Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments of the decade. Here is the Buffalo Sabres decade lineup.
Buffalo Sabres Decade Team
The 2010s is a decade to forget for the Buffalo Sabres. However, it did not start that way. The Sabres finished the 2009-2010 season as the top team in the Atlantic Division with 100 points. They had a superstar goalie in Ryan Miller, who was at the height of his game after winning the MVP in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He would also win the Vezina Trophy that season. He wasn’t the lone Sabres’ award winner, rookie defenceman Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy that same year.
Unfortunately, the good times did not last. After making the playoffs again in the 2010-2011 season, they were the ninth seed the following year and missed the playoffs. In the 2012-2013 season, the Sabres missed the playoffs again and started their rebuild by trading captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild at the deadline.
From there, it has been an endless rebuild. The Sabres have picked in the top ten every year since the 2013 draft but have not gathered enough talent to make it to the playoffs. It has come to the point where fans are singing desperation songs to Sabres general manager Jason Botterill to fix the team.
However, the Sabres were not without some talent during these years. We will look at these talented players we picked for the Buffalo Sabres decade team.
Left-Wing: Tomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek was the most skilled player the Sabres had in the early part of the decade. He had filthy hands, which allowed him to maneuver his way around defencemen. He also has a good shot and good skating ability. Vanek’s six-foot-two 215 pound frame made it difficult for defenders to knock him off the puck.
His 237 points in 280 games with Buffalo during the decade has him fourth in Sabres scoring during the 2010s. He was more of a goal scorer than a playmaker. Vanek scored 110 goals and added 127 assists in the decade. The 2011-2012 season was his best; he scored 32 goals, added 41 assists for 73 points.
At the start of the 2013-2014 season, Buffalo made him the co-captain along with Steve Ott. However, Buffalo started their scorched earth rebuild the previous season, and Vanek didn’t want to be a part of it. He was traded on October 27, 2013, to the New York Islanders.
Centre: Jack Eichel
The best Sabres’ centre is (in a very Billie Ellish voice) Jack Eiiiichel…duh.
He has led the team in scoring for four out of the past five seasons and is the franchise leader in points scored in the 2010s.
Eichel elevated himself to a superstar over the past two years. He has led his team in scoring by 18 points last season and 28 points this season. Eichel is the go-to-guy for the Sabres and he faces the opposition’s best defensive players every night, and he still finds ways to score at an elite level. He scored 82 points last season and was on pace to score 93 this year.
He is the full package: he has elite speed and playmaking ability, he has a dangerous shot, a high compete level and great size at six-foot-two and 203 pounds. Eichel has by far been the best Sabre since he was drafted 2nd overall in 2015.
Right-Wing: Jason Pominville
Jason Pominville was a coach’s dream when he played for Buffalo. He was a good scorer, Pominville is second in team scoring during the decade with 277 points in 429 games. He also was a regular on the penalty kill as well, showing his versatility. The coaches chose him to be the captain in 2011.
Pominville had two stints with the Sabres during the decade. He played with them from 2010 to 2013 before being traded at the deadline. However, Minnesota traded him back to Buffalo during the 2017 off-season, where he played his final two seasons as a Sabre.
During his first stint, Pominville was a star player and scored 212 points in 274 games. He led the Sabres in scoring with 73 points in the 2011-2012 season, which was his first season as captain. When he came back, he was near the end of his career and not the player he once was, but he did have two 30 point seasons.
Right Defence: Rasmus Ristolainen
No one has played more games for Buffalo over the last decade than Ristolainen. He has played 493 games over seven seasons and leads all defencemen in scoring with 227 points. He was drafted eighth overall in the 2013 draft by Buffalo.
Ristolainen is big at six-foot-four and 215 pounds and uses his size to his advantage to play a physical defensive game. Offensively, he has scored 40 points every season since his sophomore year (he was on pace for 40 this year). He is a great skater with a hard shot and is a sneaky good puck handler. He has been Buffalo’s number one defenceman since he was 21 years old and plays a ton of minutes.
Ristolainen has played north of 20 minutes since his second season in the league and played over 25 minutes for the next three seasons. In the 2017-2018 season, he was fourth in the league in average ice time at 26:30. He has played hard minutes, usually playing against the opposition’s best players every night since he was 21. He hasn’t always had a lot of help as he has played on some terrible Sabres teams. That lends itself for him to having terrible possession numbers. But it is hard to blame him, considering he didn’t have a lot of time to develop before being thrust into the number one role.
Left Defence: Christian Ehrhoff
Christain Ehrhoff might be the most underrated player on this list, which is strange considering his contract. He signed a ridiculous 10-year 40 million dollar contract with Buffalo in 2011. Contract aside, Ehrhoff played three seasons in Buffalo and was their best defenceman during that time.
Ehrhoff led the Sabres in defensive scoring during those three seasons with 32, 22 (in 47 games) and 33 points. He was a fantastic skater and had a great shot. He also led the team in ice-time, playing on average over 23 minutes a game every season. Defensively, he was solid. He wasn’t big and brash like Ristolainen, but he was smart and could break-up plays. Ehrhoff either was first or second amongst Sabres’ defenseman in Corsi for percentage during his last two seasons.
Goalie: Ryan Miller
This selection is also in the Billie Ellish “duh” territory. Miller has played in 143 more games this decade for Buffalo than any other goalie. To put that in perspective, if another goalie played 143 games for Buffalo during the decade, they would be second on the games played list.
Miller started off the decade with the best season of his career. He was second in the NHL in save percentage with .928 and was fourth in wins with 41. Miller won the Vezina Trophy and backstopped Team USA to a silver medal at the Olympics. He continued to be great for Buffalo for the next few seasons. Even when they were missing the playoffs, Miller’s save percentage never went below .915. He was the face of the franchise before being traded to St. Louis on February 28, 2014.
Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy in 2010 and received Norris Trophy votes in his second season. His play dipped after that, but he became Buffalo’s best defenceman again after Ehrhoff was bought out. Myers played 25 minutes a night for Buffalo in 2014-2015 and was traded to Winnipeg in February of that season. He is second among Sabres’ defencemen in scoring during the decade.
There is an argument to be made that Tyler Ennis is more deserving in the left-wing spot than Vanek. Vanek is more skilled, but Ennis is only a point behind him in Buffalo’s decade scoring. He was arguably the Sabres’ best forward during their terrible 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.
On right-wing, Sam Reinhart has been Buffalo’s second-best forward for the past three seasons. He has scored 50 and 65 points during his last two years. He was on pace for 60 points this season.