to the end of head coach Lindy Ruff’s and GM Darcy Regier’s tenures in Buffalo.

The club is currently in the midst of a rebuild under the management of new GM Tim Murray. Head Coach Ted Nolan has made a return to the Nickel City to the delight of many fans.

After a few difficult seasons including the club’s historically bad 2013-2014 season, Buffalo’s fortunes finally appear to be changing. The Sabres have amassed an impressive stock of prospects and added some veterans as it looks to re-brand itself as a perennial contender.

[See Also: Buffalo Sabres History: Part III (1992-2003)]

The franchise is still in search of their first Stanley Cup championship. Buffalo had opportunities in the past with some very strong teams but has fallen short. As GM Tim Murray continues to build through the draft while adding pieces via trades and free agency, perhaps Buffalo’s best days are yet to come.

With a revamped front office, a new facility in the Harbor Center, and a wealth of young prospects, the future of the Sabres looks bright. Here is a look at Buffalo Sabres history starting with the 2003-2004 NHL season through the 2013-2014 NHL season.

2003-2004 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 37-34-7-4 (85 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Daniel Briere (65)
Leader in Goals: Miroslav Satan (29)
Leader in Assists: Daniel Briere (37)
Northeast Division: 5th overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2004-2005 Season

NHL Lockout: Did Not Play

 

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2005-2006 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 52-24-6 (110 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Maxim Afinogenov (73)
Leader in Goals: Chris Drury (30)
Leader in Assists: Maxim Afinogenov (51)
Northeast Division: 2nd overall
Playoffs: Lost in the 3rd Round to the Carolina Hurricanes

 

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2006-2007 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 53-22-7 (113 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Daniel Briere (95)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (43)
Leader in Assists: Daniel Briere (63)
Northeast Division: 1st overall
Playoffs: Lost in the 3rd Round to the Ottawa Senators

2007-2008 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 39-31-12 (90 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Derek Roy (81)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (36)
Leader in Assists: Jason Pominville (53)
Northeast Division: 4th overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2008-2009 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 41-32-9 (91 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Derek Roy (70)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (40)
Leader in Assists: Jason Pominville (46)
Northeast Division: 3rd overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2009-2010 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 45-27-10 (100 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Derek Roy (69)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (28)
Leader in Assists: Tim Connolly (48)
Northeast Division: 1st overall
Playoffs: Lost in the 1st Round to the Boston Bruins

2010-2011 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 43-29-10 (96 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Thomas Vanek (73)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (32)
Leader in Assists: Thomas Vanek (41)
Northeast Division: 2nd overall
Playoffs: Lost in the 1st Round to the Philadelphia Flyers

2011-2012 Season

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 39-32-11 (89 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Jason Pominville (73)
Leader in Goals: Jason Pominville (30)
Leader in Assists: Jason Pominville (43)
Northeast Division: 3rd overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2012-2013 Lockout-Shortened Season:

Head Coach: Lindy Ruff & Ron Rolston
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Season Record: 21-21-6 (48 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Thomas Vanek (41)
Leader in Goals: Thomas Vanek (20)
Leader in Assists: Thomas Vanek (21)
Northeast Division: 5th overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2013-2014 Season

Head Coach: Ron Rolston & Ted Nolan
General Manager: Darcy Regier & Tim Murray
Season Record: 21-51-10 (52 points)
Leading Overall Scorer: Cody Hodgson (44)
Leader in Goals: Tyler Ennis (21)
Leader in Assists: Christian Ehrhoff (27)
Atlantic Division: 8th overall
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify