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Buffalo Sabres Tailgating
The Buffalo Sabres are a professional ice hockey team based in Buffalo, New York. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of theNational Hockey League (NHL). The team was established in 1970, along withVancouver, when the league expanded to 14 teams. They have played at First Niagara Center since 1996. The Sabres are currently owned by Terry Pegula and are coached by Ron Rolston.
The team has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals two times, losing to thePhiladelphia Flyers in 1975 and to the Dallas Stars in 1999. The best known line in team history is The French Connection which consisted of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and René Robert. All three players have had their sweater numbers (11, 7 and 14 respectively) retired and a statue erected in their honor was erected at First Niagara Center in 2012. Tim Horton (2), Pat LaFontaine (16), and Danny Gare (18) have also had their jersey numbers retired.
Founding and early success: 1970–71—1980–81[edit source | editbeta]
The Sabres, along with the Vancouver Canucks, joined the NHL in the 1970–71 season. Their first owners were Seymour Knox III andNorthrup Knox, scions of a family long prominent in Western New York, along with Robert O. Swados, a Buffalo attorney. Buffalo had a history of professional hockey. The Buffalo Bisons were one of the pillars of the American Hockey League (AHL), winning the Calder Cup in their final season.
Wanting a name other than “bison,” which was common among Buffalo sports teams, the Knoxes immediately commissioned a name-the-team contest. The winning choice, “Sabres,” was chosen because Seymour Knox felt that a sabre, a weapon carried by a leader, could be used effectively on both offense and defense. The Knoxes tried twice before to get an NHL team, first when the NHL expanded in 1967, and again when they attempted to buy the Oakland Seals with the intent of moving them to Buffalo. At the time of their creation, the Sabres exercised their option to create their own AHL farm team, the Cincinnati Swords. Former Toronto Maple Leafsgeneral manager and head coach Punch Imlach was hired in the same capacity with the Sabres.
The consensus was that first pick in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft would be junior phenomGilbert Perreault. Either the Sabres or the Canucks would get the first pick, to be determined with the spin of a roulette wheel. Perreault was available to the Sabres and Canucks as this was the first year that the Montreal Canadiens did not have a priority right to draft Quebec-born junior players.
The Canucks were allocated numbers 1-10 on the wheel, while the Sabres had 11-20. When league president Clarence Campbell spun the wheel, he initially thought the pointer landed on 1. However, while Campbell was congratulating the Vancouver delegation, Imlach asked Campbell to check again. As it turned out, the pointer was on 11—effectively handing Perrault to the Sabres.
Perreault scored 38 goals in his rookie season of 1970–71, at the time a record for most goals scored by a rookie in the NHL, and was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year. Despite Perreault’s star play, the Sabres finished well out of playoff contention.
In the team’s second season, 1971–72, rookie Rick Martin, drafted fifth overall by Buffalo in1971, and Rene Robert, acquired in a late-season trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, joined Perreault and would become one of the league’s top forward lines in the 1970s. Martin broke Perreault’s record at once with 44 rookiegoals. They were nicknamed “The French Connection” after the movie of the same name and in homage to their French-Canadian roots. The Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in 1972–73, just the team’s third year in the league, but lost in the quarterfinals in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens.
Fog and the bat: The 1974-75 finals
After a subpar year in 1974 that saw them miss the playoffs (as well as aging defenseman Tim Horton‘s death in a DUI–induced car accident), the Sabres finished in a tie for the best record in the NHL in the 1974–75 regular season. Buffalo would advance to theStanley Cup Finals for the first time in team history to play against the rough Philadelphia Flyers (who had been recently nicknamed the “Broad Street Bullies“), a series which included the legendary Fog Game (Game 3 of the series). Due to unusual heat in Buffalo in May 1975 and the lack of air conditioning in the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, portions of the game were played in heavy fog. Players, officials, and the puck were invisible to many spectators. During a face-off and through the fog, Sabres center Jim Lorentz spotted a batflying across the rink, swung at it with his stick, killing it. It was the only time that any player killed an animal during an NHL game. The Sabres won that game thanks to Rene Robert’s goal in overtime. However, Philadelphia would wind up taking the Cup in six games, winning the series 4 games to 2.
The late 1970s
The French Connection, joined by 50–goal scorer Danny Gare, continued to score prolifically for the Sabres in 1975–76, but the team lost in the quarterfinals to the New York Islanders. The Sabres had success through the late 1970s behind Gare and the French Connection (Perreault, Martin and Robert), but they were unable to return to the Finals despite a Wales Conference championship in1980 and being the first team to beat the Soviet Olympic Team when they toured the United States. The French Connection era came to an end with Robert’s trade to the Colorado Rockies in 1979 and Martin’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings in 1981, by which time Martin’s career was essentially finished as the result of a devastating knee injury in 1980.
Adams Division rivalries: 1981-82—1992–93
In 1981-82, the NHL realigned its conferences and adopted an intra-divisional playoff format for the first two rounds. It was the beginning of an era in which the Sabres would finish in the middle of the Adams Division standings with regularity, and then face the near-certainty of having to get past either the Boston Bruins or Canadiens to make it to the conference finals. Aside from first-round victories over Montreal in 1982-83 and Boston in 1992–93, the era saw the Sabres lose to division rivals Boston, the Quebec Nordiques and Montreal in the Adams Division semifinals (first round) a combined eight times, and miss the playoffs altogether in 1985-86 and 1986-87—only the third and fourth times out of the playoffs in franchise history. Perrault reached the 500-goal mark in the 1985-86 season and retired after playing 20 games in 1986-87, 17 years after joining the Sabres as their first draft pick.
Pierre Turgeon was drafted by the Sabres as the 1st overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, and would quickly make an impact with the team once he arrived. During his rookie season in 1987-88, he helped the Sabres reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. He was joined in 1989 by Alexander Mogilny, who — with the help of Sabres officials — became the first Soviet player to defect to the NHL, and cleared the way for all other Russian players to follow. In the 1989–90 season, the Sabres would improve to finish with 98 points — third-best in the league — but the playoff futility would continue in a first-round loss to Montreal. Turgeon was traded to the New York Islanders in 1991 as part of a blockbuster seven-player trade that brought Pat LaFontaine to Buffalo.
In 1992–93, Dominik Hasek joined the team in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks. In the 1993 playoffs, the Sabres upset the Bruins in a four-game sweep in the Adams Division semifinals, their first playoff series victory in 10 years. The series-winning goal was scored by Brad May in overtime of Game 4 in Buffalo, made famous by Rick Jeanneret’s famous “May Day!” call. However, the Sabres were swept themselves in the division final by the eventual Cup champion Montreal Canadiens, losing all four games by a score of 4-3 (the last 3 games in overtime).
Final years in “The Aud”: 1993–94—1995-96
With the NHL adopting a conference playoff format for the 1993–94 season, the Sabres faced the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Despite Hasek winning a 1-0 (4 OT) goaltending duel with the Devils’ Martin Brodeur in Game 6 — the Sabres’ longest game ever, which went into quadruple overtime — Buffalo would lose the series in seven games. Another first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia in the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season was followed by a 5th-place finish in the Northeast Division in 1995-96, as the team missed the playoffs completely for the first time in nine years It was the first season under coach Ted Nolan and the last for the Sabres at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Nolan brought an exciting brand of hockey to Buffalo. During his coaching tenure, Buffalo was referred to as the “hardest-working team in hockey”. This season also featured the debut of “walk-on” veteran player Randy Burridge. After attending training camp on a try-out basis, Burridge earned a spot on the roster. He scored 25 goals that season and was second in team scoring to Pat LaFontaine. Burridge also earned the Tim Horton Award for being the unsung hero and was voted team Most Valuable Player.
The final game in Memorial Auditorium was played on April 14, 1996, a 4-1 victory over the Hartford Whalers. Sabres principal owner Seymour Knox died a month later, on May 22, 1996.
The black and red era: 1996-97—2005–06
New arena and off-ice tumult: 1996-97
Nolan and the Sabres rebounded in 1996–97, their first at Marine Midland Arena, by winning their first division title in sixteen years, with Nolan winning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach, Dominik Hasek winning both the Hart and Vezina Trophies (the first goaltender to do so since Montreal’s Jacques Plante in 1962), Michael Peca taking home the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL, and general managerJohn Muckler honored as Executive of the Year.
However, the regular season success was all overshadowed by what had taken place during the playoffs. Tensions between Nolan and Hasek had been high for most of the season, however, after being scored upon in Game 3 of the first round against the Ottawa Senators, Hasek left the game, forcing backup Steve Shields to step in. Hasek claimed he felt his knee pop, and the team doctor pronounced him day-to-day. Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley wrote a column that night for the next day’s newspaper that detailed the day’s events, which irked Hasek. After the Senators won Game 5, Hasek came out of the Sabres’ training room and physically attacked Kelley, tearing his shirt. Despite the fact that Hasek issued an apology, things went downhill afterwards. Shields starred as the Sabres rallied to win the series against Ottawa. But before the next series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the NHL announced that Hasek had been suspended for three games — with the Sabres informing the league that Hasek was healthy (Hasek most likely would not have been suspended had he not been cleared to play). Set to return in Game 4 with the Sabres down by three games to none, Hasek told the Sabres’ coaching staff he felt a twinge in his knee and left the ice after the pregame skate. Shields turned in another season-saving performance as Buffalo staved off elimination with a win in overtime. Again before Game 5, Hasek declared himself unfit to play and Buffalo lost 6–3 and the series.
Team President Larry Quinn fired general manager John Muckler, who had a noted feud with Nolan. Hasek, who supported Muckler, openly told reporters at the NHL Awards Ceremony that he did not respect Nolan, placing new GM Darcy Regier in a tough position. He offered Nolan just a one-year contract for a reported $500,000. Nolan refused on the grounds that his previous contract was for two years. Regier then pulled the contract off the table and did not offer another one, ending Nolan’s tenure as Sabres coach. Nolan was offered several jobs from the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, which he turned down, and was out of the NHL until June 2006 when he was named coach of the Islanders. Former Sabres captain Lindy Ruff was hired as head coach on July 21, 1997, agreeing to a three-year deal. The Sabres organization, after having their most successful season in nearly two decades, had fired both the reigning NHL Executive of the Year (Muckler) and Coach of the Year (Nolan).
New owners and return to the finals
During the 1997–98 season, the Sabres, which had lost $32 million over the previous three seasons and nearly missed payroll in December 1997, were sold by Northrop Knox to John Rigas, owner of Adelphia Communications. Shortly thereafter, Quinn was dismissed and replaced by John Rigas’s son, Timothy Rigas. Behind Hasek, left-winger Miroslav Satan (who led the team in scoring), right-winger Donald Audette, center Michael Peca, and several role-playing journeymen including Matthew Barnaby, the Sabres reached the Eastern Conference Finals that season, but lost to the Washington Capitals in six games.
In 1998–99, Miroslav Satan scored 40 goals. The Sabres would add centers Stu Barnes from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joe Juneaufrom the Capitals. Michal Grosek had the best season of his career, and the team finally returned to the Stanley Cup Finals, this time against the Dallas Stars. In Game 6, Dallas Stars winger Brett Hull‘s triple-overtime goal — as Hull’s skate was clearly visibly in Hasek’s crease — ended the series, and the Stars were awarded the Cup. In 1999, it was illegal to score a goal if an offensive player’s skate entered the crease before the puck did. NHL officials, however, maintained that Hull’s two shots in the goal mouth constituted a single possession of the puck since the puck deflected off Hasek. The rule was changed for the following season, allowing players to be inside the goaltender’s crease as long as they do not interfere with the goalie.
The next year was a disappointing season. The team struggled in the regular season, due to injuries to Hasek as well as other tired and discouraged players. Doug Gilmour was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline and sparked the Sabres to a playoff berth. However, Gilmour was stricken by stomach flu during the post-season and even the return of Hasek could not prevent their first-round playoff series loss to Philadelphia. Like the previous season, there would be another officiating controversy. In Game 2, Flyers left wing John LeClair put the puck in the net through a hole in the mesh. While replays appeared to show the puck going in through the side of the net, the goal was allowed to stand. The Flyers would win the game 2–1 and go on to win the series 4–1.
Captain Michael Peca sat out 2000–01 due to a contract dispute, and eventually was traded to the Islanders in June 2001 for Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. Even so, the Sabres still defeated Philadelphia in six games in the first round of the playoffs (with a resounding 8–0 victory in the series-winning game). In the second round, they faced the underdog Pittsburgh Penguins led by rejuvenated superstar Mario Lemieux and captain Jaromir Jagr, who had won his fifth Art Ross Trophy that season, losing on a seventh-game overtime goal scored by defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. After lengthy and failed negotiations with their star goaltender, the Sabres traded Hasek to the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2001, bringing a five-year era of playoff success to a close. Without Hasek and Peca, the Sabres missed the 2002 playoffs.
The first third sweater of the Buffalo Sabres was created in 2000. The primary color was Sabre red, with black and gray stripes on the sleeves. It also featured the word “Buffalo” written on a black stripe outlined by gray near the waist. The logo was a black circle with two sabres crossing each other. The third sweater ran from 2000–2006 when the red sweater was retired.
Ownership turmoil and league takeover
In May 2002, John Rigas and his sons were indicted for bank, wire, and securities fraud for embezzling more than $2 billion from Adelphia. Rigas eventually was convicted and presently is appealing a sentence of 15 years in prison. The league took control of the team, though the Rigas family remained owners on paper.
For a while, there were no interested buyers. After the two-year period of uncertainty that left the Sabres franchise in limbo, the team was sold to a consortium led by Rochester, New York billionaire and former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano and by former Sabres president Larry Quinn, whose bid included no government funding. Golisano was introduced as team owner on March 19, 2003.
Building for the future: 2002–03—2003–04
With the 2002–03 season having started under league control, general manager Darcy Regier could make only minimal moves. However, with the consultations of impending new ownership, the team began their rebuilding process around the March 2003 trade deadline by clearing out veteran players. The first to go was winger Rob Ray who was sent to Ottawa. The team then sent center and team captain Stu Barnes to the Dallas Stars for young winger Michael Ryan and a draft pick.
The 2003–04 season saw the team emerge from its financial struggles and, though the Sabres narrowly missed the playoffs, the development of prominent young players.
The lockout: 2004–05
Although the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to a labor dispute, the league and the NHL Players Association were able to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the summer of 2005, thus enabling NHL hockey to return for the 2005–06 season.
On January 19, 2005, the Sabres lost their main cable television broadcaster, as the Empire Sports Network (which had been on the air since 1991) ceased operations in a cost-cutting move during the Adelphia scandal and reorganization. (Like the Sabres, Empire had been owned by Adelphia prior to the NHL’s seizure of the franchise.) Adelphia sold their rights to Sabres telecasts and for the 2005–06 campaign Madison Square Garden Network (MSG), a New York City-based channel which broadcasts New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils games, took over the rights to broadcast Sabres games to television viewers in western New York, with the Sabres controlling all aspects of the broadcast. The agreement has since been extended through 2016.
Post-lockout era: 2005-2006 to 2009-2010
|This article or section may be slanted towards recent events. Please try to keep recent events in historical perspective. (July 2011)|
Return to the Playoffs[edit source | editbeta]
In 2005–06 the Sabres took off, finishing with their best record in over twenty years and clinching their first playoff berth since the 2000–01 season. The team finished the regular season with 52 wins, surpassing the 50–win mark for the first time in franchise history. They also finished with 110 points, their first 100–point season in 23 years and tied the 1979–80 club for the second-best point total in franchise history. The Sabres tied the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes for the most wins in the Eastern Conference. They finished with the fifth-best record in the league, behind Detroit, Ottawa, Dallas and Carolina.
Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the first-round of the 2006 playoffs in six games and top-seeded Ottawa in five games. The Sabres advanced to play Carolina in their first Eastern Conference Final since 1999. However injuries began to mount. They were forced to play without their four of their top defensemen (Teppo Numminen, Dmitri Kalinin, Jay McKee, and Henrik Tallinder), and their toppowerplay scorer, Tim Connolly for much of the series. Despite this the Sabres forced the series to 7 games before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres impressive season was recognized on June 22, 2006 at the NHL Awards Ceremony, when Lindy Ruff edged Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette to win the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year in the closest vote in the award’s history. Ruff was the second Sabres coach to win the award.
Return to Blue and Gold
On September 16, 2006 the Sabres unveiled new home and away sweaters featuring midnight blue, maize (gold), silver, and white colors. The new logo, a stylized bison, was widely reviled, drawing unfavorable comparisons to a banana slug. Despite the criticism, five of the top 10 player sweaters sold in the first two months of the 2006-07 season were Buffalo Sabres slug designs.
The Sabres started the 2006-07 season 10–0, not only setting a new franchise record for consecutive wins to start a season, but becoming just the second team in NHL history (after the 1994 Toronto Maple Leafs) to open a season with a winning streak of ten games. The Sabres also set a new NHL record for consecutive road wins to start a season (eight), which was extended to ten games (tying the team record for consecutive road wins) with a 7–4 win over the Stanley Cup Champion Hurricanes on November 13, 2006.
Three Buffalo Sabres were voted by fans to be starters at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas: goalie Ryan Miller, forward Danny Briere, and defenseman Brian Campbell. Briere won the All-Star MVP Award, tallying 1 goal and 4 assists. Lindy Ruff was the head coach for the Eastern Conference, who lost the game 12–9.
The team reached the 50-win plateau for the second time in franchise history. The Sabres won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history, giving the team the home ice advantage for their entire run in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. They also tied the1974–75 team’s franchise record for points in a season.
In the April 9, 2007 issue of ESPN the Magazine, the Buffalo Sabres ranked first of 122 major professional sports franchises in North America. Buffalo was cited for its player accessibility, low ticket prices, and exciting brand of hockey.
The Sabres defeated the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers to reach their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. On May 19, the Buffalo Sabres were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators after five games.
Drury and Brière Depart
The Sabres lost both of their co-captains, Danny Briere (who went to the Philadelphia Flyers) and Chris Drury (who went to the New York Rangers) during the free agency period. The Sabres nearly lost Thomas Vanek to the Edmonton Oilers who offered him a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet, but the Sabres matched the offer on July 6. After these events, the team changed its policy of not negotiating contracts during the regular season. Long-time Sabres broadcast color commentator Jim Lorentz announced his retirement during the preseason. Hockey Night in Canada‘s Harry Neale took over the position in October 2007.
During the 2007-08 season the Sabres hosted a home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins January 1, 2008 which was played outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the National Football League‘s Buffalo Bills. Officially, the game was called the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, known colloquially as the “Ice Bowl”, due to it taking place at the same time as college football bowl games. The Sabres lost 2–1 in a shootout. The Sabres failed to qualify for the playoffs and became only the third team in NHL history to go from finishing first overall in the regular season standings to finishing out of the playoffs the following year.
On June 10, the Sabres officially announced their new American Hockey Leagueaffiliate, beginning in the 2008–09 season, would be the Portland Pirates from Portland, Maine. This ended their 29-year affiliation with the Rochester Americans. The Sabres signed with the Pirates for two seasons, with a parent club option for a third.
The Sabres entered the 2008 free agency period quietly, but on July 1 they signed goaltender Patrick Lalime to a two-year contact. Three days later, the Sabres acquiredCraig Rivet from San Jose in exchange for a second round draft pick in each of the next two drafts.
The Sabres also extended the contracts of three players. On June 30, Paul Gaustadwas given a four-year extension. Gaustad was due to become a restricted free agent after the 2008-2009 season. On July 18, Ryan Miller signed a five-year extension through the 2013-2014 season. Two months to the day, Jason Pominville also signed a five-year extension through 2013-14. Miller was slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the upcoming season while Pominville was set to become a restricted free agent.
On October 8, the Sabres named defenseman Craig Rivet captain of the team. He is the first single full-time captain since Stu Barnesin 2001-2003. At the trade deadline the Sabres were active. First, they signed Tim Connolly to an extension worth $4.2 million for two years. They also acquired Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes for a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft. Then Dominic Moorecame from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Finally, they received a second-round pick in the 2009 draft from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Ales Kotalik. On April 9, the Buffalo Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs.
General manager Darcy Regier announced on the first day of free agency that the Sabres had agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent defenseman Steve Montador to a two-year contract. The Sabres also signed free agent defenseman Joe DiPenta to a one-year contract on July 11. They also extended contracts with three other players. On July 20 the Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with Andrej Sekera on a multi-year deal and signed Clarke MacArthur to a one-year contract. On August 11 the Sabres signed Mike Grier to a one-year contract. Grier, already having played two seasons with the Sabres, returned after playing the last three with the San Jose Sharks.
At the beginning of the season the Sabres announced the Buffalo Sabres Road Crew which saw appearances by the Sabres’ coaching staff, GM Darcy Regier and broadcasting crew for charity. A total of four stops were scheduled throughout the season in Tampa, Florida, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, NC and Atlanta at established Buffalo fan clubs. Many native Western New Yorkers now live in those four cities; Sabres fans have been known to have large contingents in attendance, rivaling those of the home teams, when playing in Raleigh and Tampa.
After only playing 2 games with Buffalo this season Daniel Paille was traded to the Boston Bruins on October 20, 2009 for a third-round and a conditional fourth-round draft selection. Paille’s move to Boston marked the first ever trade of a player under contract between the two division rivals in their common 39 years in the NHL.
On January 1, the Buffalo Sabres became the first team to win consecutive games when trailing by three or more goals since Dallas did it in 2005–06. Buffalo beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 in overtime. It was Buffalo’s second straight win in a game it trailed 3-0, following a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh.
On March 3, the day of the trade deadline, the Sabres made two deals. The first was with the Columbus Blue Jackets which sent themNathan Paetsch and a second-round draft pick in exchange for Raffi Torres. The Sabres’ second and final deal sent Clarke MacArthur to the Atlanta Thrashers for third and fourth-round draft picks. On March 27, the Sabres clinched their first playoff berth since 2006–07 with a 7–1 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On April 6, the Sabres clinched the Northeast Division title by defeating the New York Rangersby a score of 5–2. On April 26, the third-seed Sabres were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the sixth-seed Boston Bruins in six games.
The Pegula era: 2010–11 and beyond
2010–11: A new owner
The Sabres unveiled new sweaters on September 18 that formally readopted the classic 1970-1996 logo, with a third sweater having an alternate throwback arrangement that pays homage to the American Hockey League‘s Buffalo Bisons, complete with the team’s 40th Anniversary insignia (basically the original royal blue version of the current logo with the year “1970” inside). The roster did not have many significant changes; one of the most notable was the team’s decision to waive center Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo native, to avoid paying the award he won in arbitration. Kennedy signed with the New York Rangers, but was waived prior to the regular season. Defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman were both allowed to leave as free agents, while the team signed veterans Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn to replace them. Additionally, center Rob Niedermayer was added as a Cup-winning, veteran presence. On November 30, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported a story that billionaire Terrence Pegula had signed a letter of intent to purchase the Sabres from Golisano for US$150 million. Pegula was the founder, President and CEO of East Resources, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States before selling the company. After the report was released, Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn claimed that the report was “untrue” but had refused further comment. The $150 million was later determined to be an undervalued amount as Forbes Magazine had valued the team at just under $170 million in 2010. In December, Pegula officially expressed interest in buying the Sabres for $170 million and submitted a letter of intent to the NHL. In January, Golisano reportedly issued a counteroffer with an asking price of US$175 million. An agreement between Pegula and Golisano to sell the team was reached on January 29, 2011 with Pegula buying the team for $189 million ($175 million with $14 million in debt included) with the Sabres and Golisano officially making an announcement in a press conference on February 3, 2011. League owners approved the sale on February 18. In the conference, it was revealed that an unnamed bidder submitted a much higher bid than Pegula’s, but made the bid contingent upon moving the team. The description is consistent with that of Jim Balsillie, who has made public his efforts to move a team to Hamilton, Ontario, a move that the Sabres have actively opposed. Terry Pegula named former Pittsburgh Penguins executive Ted Black to be the team President. Pegula was introduced as the Sabres’ owner in a public ceremony at HSBC Arena on February 23, accompanied by what would be the final appearance of all three members of The French Connection before Rick Martin‘s death three weeks later.
February 28 marked the trade deadline in which the Sabres had limited action. The week before the team had attempted to trade Craig Rivet but was unsuccessful so he was waived on February 23. He cleared waivers and was assigned to the Sabres’ AHL affiliate. On February 25, Rivet entered re-entry wavers and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Late on February 27, the team acquiredBrad Boyes from the St. Louis Blues for a second-round draft pick. This was the Sabres’ sole trade of the deadline. After Pegula’s official takeover of the team, the Sabres finished the regular season 16–4–4, never losing two consecutive games in that span, and landed the #7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Pegula’s approach was credited by players, fans, and the public with bringing new energy to the team, sparking a run to the playoffs that seemed improbable only months earlier. On April 8, the Sabres clinched a playoff berth for the second consecutive season, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4–3 in overtime. The Sabres clinched the 7th seed and faced Philadelphia in the first round. The Sabres had a three games to two lead but lost the series in seven games.
The Sabres began the Season in part of the NHL Premiere series for the first time, playing games in Finland and Germany. The team was particularly well-received during a game against Adler in Mannheim, the hometown of Sabres forward Jochen Hecht; a contingent of 65 Adler fans would travel from Germany to Buffalo in February 2012 to witness a Sabres game against the Boston Bruins.
Prior to the first game Lindy Ruff named Jason Pominville the Sabres 13th full-time captain in team history. The Sabres began the season relatively strong but collapsed after a Boston Bruins game in which Bruins forward Milan Lucic hit and injured goaltender Ryan Miller; the subsequent months saw the Sabres collapse to last place in the Eastern Conference. Despite a two-month rally that began in February along with the emergence of rookie forward Marcus Foligno, the Sabres lost the last two games of the regular season and fell three points short of a playoff spot.
2012-13: End of the Lindy Ruff era[edit source | editbeta]
The 2012–13 NHL lockout eliminated the first part of the 2012-13 season and shortened that season to 48 games. The Sabres played their first regular season game on January 20, 2013 against the Philadelphia Flyers, winning 5-2. After a 6-10-1 start to the season, long-time coach Lindy Ruff was relieved of his duties by Darcy Regier on February 20, 2013, ending 16 seasons as head coach. He was replaced by Ron Rolston, first on an interim basis, then permanently after the season ended.
Due to the lockout shortened season, the trade deadline was moved to Wednesday, April 3, 2012. In the days leading up to it, the Sabres were active in trades. On Friday, March 15, 2013, the first trade that the Sabres made during the season, sent T. J. Brennan to the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round pick (originally belonging to the L.A. Kings) in the 2013 draft. On Saturday, March 30, 2013, the Sabres traded Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. On Monday, April 1, 2013, the Sabres traded Robyn Regehr to the Los Angeles Kings for two second-round draft choices (one in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and the other in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft). The final trade came on the day of the trade deadline, April 3, 2013. The Sabres sent Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett. The official announcement came after the 3 PM deadline. At that time of the official announcement, it was not clear if there were other parts of the deal as the trade was still pending league approval at the time. It was later revealed that draft picks were also involved in the deal. The Wild would receive a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft and the Sabres would receive first-round pick in the 2013 draft and a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Many saw these trades as a fire sale (a perspective popularized by a mock advertisement that portrayed the Sabres selling their players infomercial style) to rebuild the team at least for the short-term.