For the next few months, we here at Die By The Blade will be celebrating the Sabres' 40th anniversary with a look at the best players wearing a specific number in what we are calling the All Time Number Debate. A total of 364 players have played for the Sabres during their 40 year history and they have worn a total of 68 numbers and you have the power to pick the best.
Two players wore the number 2 for the Sabres, one became a legend in Sabres history
Jim Watson: 1970-72
Watson played on the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons and has a place in Sabres history as he scored the first regular season goal in Sabres history. Claimed in the expansion draft from the Detroit Red Wings, Watson's two seasons composed of 144 games. During those 144 games, Watson had a total of four goals and 19 points and while he didn't light the lamp, he definitely worked the penalty box door with a total of 248 penalty minutes. That averages out to 1.72 penalty minutes/game or almost a minor a night.
A major stat of note is Watson was sixth in the league in 1970-71, the Sabres inaugural season, in goals against with 122 and his plus/minus statistic was -28. It was the Sabres inaugural season so some defensive liability is afforded but the season after it went to a career worst -33 and Watson was never a plus player during the time the statistic was measured.
Watson played a total of eight seasons in the NHL, six with the Detroit Red Wings before coming to the Buffalo Sabres. He ended his career in the WHA, first with the Los Angeles Sharks and then with the Chicago Cougars and Quebec Nordiques. For his total NHL career, Watson had four goals and 23 points and added another seven goals and 40 points in the WHA before his career ended in 1976.
Following the jump, we look at the life and career of the first player on our list to have his number retired by the Sabres, Tim Horton
Tim Horton - 1972-74
When you ask many people what they think of when they hear the name Tim Horton, most will reply with the coffee chain. Horton was a revered player though, who played a total of 24 seasons in the NHL before his untimely death in 1974.
Horton's Sabres career was short. It lasted 124 games and was a good pickup by GM Punch Imlach in 1972. Horton's defensive play was one of the reasons that the Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in the 1972-73 season. Horton had one goal and 23 points in those games and while Horton was known as an intimidating player, it didn't come through dirty play with a total of 109 penalty minutes in 124 games.
Horton was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977 for his total career which included 24 seasons in the NHL, 19 of those with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Horton played a total 1,446 games, won 4 Stanley Cups, and had a total of 518 points. Horton played in 7 All-Star games and was named first team all-star three times and second team all-star three times.
What makes Horton's career tragic was how it ended. Horton was claimed in a car crash on the QEW on the way home from a game against the Maple Leafs in 1974. At the time, Horton was going 100 miles an hour and had a blood alcohol content of twice the legal limit. He crashed into a concrete barrier and was ejected from the car. The incident and other factors saw the Sabres fade down the stretch and miss the playoffs in 1974.
Horton's number was retired by the Sabres in 1996.