Top Ten Sabres Between Lockouts: #1-5
The second NHL lockout in less than a decade is still underway with no signs of stopping, so over the last two days we've been trying to figure out who were the best Sabres players from 2005-2012?
Yesterday, we started to figure out the answer to the question that nobody was asking: who were the Sabres best players between lockouts? The years 2005-2012 are most recent in our memories, and might be the only Sabres memories that younger fans have. For #6-10, check out yesterday's post. For the top five, keep reading.
5. Brian Campbell
Haha, it might be too easy to recall that hyperhidrosis ad that he did many years ago. It was great having Soupy bringing the puck out of defense, we really struggled not having that until Myers and Ehrhoff, but the reason he will live long and prosper in fans' memories is because of that crushing hit he laid on Umberger of the Flyers in the playoffs. - Calvin
We'll all remember "the hit", but Soupy put up some awfully impressive numbers in Buffalo. I had him a bit lower than number five on my list, but the Sabres squeezed just about as much talent out of him as they could when he was here. I also think not signing him to a ludicrous extension was one of the best moves Regier has made. By the way, the pick that Buffalo got back in that trade? Tyler Ennis. - CW
Campbell certainly played well for Buffalo while he was here, and even though it was in Florida that he became a Norris Trophy candidate, he showed Lindy Ruff the importance of having a puck-moving defenseman who could skate up and down the ice. Think it's any coincidence that the Sabres three best defensemen Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, and Jordan Leopold all share those qualities?
4. Thomas Vanek
Ah yes, the master of dominating half-seasons. Vanek was the only "star" that remained when Briere and Drury skipped town, so he's become the de facto face of the franchise outside of the goal crease. It's created a lot of pressure to score a lot of goals, and while the man is full of talent, maybe it's just time to come to the realization that he's not a perennial All Star player, and never will be. As the "core" is dismantled, it won't shock me to see Vanek as the next casualty. - CW
Since 7/1/07, also known as Black Sunday, Vanek has been counted on to be the #1 scorer for the Sabres, and for those most part, he has delivered. Whether he's delivered as much as you think he should be able to is up for debate, but there's a reason that this community has nicknamed him Atlas. When Angry Thomas Vanek is on the warpath, few players in the NHL can match his offensive be ATV for output. The problem is that he's never been able to put together a complete season, often disappearing for stretches at a time before reemerging. At the end of his career, I expect a healthy debate as to what Vanek could have become with more consistency, but for now, he's unarguably one of the most important Sabres of the past 7 years.
3. Chris Drury
Drury's numbers won't blow you away, but he was the de facto leader of the immediate post lockout Sabres - a man with a Cup Pedigree coming from Colorado. Also, it seemed like he scored about 25 goals with less than a minute left in games. - CW
Another clutch captain, another important goal. Drury's game-tying goal in Game 5 of 2007 ECSF against the Rangers is another of those goals that will go down in Sabres history. We are yet to see a captain with the kind of pull-em-up-by-the-jockstraps mentality that he brought to the team. - Calvin
I don't think you'll find a single person in Buffalo that would have anything bad to say about Chris Drury, aside from the fact that he left in the summer of 2007. The captain of the Sabres during their recent heyday was one of the most clutch players the organization has ever seen, was unfortunately the catalyst of one of the most iconic line brawls in franchise history, and could grow one hell of a beard. Also, did you know he won the Little League World Series?
2. Daniel Briere
He scored lots of important goals for the Sabres, but that second-overtime goal, Game 1 of the 2006 ECQF against the Flyers, definitely stands out in my mind as one of the most indelible ones. - Calvin
Briere's numbers are rivaled only by Vanek's in terms of scoring forwards on this list. He's probably a bit too high simply because of the nostalgia factor here, and a "what could have been" effect. But the bottom line is that he was a key player in the fast paced system that emerged from the last lockout and created such an exciting brand of hockey here in Buffalo. Like everyone else, I was crushed to lose him. - CW
There's a reason that 7/1/07 comes up every few weeks in the Buffalo sports talk-o-sphere, and it's because every Sabres fan was left wondering "What if?" What if Briere and Drury had stayed for just a few more years - could the Sabres have finally entered into the hallowed halls of Stanley Cup Champions? It's not impossible to imagine considering that the team had previously reached two Eastern Conference Finals in their previous two campaigns. The fact that he's flourished in Philadelphia over the past few years and has emerged as arguably the best postseason player of the past decade has only fueled the lament that Sabres fans have over losing him.
1. Ryan Miller
As I eavesdrop on random Sabres fan conversations around town, it seems that people were too spoiled from having one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history (Hasek), and don't truly appreciate how good Miller is. In my mind, there isn't a single player that comes close to knocking him off the perch of this list. He's been the face of the franchise for almost the past decade, and continues to be one of the top goaltenders in the league. Sure he has ups and downs, but guess what? So does every other goalie in the league. - CW
An impressive quality of Miller is that he is able to transcend team boundaries, and especially so during that amazing Olympic year. That first away game at Pittsburgh after Vancouver when the Penguins fans rose as one to applaud Miller as he was introduced to the crowd, that gave me goosebumps, absolutely amazing. - Calvin
H/t to our Sharks blog Fear The Fin for the posting idea.