Eric Staal’s tenure with the Sabres will be largely forgettable. Traded after 32 games, three goals and 10 points, there will be few people who ever connect Staal to the Sabres.
He’s hardly the first notable player to have a cameo with the Sabres and hardly the first to have a rather minimal impact. He certainly won’t be the last (paging Taylor Hall). The list of notables whose Sabres tenure is barely a blip in relation to the rest of their career is pretty impressive. There’s a healthy mix of late stage trade or free agent acquisitions with early departures.
I don’t know how Buffalo’s list compares to other teams around the league given that these scenarios are pretty commonplace. It’s not hard to come up with a handful of examples of notable stars having a cup of coffee with a team at the end of their career. Remember Dallas Star Eric Lindros? Calgary Flame Curtis Joseph? How about legendary Toronto Maple Leaf (or Boston Bruin) Brian Leetch.
Staal is the latest Sabre to get added to this rather ignominious list and he probably won’t even be the last one this season. Acquiring Staal was a shrewd move by Kevyn Adams. It’s unfortunate that the deal didn’t work out as Staal represented a quality upgrade at center behind Jack Eichel. The results didn’t follow and now we can catalog where Staal falls among others whose Sabres career isn’t the easiest to recall.
Staal’s 32 games falls right in the middle of this group of trade and free agent acquisitions who simply didn’t give the Sabres much bang for their buck.
Mark Parrish – 2 GP, 0 points
In the 720 games Parrish has played before signing a PTO with the Sabres in 2010, he’d hit 20 goals six times and had the honor of being part of wacky Mike Milbury trade. Parrish was a quality contributor for the organization in Portland, where he posted 51 points (17+34) in 56 games for the Pirates. But for a player whose career prior to the 2004-05 lockout was notable. That he wound up playing two random games (his final two NHL games no less) for the Sabres is an interesting factoid.
Joe Juneau – 9 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist
The more important stat as it pertains to Juneau are the 11 points (3+8) he scored in the 1998-99 playoffs. While his regular season impact was minimal and brief, he made his mark during Buffalo’s run to the Cup Final. You may remember him best as a Washington Capital and given the status the 99 team holds in the collective hearts of the fanbase, he’s not as easily forgettable as others on this list.
Wayne Simmonds – 9 GP, 1 assist
A favorite player of mine for a long time, the Sabres acquired Simmonds past his prime and in the midst of a season that was slipping away. The Sabres and Jason Botterill were inexplicably renting Simmonds at the 2020 trade deadline and the team lost six-straight after the deadline. Simmonds was already going to be a short term acquisition whose stay in Buffalo was shortened by last year’s COVID postponement. If it wasn’t for Hockey Reference those nine games would be easily forgotten after all those seasons in Philly.
Raffi Torres – 14 GP, five assists
A deadline acquisition who didn’t work out for the Sabres. Although I suppose we should take some solace in the fact that he avoided any lengthy suspensions during his stay in Buffalo. Torres had 19 goals for the Blue Jackets before arriving in Buffalo but never caught on under Lindy Ruff. He’d play four more seasons before eventually retiring.
Patrik Berglund – 23 GP, two goals, two assists
I don’t think there’s too much to review with this one. Berglund, acquired as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, barely made it to December before opting to end his NHL career as opposed to finishing his time with the Sabres. It was the first domino to fall as the Blues sparked their turnaround a few weeks later and by the end of 2019 Ryan O’Reilly was the Conn Smythe winner and a Stanley Cup champion.
Taylor Hall – 34 GP, two goals, 16 assists
Hall is the only active Sabre on this list as I anticipate his eventual departure by the 2021 trade deadline. A splash free agent signing, Hall was going to be a huge piece of the puzzle for the Sabres as they attempted to take the next step. Terry Pegula notably attributed the signing as an indication that the team would be competing for the Stanley Cup. It hasn’t gone according to plan as Hall has suffered through career-worst finishing and the team has been unbearable to watch since their COVID outbreak. Hall’s play hasn’t been all bad, as his play driving metrics have shown promise at certain points and a lot of his struggles can be tied to a career 10% shooter finishing at a 2.5% rate instead. Either way, he’s on his way out at the deadline and I can’t think of many fans who will think back on his tenure fondly.
Slava Kozlov – 38 GP, nine goals, 13 points
The key piece in the Dominik Hasek trade, Kozlov never adjusted to Buffalo and probably never wanted to come in the first place. A member of Detroit’s Russian Five, Kozlov was a consistent producer for the Wings and offered the Sabres some offensive punch in exchange for their franchise great. Instead, Kozlov missed a huge chunk of time after getting cut by a skate and generally loathed playing in Buffalo after 10 years in Detroit. Rubbing salt in the wound, Kozlov enjoyed four 20-goal seasons and registered 80 points as a 34-year old in 2006-07 while playing with the Thrashers.
Dave Schultz – 41 GP, three goals, three assists
“The Hammer” came through Buffalo for the final two years of his career and only found his way into 41 total games. He wasn’t quite the same imposing force that carried him to legendary status in Philadelphia and it’s easy to forget about his brief stay in the Queen City.
Jean-Guy Talbot – 57 GP, 7 assists
Talbot’s career spans 20 years across three decades. He debuted in 1954-55 with the Canadiens and would go on to win seven Stanley Cups. He was name a first-team All Star in 1962, a year he garnered Norris Trophy votes with the Habs. His time in Buffalo covered just one season, the team’s inaugural 1970-71 campaign where a 38-year old Talbot helped round out the roster for the expansion Sabres.
Dick Duff – 61 GP (2 yrs) – 61 games, 9 goals, 15 assists
Another three-decade, Original Six member. Hall of Famer Dick Duff served as part of the original Sabres roster, playing his 61 games between the 70-71 and 71-72 seasons. The 61 games helped put him over the 1,000 games played mark for his career which included 10 seasons in Toronto and six in Montreal.
Doug Gilmour – 82 GP, 10 goals, 45 points
The last few years of Gilmour’s illustrious career were dotted with odd destinations as he bounced between New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo and Montreal before his retirement in 2003 after a one-game swan song with Toronto. Gilmour wearing a Habs jersey is probably more off putting to Leafs fans than his brief stay in Buffalo. Gilmour’s stay in Buffalo was short and it wasn’t much of a secret that he didn’t enjoy the region during his time here (that’s becoming a bit of a pattern). Most of us remember his lacking backcheck on Darius Kasparaitis game seven winner in 2001 and although his time in Buffalo may not be memorable, JP Dumont came along in the trade with him and he created plenty of memories.
Clark Gillies – 86 GP, 15 goals, 19 assists
Four-straight Stanley Cup championships and a two-time First-Team All Star selection, Clark Gillies was a cornerstone of the Islanders dynasty and played 872 of his 958 career games with the Isles. He came to Buffalo for two abbreviated seasons starting in 1986 and didn’t have quite the same magic he did when he posted 30-plus goals in six of seven seasons between 1975 and 1982.
You can get pretty granular with this as some names I left off but could still qualify include Keith Carney, Bill Houlder and Calle Johansson. Wilf Paiement and Phil Goyette were two others who had lengthy NHL careers with quick stops in Buffalo but ultimately that handful of players were as notable before (or after) Buffalo as others I opeted to include.
We’ll see Taylor Hall officially added to this list within the next two weeks and I’m sure we’ll have a few more additions over the coming seasons.