15-Year Anniversary of the Worst Day in Buffalo Sabres History
There are Buffalo Sabres fans who have just turned 21 years old, who have faint memories (if any memories at all) of the Sabres going deep with playoff runs.
Yes, the Sabres 11-year postseason drought is quickly approaching the madness that was the Buffalo Bills 17-year playoff drought.
To be honest, other than the 2009-2010 season, the one where Ryan Miller was a man possessed with his Vezina Trophy season and almost stealing the Olympic gold medal for team USA, the Sabres have not been a good team since 2006-2007.
The Sabres were the talk of the NHL between 2005 and 2007. General manager Darcy Regier took a gamble that the 2004-2005 lockout would in fact, change the league for the better in terms of offense and allow the young and speedy Sabres team a chance to be a dominant team.
After having a roller coaster first half of the 2005-2006 season, Buffalo caught lightning in a bottle by February of 2006 and became arguably the best team in hockey. They lost in a heartbreaking fashion in game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Final to the Carolina Hurricanes, but their run was not over.
They ended up winning the President's Trophy (most points in the NHL) in 2006-2007 and were the highest-scoring team in the league.
Led by the likes of Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Jochen Hecht, Brian Campbell, Jaroslav Spacek and Maxim Afinogenov, the Sabres seemed destined to win the cup in 07. Oh yes, Ryan Miller in net as well.
Unfortunately, fans saw kinks in the armor in their defensive play and when the scoring went stagnant, so did the playoff run; losing to the Ottawa Senators in five games in the 2007 Eastern Conference Final.
Despite all of that heartache, and the fact many of us witnessed "No Goal" in 1999, the worst day in Sabres history might not be a game at all...it's an off-season event.
July 1st, 2007 has gone down as a nightmare day for any Sabres fan. It's the day that the team lost both co-captains, Chris Drury and Danny Briere in free agency.
In fact, both Briere and Drury were lost just hours apart. The start of free agency was noon, ET, and Briere signed with the Philadelphia Flyers by roughly 2 pm that day and Drury signed with the New York Rangers less than two hours later.
As The Hockey Writers pointed out, the Sabres brass (Regier and Larry Quinn) had honed in signing Drury over Briere. Many Sabres fans know this. It had been a forgone conclusion that the Sabres chose to re-sign Drury over Briere after the 2005-2006 season.
Many talk about the fact Drury potentially stopped contract talks during the 2006-2007 season, and by the time the season was through, Drury waited the four or five weeks for free agency. The Sabres offered the same contract the Rangers gave him, but Drury grew up a Rangers fan and went with his childhood team.
Buffalo choosing Drury was reasonable. He was the leader of that team. He brought enough skill to play on the top line and would have been a great captain for the young players. Briere was more skilled, but given Drury's other traits, Darcy, Quinn and owner Tom Golisano made the decision to try and sign Drury.
Briere loved Buffalo, however, and wanted to stay. He got better money and term signing with the Flyers, so you cannot blame him leaving. You can't really blame Drury either.
Sabres fans put the blame on the Sabres, more specifically, Regier, Quinn and Golisano. Maybe they could have had both if they signed both to extensions a year or more prior. Instead, they lost both.
To add more salt to the wound, the Edmonton Oilers decided to offer sheet Thomas Vanek to a 7-year, $49 million contract. The Sabres matched the deal, one because they needed to keep their top goal scorer, secondly because it would have been an unthinkable PR nightmare if they found a way to lose Drury, Briere and Vanek -- all within a week span.
Buffalo could have gotten four first round picks from Edmonton if they hadn't matched.
The Sabres barely missed the playoffs in 2008 and 2009. They would have made it had at least one of Drury or Briere had stayed. They won the division in 2010 but was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins. They lost in seven games to the Flyers in 2011 (Ville Leino's game 6 goal on Easter Sunday), and yeah, they have not seen any success since.
The Sabres organization never recovered from July 1st, 2007. Vanek, Roy and Pominville put up production, but they were not up to the task to carry a team on their back after Drury and Briere left.
Sure, "No Goal" and game 7 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Final were terrible, awful days for Sabres fans. But the team was still a contender after both of those season-ending games/plays. Drury and Briere leaving set the franchise back and to be honest, the Sabres have never fully recovered.