This won’t be controversial. Most NHL teams have produced an abductive of star players that have created legendary moments for the city. For the Buffalo Sabres during the 1993 playoffs, Pat LaFontaine set up Brad May to score the overtime goal to win the first-round series against the Boston Bruins. Nobody will ever forget Rick Jeanneret’s call on that play, uttering the famous words “May Day.”
I will dive in on the best players in Sabres history, using a combination of stats and how they were perceived during their time here. For the top two selections, one was the better player overall, but one was the better player during their time here. All of them had a positive impact on the team and the city, which is why they are on this list.
These are the top five players in franchise history.
#1 – Dominik Hašek: A Top 3 Goaltender in NHL History
Dominik Hašek was the best player to ever play for the Sabres. His .922 save percentage (SV%) is tied with Tuukka Rask and Ken Dryden for the best of all time, which is impressive since he played in the dead-puck, and post-lockout era. That was a time where scoring was at an all-time low, with league-scoring coming in at an average of 2.66 Goals Per Game from 1997-98 to 2003-04.
Hašek led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, and although they did not win, he had a .937 SV% across 23 games. The greatest goaltender in NHL history will be a constant debate, but he will always be in that conversation with Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
This is debatable, as he spent nine seasons in Buffalo after being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks (from “
Sabres finally acquire Hawks’ Hasek; Beauregard traded for coveted Czech goaltender – The Buffalo News – 8/12/1992). His resume speaks for himself, and ultimately, his best seasons came with the Sabres.
#2 – Gilbert Perreault: The First Pick in Franchise History
Gilbert Perreault was the first-ever draft pick in Sabres history after being selected first in the 1970 NHL Draft. He scored 512 goals, along with 1,326 points in 1,191 games, which gives him a career point per game (PPG) of 1.11, ranking 22nd in NHL history. Most would say that Hašek was the more talented player to wear the uniform, but Perreault was this team’s identity and spent his entire career with the team.
Perreault took his game to the next level in the postseason, as he tallied 103 points in 90 games. It is a crime that he never won a Stanley Cup, as he got there in 1975 and fell short to Bernie Parent and the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was quite easy to rank these players, as they had terrific careers here. The next player was so exciting to watch that Sabres commentator Jeanneret could never get enough of him.
#3 – Pat LaFontaine: A Season For the Ages
LaFontaine did not play many seasons in Buffalo, but he was productive. Over the span of six seasons, he accumulated 158 goals, along with 385 points in just 268 games. His chemistry with Alexander Moginily during the 1992-93 seasons was electrifying, as he tallied 148 points and put up numbers that Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t even consider too shabby.
The interesting part of his tenure is that the Sabres never made it past the first round, and he would join the group of players in the franchise to retire without winning a Stanley Cup. I believe Lafontaine is in that conversation for the most talented player in franchise history. His ability to skate smoothly up the ice and use his determination created goals out of plays that most wouldn’t complete.
This is the third-ranking out of the top five, and I would also state that the next group of players are in a different grouping than these three. This is the top tier.
#4 – Rick Martin: A Key Piece to The French Connection
Back in the 1970s, Rick Martin was part of “The French Connection,” which is a great part of his legacy. The famous line consisted of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and René Robert, all of whom were born in Quebec, Canada. Martin had a shorter career than his line-mates but still managed to score 384 goals in 685 games. He was the scoring winger on one of the best line combinations in NHL history.
A fascinating part of Martin’s career is that he ended it off with a four-game stint with the Los Angeles Kings. He was traded to the Kings on March 10th, 1981, for a first and third-round pick, and the trade tree is still evolving from this deal, with the latest move being the Brandon Montour trade.
Martin sadly passed away at the age of 59 in 2011 in a car crash. He will always be remembered as a key piece to this team when the franchise began.
#5 – Alexander Mogilny: The Greatest Goal Scorer in Sabres History
Alexander Mogilny scored a career-high 76 goals during the 1992-93 season, playing on a line with LaFontaine. His tenure with the team was short, and he produced. He tallied 211 goals in 381 games with the Sabres. The dynamic duo was one of the best in NHL history, and they will never be forgotten. He may have been the most natural goal scorer in franchise history, which is quite the accomplishment.
Mogilny captained the team for only one year, during the 1993-94 seasons. The only time that he would ever wear the captaincy for any of the four teams he played for, but he was always a leader. He is a member of the Triple Gold Club, as he won the Stanley Cup in 2000 as a member of the New Jersey Devils, an Olympic Gold Medal in 1988, and a World Championship Gold medal in 1989.
His years in Buffalo will never be forgotten, and it speaks volumes that he is top five on this list with only playing six seasons with the club.
The Sabres had tremendous players to wear the uniform over the course of their history. Perreault and Martin helped give the newly expanded team their identity of hard-working players that were tough to play against. Lafontaine and Mogilny produced their best seasons in Buffalo, and their names are up there as some of the best in the league for their play on the ice.
It awaits to be seen if Jack Eichel can join the conversation as a top-five player in franchise history. He would need to spend the majority of his career as a Sabre. Most of these players had minimal playoff success, which could separate Eichel from the rest of the options if he could lead them to a Stanley Cup victory. This is a tough list to crack, and these players provided some of the best moments in team history.