After reading Jon Walters’ 40th anniversary team I was inspired to walk down memory lane and design my own. While many players that I loved made the list (like my all time favorite: Donald Audette) I found myself wondering where players like Rob Ray, Ric Seiling and Gerry Korab were.
So I came up with an idea. Why not make a 40th anniversary team with players filling the roles on a hockey team? Not just the roster spots of the top 12 forwards of all time, but specific niches like checking center and pest.
The following is what I consider the 40th anniversary team of the Buffalo Sabres. Feel free to leave comments telling me that I’m too young to do this because I don’t remember Player X.
Center: Gilbert Perreault
The original and greatest Sabre, there can really be no discussion on who belongs here. He holds the team records in points, goals and assists. He was the team captain. He led the team to a Stanley Cup final. He was the first and he was the best.
Left Wing: Rick Martin
The Sabres had a superstar and they needed someone to ride shotgun. In their second year of operation they drafted Rick Martin and never looked back. Five 50 goal seasons (two consecutive), Martin was one of the most prolific goal scorers to ever don a Sabres Jersey.
Right Wing: Rene Robert
You may be feeling a bit of déjà vu right now – but keep reading – I promise it deviates. You can’t break up the French Connection, even on paper. They were one of the greatest lines in the history of the league. Twice a 40 goal scorer Robert recorded the clubs 1st 100 point season.
Secondary Scoring Line
Center: Pat Lafontaine
Still the same…shoot. Well, he picked a lot of no-brainers. Lafontaine had to be here. He would be here for his single season point record alone. His incalculable contributions to the Sabres and Buffalo during his time here make him impossible to leave off.
Runners up: Pierre Turgeon, Dale Howerchuk, Daniel Briere, Don Luce
Left Wing: Danny Gare
It was hard to choose between Gare and Dave Andreychuk as both deserved to be here but I had to go with Gare. Gare was a tough as nails guy for a smaller forward and he is tied with Martin for the most 50 goal seasons in a career. He too has done a lot for this community since his departure from the game.
Runners up: Dave Andreychuk, Miroslav Satan
Right Wing: Alexander Mogilny
A 76 goal scorer, if he had made a longer career in Buffalo he may have gotten the top spot. Mogilny defected to play with the Sabres and never looked back. He was above a point per game for his entire career in Buffalo.
Runners up: Mike Foligno, Donald Audette
Center: Michael Peca
I once again pick the same player as Jon, but this is one I agonized over. I really wanted to give it to Stu Barnes. Peca wins because he led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. The man was a leader. He was also one of the best checkers in the league. He won a Selke Trophy for best defensive forward.
Runners up: Stu Barnes, Jim Lorentz, Chris Drury
Left Wing: Craig Ramsay
From one Selke Trophy winner to the other, Craig Ramsey was a fan favorite and was a shut down forward for many years in blue & gold. A career Sabre he is one of the best checking players in the history of the league. Able to shutdown other teams top lines, while still being productive (4th in points in Sabres’ history). Ramsey was another no-brainer.
Runners up: Tony McKegney, Jochen Hecht
Right Wing: Ric Seiling
Spending 9 seasons with Buffalo he was one of the best defensive players of his era. Respected for his incredible hockey sense Seiling had a career +/- of +114. Seiling played a quiet and steady. During his prime he was a 20 goal threat every season.
Runner up: Mike Grier
Enforcer: Rob Ray
Rayzor has no real competition here. I always feel slighted when he isn’t list as one of the top 10 pugilists of all time. Ray has a rule named after him. In the 90s it was hard to watch a game without seeing a half-naked Rob Ray teeing off on someone’s face. Ray was recently named to the Sabres’ Mount Puckmore, further showing his significance to Sabres history and fans.
Runner up: Larry Playfair
Grinder: Brad May
Nobody switched from scorer to grinder quicker than May did. He will be remembered forever for his “May Day” goal. May provided muscle to the Sabres as well, forming a part of Buffalo’s tough guy core in the early 90s.
Runner Up: Lindy Ruff
Pest: Matthew Barnaby
He was recently named the greatest agitator of all time, so it’s impossible not to give him this spot. Barnaby gave Buffalo some very memorable moments and fans still love him today.
Runner up: Vaclav Varada
I chose to go with the breakup of what a standard team carries for defensemen.
Checking Defensemen: Tim Horton and Jim Schoenfeld
Horton was a legend and Buffalo fans experienced that for two grand seasons. He was so big and strong that he changed the way the game was played.
Schoenfeld helped the defensive core that went to the Stanley cup finals in 1975. He was big and strong and he didn’t take guff from anyone. The zamboni fight is still one of the most famous Sabres’ highlights.
Stay-At-Home Defenseman: Mike Ramsey
After playing in the “Miracle on Ice” Ramsey entered the NHL and had a great career for the Buffalo Sabres. As a shutdown player Ramsey matched up with other teams best forwards and was remarkably successful, playing in 4 all-star games.
Runners up: Bill Hajt, Jay McKee, Richard Smehlik
Offensive Defenseman: Phil Housley
Housley is in the top 10 in many of the Sabres’ scoring categories which is incredible for a defenseman. In one season he scored 31 goals. In another he scored 81 points. Housley never scored fewer than 62 points in a season as a Sabre. Housley is the second leading scorer among American-born players.
Two Way Defensemen: Gerry Korab and Alexei Zhitnik
“King Kong” Korab was a big tough defenseman who could skate and produce points as well. He was known for using his big frame to angle quick forwards away on the rush. He cleared the front of his own net effectively and was selected to the all-star game twice. He also made 3 Stanley Cup Final appearances in his career.
I know that I will catch hell for including Alexei Zhitnik and his slap shot on this list but I honestly think he deserves to be here. Zhitnik was a part of the Stanley Cup Final team of 1998 and led the defense corps in ice time in that season. The Ukrainian played a sound, if unorthodox, style of defense and adding some offense and toughness to the lineup. Zhitnik was one of the best overall defensemen to play for Buffalo.
Runner up: Jason Woolley
Starter: Dominik Hasek
Hasek is hands down the best goalie ever to play for Buffalo. Ryan Miller could pass him someday, but it would take a heck of a career. Hasek won six Vezinas and two consecutive Hart Trophies. Hasek played in an era where he had to face comparisons to Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur and he doesn’t look out of place in their company. Great foot speed, flexibility, covering the puck with the blocker, these are things that Hasek brought to the game.
Runners up: Tom Barrasso, Roger Crozier, Don Edwards, Grant Fuhr
Backup: Steve Shields
No one embodies the Buffalo mentality in a goalie more than Steve Shields. He took his licks, played most of his career as a backup goaltender, but when it matter, he shined. Shields had his highlights in Buffalo when he stepped in for Dominik Hasek during the 1997 Playoffs. He will also be remembered for his willingness to step in and fight for his teammates.
Runners up: Martin Biron, Bob Sauve, Mika Noronen