(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
By Eric Schmitz, Third Man In
Canada: Gilbert Perreault
Not much of a contest here, as Perreault, the franchise's first overall pick became the franchise's signature player. Playing with Buffalo from their inception until retiring mid-way through the 1986-87 season, Gil is still the franchise's all-time leader in games played (1191), goals (512), assists (814), and points (1326). Played for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, named to nine NHL All-Star Games, won a Calder, a Lady Byng and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was alright.
Finland: Teppo Numminen
Teppo's one of the greatest Finnish hockey players of all-time. His time here was brief, and at the end of his career, and mired in controversy (getting suspended because he needed heart surgery), but the guy is a legend. 1372 NHL games played, three Olympic medals and his number is retired in Phoenix. He was a veteran presence on two of the best Sabres teams in club history in 2006 and 2007. Not much doubt about this one, even if Mika Noronen is third all-time in goals at his position.
USA: Pat LaFontaine
If any of these were a 1a/1b, it's this one. LaFontaine narrowly edges out Ryan Miller thanks to his full body of work; Miller, the franchise's all-time goaltending leader in games played and wins, still has a legacy to be written. In a few years, this may be different, but right now, it's Pat.
LaFontaine was the catalyst for many good Sabres teams in the early 90's, including most notably the one on NHL '94. His offensive flair and production were matched only by his tendency to get hurt. When he was in the lineup, he was spectacular. A member of the legendary 1996 United States team that claimed the World Cup, he's a Hall of Famer even without the benefit of health. If it wasn't for that prick Francois Leroux, he may have been the guy that put those late 90's Sabres teams over the top.
Sweden: Calle Johansson
Interesting that the franchise has so few Swedes that never-more-than-a-backup Jhonas Enroth is probably the third best Swedish player to wear a Sabres jersey. The honor goes to Johansson, who after being drafted by Buffalo in 1985, made the All-Rookie team his first year with the Sabres and was dealt the following season. He went on to be the Washington Capitals' all-time games played leader and finished his career in Toronto after 1109 NHL games. Based on performance as Sabre, this could've been Henrik Tallinder, but Johansson had the better overall career and didn't break his arm as much.
Russia: Alexander Mogilny
Most electrifying player to ever wear the colors. Scored 76 goals in 77 games in 1992-93. Let me reiterate that he scored 76 (!!!) goals in one (1) season. He went on to have a great career after getting dealt to Vancouver, and is one of the better Russians to ever play in the NHL, amassing 1032 points in 990 games. The team recently inducted him into the Sabres Hall of Fame.
Slovakia: Miroslav Satan
In an era of the franchise's history when offense was an issue, Miro Satan was the offense. While derided by many local fans and media for being, let's say "enigmatic" (see: European, ergo lazy), he was an elite goal scorer on a Sabres team that didn't have any others, much less guys who could get him the puck. His career high 40 goals came in 1998-99 as the Sabres made their first Cup final run in almost a quarter century. Miro won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and is only one of four Slovaks to play 1,000 NHL games.
Czech Republic: Dominik Hasek
Arguably the greatest player in franchise history and one of the best goaltenders in the history of the game. Six Vezinas, two Hart trophies, two Jennings trophies, two Ted Lindsay/Lester B. Pearson/whatever-they-call-it awards, six 1st Team All-Star nods and six straight seasons of leading the league in save percentage... in less than a decade with the team. Acquired for Stephane Beauregard and a draft pick, the man single-handedly carried mediocre teams through the playoffs, including two straight conference finals trips with one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Yeah, he eventually won two Stanley Cups in Detroit, escaping the Sabres franchise before it fell into bankruptcy, but his work here was unparalleled.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Austria: Thomas Vanek
Surely, there's some dweeb out there thinking this should totally be Taro Tsujimoto because that'd be hysterical, but that's played out by now. Of course, that same person probably owns a Sabres jersey with "Jeanneret" on the back, but to each their own. This one was fairly easy.
If it wasn't for the fact the team is a dumpster fire right now as Austrian-born Vanek faces one more season until hitting unrestricted free agency, he'd be getting re-signed and finding himself as one of the franchise's greats when all is said and done, but for now, he's the best of the rest. In eight seasons as a Sabre since being the franchise's only Top 5 pick since Pierre Turgeon, he's scored at least 20 every year (even this recent lockout-shortened campaign), registering 40 twice. His 250 career goals are 6th on the Sabres all-time list. He's still got plenty of years ahead of him, and if they aren't in Buffalo, it'll be a shame.
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