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Hockey

Buffalo Sabres

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 5

By Michael Farber

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Miroslav Satan
Jason Woolley
Miroslav Satan
Darryl Shannon
Miroslav Satan
Miroslav Satan
Alexei Zhitnik
Stu Barnes
Jay McKee
Miroslav Satan
Miroslav Satan
40
33
66
+28
208
20.8
25.6
51.8
204
21
3
Sports Illustrated Dominik Hasek has turned the Sabres' season into one long farewell tour with his lollapalooza of an announcement on July 30 in Prague that he is retiring after 1999-2000. In a misguided attempt to deflect attention from himself -- the goaltender cited media pressure as one reason he will leave the game -- Hasek has been guaranteed a year in the spotlight with his valedictory. The Sabres had better have plenty of roadies with them this season to help carry the load: Besides the haunting baggage of Brett Hull's controversial Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6, they must lug around the daunting knowledge that the Dominator's last dance might be their own last chance.

Sabres captain Michael Peca says he will put one of the most memorable goals in history out of his short-term memory while also never forgetting it; like his remarkable game, Peca is playing it both ways. The ability of coach Lindy Ruff, who signed a three-year extension last month, to make this slick-skating, gritty club look neither back to the 1999 finals nor forward to Hasek's departure will determine whether Buffalo mounts a Cup challenge or falls from grace like the last three Eastern finalists (Florida, Philadelphia, Washington), who either failed to win a playoff series or even reach the postseason the next spring. "I think we can get some good use out of [Hasek's impending retirement]," Ruff says. "Five years ago he had to dominate for us to win. Clearly that's not the case anymore. But it would be nice to give something back to him."

Hasek, who had surgery in mid-August for a slight hernia near his groin that plagued him last season, found a get-well present when he reported to camp: right wing Maxim Afinogenov. The best player in the last world junior tournament, Afinogenov looks like a cross between a young Pavel Bure (speed, explosiveness, size) and Wayne Gretzky (only one side of his sweater is tucked in). "You're afraid of blowing things out of proportion, but he's a carbon copy of a young Pavel," says Peca, once a teammate of Bure's in Vancouver. "The explosive power, the confidence. There are some teams afraid of rushing kids, but he's very mature about how he handles things on and off the ice." Afinogenov can help remedy two Buffalo deficiencies: a power play overly dependent on point men Alexei Zhitnik and Jason Woolley and a lack of scoring off the wing.

But if the Sabres are determined to take the next step, general manager Darcy Regier should look for a big No. 1 center to take pressure off the overworked Peca, and the time to start looking is now. After all, Hasek gave more than the customary two weeks notice.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • The Dominator. When the first guy onto the ice has won five of the last six Vezinas, it lessens the importance of who follows him out.
  • Coach Lindy Ruff earned a three-year extension (keeping him around through '02-03) by his abilities to get the most out of his players. And he will.
  • The top four scorers from last season -- Miroslav Satan, Michael Peca, Michal Grosek and Curtis Brown -- all were 25 or younger. Other baby boomers include Erik Rasmussen (22) and Wayne Primeau (23).
  •  
  • Let's just suppose Hasek has some more groin problems. Is 1995 first-round pick Martin Biron ready to step in? And will the team play as well in front of him?
  • Payroll issues. Vaclav Varada, Jay McKee, Curtis Brown, Rhett Warrener and Miroslav Satan were unsigned well into camp.
  • The top five defensive positions are solid, but can veterans James Patrick and Doug Houda hold off kids Cory Sarich and Jean-Luc Grand Pierre for the sixth and seventh spots?
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Darcy Regier
    Coach: Lindy Ruff; 3rd year (73-57-34); 3rd overall
    Assistants: Don Lever; Mike Ramsey
    Captain: Mike Peca
    Last year: 37-28-17 (9th overall)
    Playoffs: Def. Ottawa 4-0; def. Boston 4-2; def. Toronto 4-2; lost to Dallas 4-2 in Stanley Cup finals
    PP: 21st (13.5%)
    PK: 7th (86.2%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Opening night at Detroit.
    Fri., Oct. 8: Home opener vs. Washington.
    Wed., Nov. 3: At Dallas for only finals rematch of regular season.

    Notable Number
    18-25-22-40: Miroslav Satan's goal production in his first four seasons.

    Quoteworthy
    "I want to stay in the NHL and I want to learn by watching the best in the world ... We're always talking about being in the shooting lane and reading the play. Dom is reading the play before it's being made, he's beating that pass before it's even going across ... If he gets out of position, he battles to the end to make that save. People are always saying, `How'd he make that save?' and it's because he battles until the very end, he never gives up. He has this great ability of reading the game but it's not because he was born with it, it's because he worked hard at it." -- understudy Martin Biron on Hasek



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