For this installment of the Top 10 Sabres seasons ever, we take a look at what seasons stand out more than others. Remember a season can be memorable even if the Sabres did not make a long playoff run.
1974-75 – In their second playoff appearance with the franchise just five years young, Buffalo rolled through the regular season and to its first Stanley Cup Final ever against the Broad Street Bullies, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sabres lost a close six-games series which included the famous fog game in Buffalo when Jim Lorenz killed a bat.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) February 7, 2019
Rick Martin, Rene Robert, Don Luce, and Jerry Korab all made the all-star game and Don Luce won the Bill Masterson Trophy for sportsmanship. Overall, it was an amazing season which really energized the Buffalo area.
1979-80 – In the Sabres 10th season of existence, they had their second-best season to date, winning the Wales Conference and Divisional crown with an eye to make it back to the Cup Final. With Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman behind the bench, the French Connection having their last great season, and a Vezina goalie combo of Don Edwards and Bob Sauve, everything seemed lined up for a Cup run. Unfortunately, after making it past the first two rounds with ease the Sabres fell to the upstart New York Islanders who were just starting their dynasty. They lost a tough six-game series and a chance for a rematch with the Flyers in the Cup in what was probably that group of Sabres last great chance to win Lord Stanley.
1987-88 – After falling to the bottom of the NHL in the mid-1980s, the Sabres missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. In 1987-88 the Sabres rebounded, led by young players like 1st overall pick Pierre Turgeon, Dave Andreychuk, and Phil Housley as they went from worst to the playoffs. For fans at the time who had just seen Sabres legend Gilbert Perreault retire the previous season, this crop of youngsters gave hope to a new horizon for the organization.
1992-93– In Pat LaFontaine’s first full season as a Sabre, he and Alexander Mogilny teamed up for a historic season that saw LaFontaine set a team record with 148 points and Mogilny score an astonishing 76 goals.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) October 15, 2019
LaFontaine finished as a runner-up for league MVP to Mario Lemieux. Buffalo had a strong season until the end when they lost seven games in a row heading into the playoffs. But for the first time in a decade, Buffalo won a series, sweeping the Bruins with the famous May Day call coming in game four by Rick Jeanneret.
Buffalo lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadians in a four-game series. Three of those were 4-3 decisions and the last three went to overtime.
1996-97 – Here is a season where the Sabres moved into a brand new arena, changed their colors, and won their first divisional crown in 16 years. They also had the league’s best goalie in Dominik Hasek, who won the MVP award for only the second time by a goalie. Michael Peca won the Selke for best two-way forward, head coach Ted Nolan won the award for coach of the year, and the Sabres won their only game 7 ever in team history with a dramatic win against the Senators that went to overtime, which Derek Plante ended victoriously for Buffalo. Hows that for a season to remember?
1997-98 – For an encore after winning the divisional title, the Sabres let go both their GM of the year, John Muckler, and head coach of the year, Ted Nolan, for new GM Darcy Regier and new head coach, Lindy Ruff, along with letting go Sabre favorite Pat LaFontaine due to concussions. That was just the offseason.
During the season, Hasek was again sublime and would go on to win the Vezina again, but also the Hart Trophy for League MVP. He also played a huge role in leading the Czech Republic to a historic gold medal at the Olympics in Nagano Japan.
After a slow start, Buffalo went into the playoffs strong, dispatching the rival Flyers in five games, which concluded with an overtime series-clinching victory in game 5 and then swept the rival Canadians in four games that saw a hat trick from bruising forward Matthew Barnaby on Mother’s Day.
This sent Buffalo to their first conference final since the 1979-80 series against Washington. Buffalo lost the series in six games, concluding in an epic game 6 that took overtime to be decided.
1998-99 – The Sabres advanced to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 24 years. Hasek was again at his best, winning the Vezina.
The season itself was not as exciting as the previous two, but once the playoffs started Buffalo went on a roll, knocking out the Senators in a series sweep and then the Bruins in six games to set up a showdown with the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
Buffalo held nothing back against the Leafs, beating them in 5 games with the series-clinching win on Toronto ice to twist the knife just a little more.
The finals saw the Sabres fall to the Dallas Stars in six games which can only be described by one phrase…No Goal.
2005-06– The Sabres seemingly came out of nowhere to make a run to the brink of the Stanley Cup falling in an epic seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals to Carolina.
New household names are born like Ryan Miller and Chris Drury. This was a team that was scary good and this team easily could’ve won the Cup, but instead, they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in a gut-wrenching game 7. The Sabres were destroyed by injuries but left it all on the ice. Had they won game 7 against Carolina, they would have faced Edmonton in the finals and would’ve been the favorites to win that series. Top to bottom, this was the best Sabres team to date.
2006-07 – The Sabres entered the season going back to a familiar blue and gold look with an “interesting” new logo as the slug was born. The team started the season on a 10 game win streak and would finish it by winning the President’s Trophy.
Daniel Briere, Ryan Miller, and Brian Campbell all started in the All-Star game this season. And of course, how can we forget the Ottawa brawl at the end of December?
Happy 10-year anniversary of the Sabres/Senators brawl pic.twitter.com/mrYGC0jU4k
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 22, 2017
The playoffs saw the Sabres get by the Islanders in five games which led to a second-round series against the Rangers. That series had the memorable game five-overtime victory over Rangers with Sabres winning the series in six games.
A rematch against the Ottawa Senators in the Conference Finals saw the Sabres Stanley Cup hopes die out in five games. Buffalo was on the wrong end of three one-goal games and two overtime losses.
2009-10 – This was the last time the Sabres have won the divisional crown with Ryan Miller having one of the all-time great seasons in net for a Sabre, culminating in a Vezina Trophy.
During the Olympics, Miller did his best Dominik Hasek impression for the United States, leading the USA to a silver medal after a heartbreaking overtime loss against Canada in the gold medal game.
— Sabres Flashbacks (@SabresFlashback) October 15, 2019
The Sabres had a superb defense led by rookie Tyler Myers, who would win the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately, Buffalo lost in the playoffs early, falling to the Bruins in six games. Buffalo’s offense never could do enough to support Miller’s heroics.