Throughout the Buffalo Sabres’ 45-year history, 26 different players have donned the “C” on their sweater as the team’s captain. From multi-year stints to only a month on the job, there have been no shortage of worthy players to hold the captaincy.
But, with so many players wearing the letter, there are those that stood out among the crowd. It’s time to take a look at the best players to ever captain the Sabres. For this list, the focus is one what the players did during their captaincy that made them great as opposed to their overall career performance. However, that still plays a part in their ranking.
So, without any further hesitation, the Top 10 captains of the Buffalo Sabres.
10. Jason Pominville (March 2008, 2011-2013)
Jason Pominville’s first run as captain came during a year where head coach Lindy Ruff brought back his rotational captaincy. It took three years from there for the Quebec native to get the letter on a full time basis.
Pominville wasn’t a very vocal captain, but he was the perfect lead-by-example leader. During his season-and-a-half as team captain, Pominville was one of the top scorers on the team — he had a team high 73 points during the 2011-12 season. He was also a player that refused to duck the media, even when things weren’t going well. He’d stay at his stall, answer the questions that were presented and show that he was the guy in the locker room.
9. Craig Rivet (2008-2011)
When the Sabres acquired Craig Rivet, the former Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks defense immediately gained the respect of the entire locker room. It showed when a vote was held that named the newcomer captain without ever playing a single regular season game for the organization. During his time in Buffalo, Rivet was a leader both on and off the ice. He wouldn’t be afraid to stand up for anyone if he felt he had to no matter the circumstances. He was a grizzled veteran on a team of young players that needed the exact leadership he provided.
8. Jim Schoenfeld (1974-1977)
Jim Schoenfeld was the type of captain that the city of Buffalo loved. He was a tough, blue collar player who became a fan favorite for not being shy of going to the tough areas of the ice. The former 5th overall pick was a productive defenseman offensively, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone. He was also a major reason for the team’s run to the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.
7. Stu Barnes (2001-2003)
Admit it. When you read his name, all you want to do is yell out Stuuuuuuuuuuuu Barnes. Barnes was brought to the Sabres as a deadline acquisition with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the team’s run to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. He was never an elite scorer, but that didn’t mean he didn’t produce. During his time as captain, Barnes put up 80 points for Buffalo. He quickly became a beloved player by both teammates and fans, and was as classy of a player as they come.
6. Mike Foligno (1989-1991)
Mike Foligno was acquired for two former captains — Schoenfeld and Danny Gare — from the Detroit Red Wings, and quickly became one of the best players of the 1980s. He was finally given the “C” during his final two years in Buffalo, and definitely made that decision warranted. His scoring may have dropped off from the 50+ point campaigns fans were used to seeing, but everyone was still aware of where Foligno was on the ice at all times. He may have scored just 49 points while wearing the letter, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more deserving player of the captaincy based on an overall career than him.
5. Michael Peca (1997-2000)
Captain Crunch is his name, and playing tough is his game. The end of his tenure in Buffalo may have been messy, but Michael Peca was one of the best all-around players to suit up for the Sabres in the 1990s. He was a Selke award winner and multi-time finalist as the league’s best defensive forward while also being able to produce offensively. During his three seasons as captain, Peca scored 137 points for the Sabres, and guided the team to the 1999 Finals.
4. Chris Drury (Nov. 2003, March 2004, 2005-2007)
Though he shared the captaincy with Danny Briere during his time in Buffalo, there was no doubt who the true captain really was for the Sabres. With 136 points in two seasons as captain, Drury was one of the more productive players for Buffalo, but it wasn’t just his offense that led the way. He was the first to get back in the defensive zone, went full force on every shift and never gave up on a play until the whistle. Sure, his departure — along with Briere — stung fans, but there’s no denying his impact during his tenure.
3. Danny Gare (1977-1982)
One of the most successful captains in Sabres history, Danny Gare was an offensive juggernaut during his time as captain. He was a two-time All Star, had back-to-back 85+ point seasons, and even had a share of the NHL scoring title with 56 goals during the 1979-80 season. He was dealt one season after producing 85 points for Buffalo, but he left his most productive years behind him after going to Detroit.
2. Pat LaFontaine (1992-1997)
Oh tis the season. Pat LaFontaine may go down as the most popular Sabres player of all time. When he was acquired in 1991 in, arguably, the biggest trade in franchise history, LaFontaine wasted no time in adoring himself to the Buffalo faithful. When healthy, LaFontaine was as skilled a player as they come. With vision on the ice that no one else seemed to have, he could find an open teammate in a dark alley for a scoring chance. He still holds the franchise record in points (148) and assists (95) for a single season. One has to wonder what would’ve been had concussions not derailed a great career.
1. Gilbert Perreault (1982-1987)
As if there was any doubt, the best Sabres skater in the team’s history deserves to be number one on this list. Gilbert Perreault spent his entire 17-year career with the Sabres, and didn’t become captain until the end. He is the leading scorer in franchise history, and though his production dropped off towards the end of his career, his worst seasons were still better than many players’ best. During his nearly five years as captain, Perreault was Buffalo’s leading scorer in three of his four full seasons as captain.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.