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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.

If you came here expecting an ode to Dominik Hasek, turn back now. Sure, it's always sad when a megastar leaves. And Hasek gave Buffalo six Vezina Trophies, an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals and the most national pub since O.J. But the pain of his departure was softened by his constant retirement talk and a public persona that made a paper doll seem like the life of the party.

So the Dominator is MIA from our selections for the biggest heartbreakers in Sabres history: the trade of Danny Gare, the drafting of Ric Seiling over Mike Bossy and Shawn Anderson over Brian Leetch, the wasted first-round pick on Jiri Dudacek, the sale of Ray Sheppard, the trade for Real Cloutier and the deal that brought Grant Fuhr's gut to the land of hot wings.

 

December 2,
1981 
Sabres trade RW Danny Gare, D Jim Schoenfeld and F Derek Smith to Detroit for C Dale McCourt, RW Mike Foligno and C Brent Peterson
 

Fans have historically not reacted well when a captain gets traded ... much less when the captain and former captain go in the same deal. This one makes everybody's list in Buffalo.

  Let's Make A Deal: A Look At
The Biggest Trades In Buffalo Sports History

The Buffalo News -- April 7, 1997
By Bob Dicesare

It was early December of 1981 and the swirling trade rumors seemed out of whack. Why would the Sabres' general manager and coach, Scotty Bowman, want to shake up his roster? Hadn't the Sabres won two straight Adams Division titles? Wasn't a 12-5-7 record through the month of November up to snuff?

It happened nonetheless. On Dec. 2, 1981, Bowman sent captain Danny Gare, former captain Jim Schoenfeld plus Derek Smith to the Detroit Red Wings for Dale McCourt, Mike Foligno and Brent Peterson. Perhaps no other trade in Buffalo sports history packed more of an emotional charge.

Gare and Schoenfeld broke into the league as Sabres, played on the '74-75 team that reached the Stanley Cup finals and to this day would be considered among the more popular players in team history.

"I have nothing good to say about that man," Schoenfeld said of Bowman at the time. "And that's not because I was traded."

"I thought the organization had a little more class than this," said Gare. "It doesn't seem as though loyalty means anything to the Sabres."

However, the deal had no visible effect on Buffalo's fortunes over the next few seasons. 


 

June 1977
Sabres pick F Ric Seiling at No. 14 overall
June 1986 Sabres pick D Shawn Anderson at No. 5 overall
 

  Mike Bossy  
New York, New York: Mike Bossy (above) and Brian Leetch could have both been Sabres.
Stephen Babineau/Allsport

 
Brian Leetch
How to best describe the relationship between New York City and Upstate New York? Hmmm. Well, let's put it this way: There were more than few people on either side of Albany who didn't think that Berlin Wall thing was all that bad of a concept. The Upstaters resent the way state funds always seem to trickle south down the Hudson, while the Downstaters really resent the way quiet dairy towns lower the state's murder-per-capita ratios.

But seriously, folks. Politics isn't the only arena where Buffalo feels neglected within its own state. Scott Norwood's field goal didn't just lose the Super Bowl, it lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants ... who don't even play in New York.

So imagine the Sabres' chagrin when they selected forward Ric Seiling at No. 14 in the 1977 draft, then watched the lowly New York Islanders take Mike Bossy at No. 15. Seiling had a decent NHL career, but Bossy became one of the most prolific scorers of all time. They played virtually the same number of games (Bossy 752, Seiling 738), but Bossy outscored Seiling 573-179.

To add insult to injury, the second round proved no better for Buffalo, which took center Ron Areshenkoff at No. 32 ... right in front of the Islanders' choice of John Tonelli, who would play a few more games (1,028 to four) and score a few more goals (325 to 0) than Areshenkoff.

Ten years later, Buffalo would get trumped in the first round by the Rangers. After the Sabres took defenseman Shawn Anderson at No. 5, the Rangers also took a blueliner at No. 9 ... Brian Leetch.

Anderson played 255 quiet games in the NHL, while Leetch developed into one of the finest offensive defensemen in history, winning a Norris Trophy, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe along the way. Oh, yeah, Leetch is still in the league, too. Some skeptics believe that Sabres coach Scotty Bowman didn't know Anderson had a pretty bad asthma condition when he drafted him.

  With Perfect Hindsight,
Imagine The Team If They Had Drafted ...

The Buffalo News -- June 24, 1998
By Budd Bailey

The National Hockey League Entry Draft is a second-guesser's delight. For years fans have looked back at the list of picks from previous drafts, and speculated on what might have happened if their favorite team had taken a different player.

It's no different in Buffalo, where the Sabres have had their share of bull's-eyes and busts with their draft picks since entering the NHL in 1970. The greatest "what if?" in Buffalo history came in 1977, when the Sabres drafted Ric Seiling instead of Hall of Famer Mike Bossy. Seiling was never completely forgiven for not being Bossy, even if he was a solid NHL player for 10 years. ...

... Then-general manager Punch Imlach said at the time that his team didn't need a scorer such as Bossy. In hindsight, Bossy and his 573 goals might have been able to fit in somewhere. 


 

June
1981
Sabres pick F Jiri Dudacek at No. 17 overall
 

Long before he coached Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh or Sergi Fedorov in Detroit, Scotty Bowman always was into the foreign thing. Maybe to a fault.

In 1981, the Sabres used their first-round selection on talented winger Jiri Dudacek of Czechoslovakia. Nobody doubted Dudacek's abilities, but then again nobody ever believed he would come stateside ... nobody, apparently, but Bowman.

Foregoing the usual clandestine operatives to sneak Dudacek out of the country, Bowman tried to negotiate with Czech officials. But Dudacek, whose father just happened to be a high-ranking member of the Communist Party, was deemed too young to be allowed to leave. Apparently, he never aged ... until he was too old to be an effective NHLer.

If it's any consolation to Sabres fans, the pickings were slim in that draft anyway, with Chris Chelios, John Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Vernon about the only gems unearthed after the selection of Dudacek.

  NHL Teams Go Underground to Get Czechs
The Washington Post -- July 27, 1986
By Bill Brubaker and Robert Fachet

The Buffalo Sabres' attempts to sign Dudacek, a promising young center whom they selected in the first round of the 1981 entry draft, underlines the frustrations ncountered by NHL clubs in negotiating for Czech players through official channels.

Since his team's owners insisted that no foreign players be signed until they were released by their federations, Buffalo General Manager Scotty Bowman attempted to obtain Dudacek's services legally. "I went to the Czech hockey people and had a sensible deal," Bowman recalled. "We had even worked out the details with Dudacek's team in Kladno. But at the last minute, they told us the minister of sport had to disallow the release because Dudacek was too young to permit him to leave."

Today, five years later, Dudacek is no longer playing well enough to be on a first division team, much less the Czech national team, but he is still unavailable to the Sabres. "There is no possible way you can get releases," Bowman said. "As far as going through channels, I've been through every channel." 


 

June 6,
1983
Sabres trade LW Tony McKegney, C Andre Savard, C J.F. Sauve and a 3rd-round pick (Iiro Jarvi) to Quebec for RW Real Cloutier and a 1st-round pick (Adam Creighton)
 

Real Cloutier was a star in the WHA, scoring 60, 66, 56 and 75 goals for Quebec in the league's last four years. He continued to be a threat in the NHL, scoring between 15 and 42 goals in his first four seasons.

Buffalo hoped to cash in on some of those WHA points, sending a boatload of talent to Quebec for Cloutier, who unfortunately was taking a turn for the worse. His drinking and postgame habits became too much for him and the team to handle and he was out of the league in two years after only 81 games with Buffalo.

Those three ex-Sabres, meanwhile, helped knock their old teammates out of the playoffs in 1984.



 

July 9,
1990
Sabres trade RW Ray Sheppard to the
N.Y. Rangers for future cash considerations
 

General manager Gerry Meehan liked Ray Sheppard's production on the ice, but wasn't crazy about his work habits. He especially didn't think Sheppard was a great role model for young Alexander Mogilny, who was coming into his own.

Meehan just wanted to get rid of Sheppard, who first had to rehab an ankle injury for most of the 1989-90 season. He found a buyer in the Rangers, who coughed up $1 -- that's not a typo -- and got 24 goals out of Sheppard the next season. Sheppard bounced around plenty after that, but still was productive, including a 52-goal season in Detroit in 1993-94.

In all, after the trade, Sheppard had six seasons of at least 29 goals. There's no official record of where that dollar bill ended up.

 

February 2,
1993
Sabres trade LW Dave Andreychuk, G Daren Puppa and a 1st-round pick
(D Kenny Jonsson) to Toronto
for G Grant Fuhr and a 5th-round pick (Kevin Popp)
 

Forget the fact that Buffalo already had Dominik Hasek on the roster when it made this deal, because nobody knew what Hasek would become.

  Grant Fuhr Grant Fuhr won't go into the Hall of Fame in a Sabres sweater. Harry Scull/Allsport
Of course, everybody already knew what Grant Fuhr was on his way to becoming. Overweight. Lazy. And largely expendable. So how could the Sabres possibly justify trading Andreychuk, whom they had drafted 16th overall in 1982 and nurtured into one of the best garbageman goal-scorers in the league? He had never scored fewer than 25 goals in any of his nine full seasons in Buffalo and in fact had 40, 36 and 41 in the three previous seasons. He scored 29 when he was traded and pumped in 25 more in 29 games with Toronto.

Fuhr played all of 64 games over parts of three injury-plagued seasons with Buffalo, before the Sabres fleeced L.A. for Alexei Zhitnik in 1995. Fuhr did resurrect his Hall of Fame career in St. Louis, but his time in Buffalo was largely forgettable, save for one postseason series win.

  Is Fuhr Still Fabulous After All These Years?
The Buffalo News -- October 5, 1993
By Jim Kelley

In Toronto, hockey people would argue that Fuhr had passed his prime even before he was dealt to Buffalo for Dave Andreychuk, Daren Puppa and Buffalo's first pick in the 1993 entry draft. They say he let in too many easy goals and that he didn't have the concentration he once had. They also say injuries had not just slowed him down, but had robbed him of his greatest asset, his athleticism.

One writer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch hockey columnist Jeff Gordon, went so far as to write that Fuhr was nothing more than a broken-down, over-the-hill has-been, and said the deal was a steal for Toronto, one of the all-time rip-offs in NHL history.

That's a minority opinion.

No doubt Fuhr at 31 is different than Fuhr at 27 years old. There are a lot of hockey-inflicted dents on the body that once was the defensive anchor for four Stanley Cup championships in Edmonton. There are some pretty big nicks from life as well.

"Sure he comes with some baggage," says Bob Sauve, a former Sabres goalie who is now a goaltending consultant as well as a commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in Montreal. "You can't ignore the fact he's had some time away from the game (injuries with Toronto and a lengthy suspension for admitted substance abuse in his next-to-last season with the Oilers).

"You can't ignore life just like you can't ignore injuries. Everything takes a toll over time, but he's still a great goaltender. I think everyone still believes that."  

 


 
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