By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
It’s a rather quiet time in Sabre Central. The team hasn’t played in almost a week, and won’t be playing at home until February. The NHL All-Star Game is coming up this weekend, but for someone who doesn’t particularly like 3-on-3 hockey, a game full of it isn’t much of an attraction.
Therefore, I needed something fun to do this week. It’s an almost perfect time, then, to come up with my Sabres’ All-Drafted Team. (Yes, mid-June might be better, but it works now.)
The rules are relatively simple. I reviewed all of the Sabre draft choices over the years, and picked 20 players by position to form the best roster. That means it’s not an all-time Sabre team, since some players obviously went elsewhere for a portion of their careers. For example, Ray Sheppard had a really long, productive and odd career in the NHL, but most of it was elsewhere.
The process is a little painful in spots. Every team swings and misses on first draft choices, and the Sabres have had their share of such strikeouts. Here are some of them: Mikhail Grigorenko, Joel Armia, Zack Kassian, Dennis Persson, Marek Zagrapan, Jiri Novotny, Artem Kriukov, Barrett Heisten, David Cooper, Joel Savage, Jiri Dudacek … this really is started to get depressing.
Credit for this idea goes to baseball writer Rob Neyer, who once did a book containing lists along these lines for each team in the majors. Now, to the picks – feel free to disagree:
Gil Perreault (1,191 Games Played, 512 Goals, 814 Assists, 1,326 Points, Hall of Fame, 6 All-Star Games): If you didn’t figure this one out quickly, you probably are on the wrong website.
Pierre Turgeon (1,294 GP, 515-812-1,327, 4 ASG): It’s rather remarkable that the Sabres’ initial two first overall draft picks scored 1,326 and 1,327 points respectively. Turgeon did his work in a higher scoring era, and thus is considered a fringe Hall of Fame candidate.
John Cullen (621 GP, 187-363-550, 2 ASG): He was drafted in the 1986 supplemental draft but never signed. Cullen went on to three 90-point seasons in Pittsburgh.
Derek Roy (738 GP, 189-335-524): He had five good seasons here, and then the wheels fell off for some reason. Roy played for five other teams in the later stages of his career, and never had more than 44 points in those years. He is keeping the spot warm for Jack Eichel, who will take his place in the very near future.
Honorable mention: Curtis Brown, Paul Gaustad, Derek Plante.
Dave Andreychuk (1,639 GP, 640-698-1,338, HOF, 2 ASG): The biggest scorer on the list had a long and fine career. The Sabres drafted him as a center, by the way. Andreychuk’s second and final 50-goal season came in 1993-94, 12 years before the end of his career.
Rick Martin (685 GP, 384-317-701, 7 ASG): A knee injury that shortened his career probably will keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Martin wasn’t quite good enough to dominate the league while he played (as opposed to Eric Lindros, who made the Hall of Fame), and he didn’t have quite enough points to make it on lifetime stats.
Craig Ramsay (1,070 GP, 252-420-672, 1 ASG): He was one of the great two-way players of his era. If Bob Gainey hadn’t been born, Ramsay probably would have won a bunch of Selke Trophies and found a place in the Hall of Fame.
Thomas Vanek (1,008 GP, 367-409-776, 1 ASG): The Sabres needed a scorer in 2003, and he certainly filled that role during his time here. One fact to consider about this fine player and another on the list: Vanek has played in 323 more games than Martin did in his career as of the All-Star break, and has 17 fewer goals.
Honorable mention: Tony McKegney, Brad May.
Alexander Mogilny (990 GP, 473-559-1,032, 4 ASG): He compiled enough points to be a Hall of Fame candidate, and at his peak (76 goals in 1992-93) was as dangerous a scorer as any player in the league. A string of injuries in his late 20s held him under 50 points for three straight seasons, and that probably stopped him from reaching 500 goals and near-automatic Hall status.
Danny Gare (827 GP, 354-331-685, 2 ASG): Another winger with a high peak value, including two 50-goal seasons. But he was never the same after the trade to Detroit at the age of 27 and was done at 32.
Jason Pominville (1,030 GP, 287-429-716, 1 ASG): Never a superstar, Pominville has been a steady performer – peaking with 80 points in 2007-08. About a third of his career was spent in Minnesota, but Buffalo got his best work.
Ray Sheppard (817 GP, 357-300-657): What an odd career. Sheppard had 38 goals as a rookie, but the Sabres only could get cash and future considerations from the Rangers for him two years later. Sheppard bloomed in Detroit with a 52-goal season in 1993-94, and played with three other teams. I’m not sure there’s a comparable NHL player to him – maybe Pierre Larouche.
Honorable mention: Donald Audette, Ric Seiling, Drew Stafford.
Phil Housley (1,495 GP, 338-894-1232, HOF, 7 ASG): Based on those numbers and the Hall of Fame honor, Housley clearly is in a class by himself when it comes to Sabres draft choices at defense – particularly when it came to offense. And you should have seen him skate at practice, when he was just playing around.
Mike Ramsey (1,070 GP, 79-266-345, 4 ASG): Whenever someone said Sabre teams didn’t have any heart, I would point to Mike Ramsey. Case closed. He was an excellent all-around player, and may be a better person.
Brian Campbell (1,082 GPO, 87-417-504, 4 ASG): Drury and Briere had left as free agents in the summer of 2007, and it looked as if Campbell would follow them out the door. The Sabres decided to get something for him beforehand, even though we all knew that he’d be good for a long time. And he was.
Jim Schoenfeld (719 GP, 51-204-255, 2 ASG): The trade from Buffalo to Detroit took something out of him as well, as he was done at 32. Even so, he gave everything he had to the Sabres for his 10 seasons in Buffalo.
Calle Johansson (1,109 GP, 119-416-535): This starts to become difficult right about here. Johansson fell off the radar from a Buffalo standpoint when he went to the Capitals for Clint Malarchuk. Johansson spent parts of 15 seasons in Washington, and he was a consistent scorer throughout that time.
Jay McKee (802 GP, 21-104-125): A case could be made for others, and I would bet that Rasmus Ristolainen will be taking this spot eventually. McKee, though, was a solid defensive defenseman who was known for his shot blocking for some good Sabre teams. He left in 2006 as a free agent for St. Louis, and in his final four years never played 70 games in a season again.
Honorable mention: Bill Hajt, Keith Carney, Tyler Myers.
Ryan Miller (747 GP, 374 Wins, 2.60 Goals-Against Avg., 1 ASG): For a short time around 2010, Miller might have been the best goalie in the world. He looks like he’ll have at least a chance at the Hall of Fame. FYI, he has appeared in one fewer All-Star Game than Don Edwards.
Tom Barrasso (777 GP, 369 W, 3.24 GAA, 1 ASG): If you allow for the fact that Barrasso played in a higher-scoring era than Miller, the career numbers of the two players are amazingly similar. Barrasso still ranks as the best 18-year-old goalie in NHL history. Is a somewhat prickly personality keeping him out of the Hall now? It’s tough to say.
Honorable mention: Don Edwards.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)