Best Of The Rest: Buffalo Sabres – Phil Housley
Welcome to LWOS’ Summer Hockey Series, Best of the Rest. Plenty of sites do a version of a 30 greats in 30 days series, but this year we are doing something a little bit different. We want to look at the best player from each team who is not in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. In order to do this there are some rules. First the player must have been a significant part of this franchise (franchises include their time in a previous city… see Winnipeg/Atlanta) and must be retired for at least 3 years, making them Hall of Fame eligible. To see all the articles in the series, check out the homepage here.
Today, the Buffalo Sabres are highlighted with their best of the rest, Phil Housley.
Taken 6th overall in the NHL Entry Draft of 1982, the Sabres hoped that Housley would help continue to guide the Sabres in their new direction as a star defenseman. Along with stars of the era such as Gilbert Perreault, Tony McKegney, Mike Foligno and a 19-year old Dave Andreychuk, he did just that. While Perreault is already in the Hall of Fame, and Andreychuk is looking to get inducted soon, Housley remains one of the finest from Buffalo still waiting to be inducted.
Best of the Rest: Phil Housley
In Housley’s rookie season 1982-83, he showed flashes of his offensive brilliance, as he compiled 66 points in 77 games as an 18-year old defenseman from Saint Paul. This season would foreshadow the next seven in Buffalo, as he would average about 70 points a season during his tenure with the Sabres. Talk about consistent. His steadiness would carry over into the playoffs as well, as he averaged at or close to a point per game.
The Sabres traditionally never made it too far and suffered tough exits several times, but could always count on Housley to make an impact at the blueline in their quests for Lord Stanley. Housley finished his career with 1,232 points (558 of which were in Buffalo, a Sabres record for points by a defenseman), an American-born player record until Mike Modano came along. Housley also held the record for games played by an American with 1,495 for seven years until Chris Chelios made his age-old mark in the NHL. He still has yet to make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Housley was a 7 time all-star (in three different decades, no less) and was named to the NHL’s second all-star team in 1992, the same season he finished second runner-up in Norris trophy voting. Despite never winning a Stanley Cup, Housley was a member of the American team that won the World Cup in 1996 and was an assistant captain with Team USA when they won the silver medal at the Olympics in 2002.
Sure it was a different game back in the 80’s and 90’s in the National Hockey League, but 1200+ points (not to mention 11 straight seasons of 15+ goals and 60+ points to begin his career) as a defenseman in this league in any era is unbelievably impressive. His pedigree fits the credentials of a sure Hall of Fame caliber player, and the numbers speak for themselves. He bounced around a number of teams and carried his influence to each city he played for, but if Housley ever makes it to the Hall, should be as a Buffalo Sabre.
He’s been eligible since 2007 and fellow countryman Mike Modano just received the honor of getting in this past ballot. For next year’s ballot, Housley faces some tough competition with the likes of newcomers Sergei Fedorov, and Nicklas Lidstrom, but this writer believes that Housley should be enshrined and receive his long-awaited dues. When it comes to the Buffalo Sabres, Housley definitely defines the best of the rest.
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Details and history of Housley and the Buffalo Sabres courtesy of Hockey Database and Hockey Reference.