The Sabres, along with the Vancouver Canucks, joined the NHL in the 1970–71 season. Their first owners were Seymour Knox III and Northrup Knox, scions of a family long prominent in Western New York. Buffalo had long been a hotbed for hockey. The Buffalo Bisons had been one of the pillars of the American Hockey League (AHL), winning the Calder Cup in their final season.
Wanting a different name other than "bison" that was so common among Buffalo sports teams, the Knoxes immediately commissioned a name-the-team contest. The winning choice, "Sabres", was chosen because Seymour Knox felt a sabre was a weapon carried by a leader. He also noted that a sabre is swift and strong on offense as well as defense. The Knoxes had tried twice before to get an NHL team, first when the NHL expanded in 1967, and then unsuccessfully attempting to buy the Oakland Seals with the intent of moving them to Buffalo. At the time of their creation, the Sabres exercised their option to create their own AHL farm team, the Cincinnati Swords.
See main article: The French Connection (hockey). The Sabres, playing their first of many seasons at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, got off to a good start before they even hit the ice when they, despite being disputed by the Vancouver Canucks, and by spinning a roulette wheel, won the NHL draft lottery, and picked future Hockey Hall of Fame center Gilbert Perreault first overall in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft. Perreault was available to the Sabres, as this was the first year that the Montreal Canadiens did not have a priority right to draft Québécois junior players. Perreault scored 38 goals in his rookie season of 1970–71, at the time a record for most goals scored by a rookie in the NHL, and was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year. Despite Perreault's star play, the Sabres did not make the playoffs.
In the team's second season, 1971–72, rookie Rick Martin, drafted fifth overall by Buffalo in 1971, and Rene Robert, acquired in a late-season trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, joined Perreault and would become one of the league's top forward lines in the 1970s. Martin broke Perreault's record at once with 44 rookie goals. They were nicknamed "The French Connection" after the movie of the same name and in homage to their French-Canadian roots. The Sabres made the playoffs for the first time in 1972–73, just the team's third year in the league, but lost in the quarterfinals in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens. Game 6 at the Aud ended with the fans serenading their team in a chant of "Thank you Sabres! Thank you Sabres!", a moment many consider to be the greatest in team history.
After a subpar year in 1974 that saw them miss the playoffs, the Sabres finished in a tie for the best record in the NHL in the 1974–75 regular season. Buffalo would advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in team history to play against the rough Philadelphia Flyers (who had been recently nicknamed the "Broad Street Bullies"), a series which included the legendary Fog Game (game three of the series). Due to unusual heat in Buffalo in May 1975, portions of the game were played in heavy fog. Players, officials, and the puck were invisible to many spectators. During a face-off and through the fog, Sabres center Jim Lorentz spotted a bat flying across the rink, raised his stick, and killed it. Many superstitious Buffalo fans considered this to be an "Evil Omen", pertaining to the result of the series. It was the only time that any player killed an animal during an NHL game. The Sabres won that game thanks to Rene Robert's goal in overtime. However, Philadelphia would wind up taking the Cup Final to six games, winning the series 4 games to 2.
The French Connection, joined by 50–goal scorer Danny Gare, continued to score prolifically for the Sabres in 1975–76, but the team lost in the quarterfinals to the New York Islanders. The Sabres continued to coast through the late 1970s behind the French Connection of Perreault, Martin, Robert and Gare, but they were unable to return to the Final despite a regular season Conference championship in 1980 and being the first team to beat the Soviet Olympic team when they toured the United States.
The 1995–96 season was the first season under coach Ted Nolan and the last for the Sabres at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, or the Aud. Nolan brought an exciting brand of hockey to Buffalo. During his coaching tenure, his Sabres were referred to as the "hardest-working team in hockey". Even though the Sabres failed to have success in the win column and played before an average of only a little over 13,000 fans, fourth-fewest in the history of the team at the Aud, the fans had a special love affair with the team. Brad May, Rob Ray and Matthew Barnaby became the 1990s version of the characters from the movie Slap Shot, "The Hanson Brothers." This season also featured the debut of "walk-on" veteran player Randy Burridge. After attending training camp on a try-out basis, Burridge earned a spot on the roster. He scored 25 goals that season and was second in team scoring to Pat LaFontaine. Burridge also earned the Tim Horton Award for being the unsung hero and was voted team Most Valuable Player.
Nolan and the Sabres rebounded in 96–97, their first at Marine Midland Arena, by winning the Northeast Division (their first division title in sixteen years), with Nolan winning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach, Dominik Hasek winning both the Hart and Vezina Trophies (the first goaltender to do so since Montreal's Jacques Plante in 1962), Michael Peca taking home the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL, and general manager John Muckler honored as Executive of the Year.
However, the regular season success was all overshadowed by what had taken place during the playoffs. Tensions between Nolan and Hasek had been high for most of the season, however, after being scored upon in game three of the first-round against the Ottawa Senators, Hasek left the game, forcing backup Steve Shields to step in. Hasek claimed he felt his knee pop, and the team doctor pronounced him day-to-day. Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley wrote a column that night for the next day's newspaper that detailed the day's events, which irked Hasek. After the Senators won game five, Hasek came out of the Sabres' training room and physically attacked Kelley, tearing his shirt. Despite issuing an apology, things went downhill afterwards. Shields starred as the Sabres rallied to win the series against Ottawa. But before the next series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the NHL announced that Hasek had been suspended for three games - with the Sabres informing the league that Hasek was healthy (Hasek most likely would not have been suspended had he not been cleared to play). Set to return in game four with the team down by three games in the series, Hasek told the Sabres' coaching staff he felt a twinge in his knee and left the ice after the pregame skate. Shields turned in another season-saving performance as Buffalo staved off the almost inevitable sweeping elimination with a win. Again before the fifth game, Hasek declared himself unfit to play and Buffalo lost 6–3, losing the series in five games.
Despite the infighting, the season was a fitting tribute to Seymour Knox, who died on May 22, 1996. During the season, his brother Northrop sold the team to John Rigas, owner of Adelphia Communications.
The first act under the new management was made by outgoing President Larry Quinn to fire general manager John Muckler, who had a noted feud with Nolan. All-Star goaltender Hasek, who supported Muckler, openly told reporters at the NHL Awards Ceremony that he did not respect Nolan, placing new GM Darcy Regier in a tough position. He offered Nolan just a one-year contract for a reported $500,000. Nolan refused on the grounds that his previous contract was for two years, before he was Coach of the Year. Regier then pulled the contract off the table and didn't offer another one, ending Nolan's tenure as Sabres coach. Nolan was offered several jobs from the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, which he turned down, and was out of the NHL until June 2006 when he was named coach of the Islanders. After Nolan, former Sabres captain Lindy Ruff, Buffalo's current bench boss, was hired as head coach on July 21, 1997, agreeing to a three-year deal.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Sabres organization, after having their most successful season in nearly two decades, had now rid itself of both the reigning NHL Executive (Muckler) and Coach of the Year (Nolan). Shortly thereafter, Quinn was dismissed and replaced by John Rigas's son, Timothy Rigas.
Behind Hasek, left-winger Miroslav Satan (who led the team in scoring), right-winger Donald Audette, center Michael Peca, and several role-playing journeymen including pest Matthew Barnaby, the Sabres reached the Conference Final in 1998, but lost to the Washington Capitals in six games.
In 1999, Miroslav Satan scored 40 goals. The Sabres would add centers Stu Barnes from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joe Juneau from the Capitals. Michal Grosek had the best season of his career, and the team finally returned to the Stanley Cup Finals, this time against the Dallas Stars.
In the sixth game, Dallas Stars winger Brett Hull's triple-overtime goal - as Hull's skate was clearly visibly in Hasek's crease - ended the series, and the Stars were awarded the Cup. In 1999, it was illegal to score a goal if an offensive player's skate entered the crease before the puck did. At the time, even Dallas Morning News hockey writer Keith Gave (a lifelong Red Wings fan who had just been employed by Dallas) questioned the legality of the goal. NHL officials, however, maintained that Hull's two shots in the goal mouth constituted a single possession of the puck since the puck deflected off Hasek, and their ruling stood, citing that they "were going to change the rule the following year anyway." It is widely speculated that, by the time the Sabres mentioned the foul, the red carpet had already been unrolled at center ice, and the officials refused to acknowledge the non-call. ESPN's "Page2" staff has ranked the call as the fifth worst officiating call in sports history. Conversely, Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun wrote "There should have been no controversy whatsoever. When Hull first kicked the rebound on to his stick, he had neither foot in the crease. At the instant he kicked the puck, he became in control of it. It was only in the follow-through of that kick that his left foot moved into the crease." Buffalo sports fans, who have suffered through some of the biggest misfortunes in sports history (such as "Wide Right" and "Music City Miracle"), refer to the game as "No Goal", a phrase still used in western New York to this day. The rule was changed for the following season, allowing players to be inside the goaltender's crease as long as they do not interfere with the goalie. This is a direct reference to both the Buffalo Bills' Comeback Curse and the Buffalo Sports Curse.
The next year was a disappointing season. The team struggled in the regular season, due to injuries to Hasek as well as other tired and discouraged players. Doug Gilmour was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline and sparked the Sabres to a playoff berth. However, Gilmour was stricken by stomach flu during the post-season and even the return of Hasek could not prevent their first-round playoff series loss to the Flyers. Like the previous season, there would be another officiating controversy. In game two high-flying Flyers' winger John LeClair put the puck in the net through a hole in the mesh. While replays appeared to show the puck going in through the side of the net, the goal was allowed to stand. The Flyers would win the game 2–1 and go on to win the series 4–1.
Captain Michael Peca sat out 2000–01 due to a contract dispute, and eventually was traded to the Islanders in June 2001 for Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. Even so, the Sabres still defeated the high-seeded Flyers in six games in the first round of the playoffs (with a resounding 8–0 victory in the series-winning game). In the second round, they faced the underdog Penguins led by rejuvenated superstar Mario Lemieux and captain Jaromir Jagr, who had won his fifth Art Ross Trophy that season, losing on a seventh-game overtime goal scored by defenseman Darius Kasparaitis.
The first third Jersey of the Buffalo Sabres was created in 2000. The primary color was Sabre red, with black and gray stripes on the sleeves. It also featured the word "Buffalo" written on a black stripe outlined by gray near the waist. The logo was a black circle with two sabres crossing each other. The third jersey ran from 2000–2006 when the red jersey was retired. With the return to blue and gold came the return of the original Sabres Jersey which was worn from 1970–96. The Sabres in 2006 made the original blue jersey their new third jersey. A new third jersey to be worn in the 2008-2009 season was unveiled on September 20, 2008
After lengthy, and failed, negotiations with their star goaltender, the Sabres traded Hasek to the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2001. Without Hasek and Peca, the Sabres missed the 2002 playoffs.
In the summer of 2002, John Rigas and his sons were arrested for bank, wire, and securities fraud for embezzling more than $2 billion from Adelphia (Rigas eventually was convicted and presently is appealing a sentence of 15 years in prison). The league took control of the team, though the Rigas family remained owners on paper. The affair came as something of an embarrassment to the NHL. Only five years earlier, it had tightened its standards for vetting prospective owners after seeing John Spano buy the New York Islanders only to discover he'd grossly inflated his net worth and committed massive bank and wire fraud.
For a while, there were no interested buyers. Attendance sagged, and it looked like the Sabres would either move or fold. The leading candidate was Mark Hamister, a local businessman who owned the Arena Football League's Buffalo Destroyers. Hamister was the personal choice of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. However, over time it became obvious that Hamister's financial assets were highly suspect and that his bid was heavily dependent upon government financing. It also became known that Hamister had won an expansion af2 team in Dayton, Ohio and got numerous concessions from local government, but moved them to Cincinnati before they had ever played their first game in Dayton. He was also considering moving the Destroyers (and as it turned out, did - to Columbus, Ohio). Under pressure from fans concerned that Hamister might move the Sabres, state officials scuttled a critical incentive package, effectively killing his bid.
Another group who showed interest in the Sabres was headed by Sherry Bassin, co-owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters, and included Alain Maislin, a Montreal trucking magnate, and Frank DuRoss, owner of the Rochester Raging Rhinos USL soccer team. Former Sabres coach Ted Nolan was a friend of Bassin, and there was speculation that he would be rehired as Sabres coach if Bassin assumed ownership. However, this partnership dissolved without ever making a formal offer to the NHL.
With the season beginning under league control, general manager Darcy Regier would make minimal moves that could bolster the last placed Sabres. However, with the consultations of impending new ownership, the team began their rebuilding process around the trade deadline of March 10, 2003 by clearing out veteran players. The first to go was long-time winger Rob Ray who was sent to Ottawa so he had a chance to win the Stanley Cup before retirement at season's end. The team then sent center and team captain Stu Barnes to the Dallas Stars for young winger Michael Ryan and a draft pick. The third deal that was completed at that time sent center Chris Gratton to the Phoenix Coyotes with a draft pick for a younger center, Daniel Briere and a draft pick. The trade of Barnes was widely believed to be a show of gratitude, to get him to a team that was a playoff contender. However, the move was a surprise to Barnes, who had become a fan favorite with the help of Sabres' broadcaster Rick Jeanneret's calls of "Stuuuuuuuuuu Barnes...top shelf where momma hides the cookies!", and variations of that call after Barnes would score for the Sabres. Barnes stated that he had wanted to stay in Buffalo and broke down in tears in front of the assembled media after receiving word of his trade.
After the two year period of uncertainty that left the Sabres franchise in limbo, the team was sold to a consortium led by Rochester, New York billionaire and former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano and by former Sabres president Larry Quinn, whose bid included no government funding. Golisano was introduced as team owner on March 19, 2003. Golisano immediately drew the attention of fans with lowered ticket prices.
The team emerged from its financial struggles and, though the Sabres narrowly missed the playoffs, the season saw the debut or development of prominent young players such as Daniel Briere. One particularly memorable moment in 2003–04 occurred on New Year's Eve 2003, when Maxim Afinogenov and Miroslav Satan both scored hat tricks against the Washington Capitals at home. The Sabres won that game soundly, 7–1.
Although the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to a labor dispute, the league and the NHL Players Association were able to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the summer of 2005, thus enabling NHL hockey to return for the 2005–06 season.
On January 19, 2005, the Sabres lost their main cable television broadcaster, as the Empire Sports Network (which had been on the air since 1991) ceased operations in a cost-cutting move during the Adelphia scandal and reorganization. (Like the Sabres, Empire had been owned by Adelphia.) Adelphia sold their rights to Sabres telecasts and for the 2005–06 campaign, the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG), a New York City-based channel which mostly broadcasts New York Rangers games, took over the rights to broadcast Sabres games to television viewers in western New York. The agreement has since been extended through 2016.
See main article: 2005–06 Buffalo Sabres season. In 2005–06, the Sabres raced to a hot start and stayed near the top of the standings all season long, finishing with their best season in over twenty years. On April 3, they clinched their first Eastern Conference playoff spot since the 2000–01 season. The team finished the regular season with 53 wins, surpassing the 50–win mark for the first time in franchise history. They also finished with 110 points, their first 100–point season in 23 years and tied the 1979–80 club for the second-best point total in franchise history. The Sabres tied the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes for the most wins in the Eastern Conference. They finished with the fifth-best record in the league, behind Detroit, Ottawa, Dallas and Carolina. However, the Sabres were seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference playoffs--behind Ottawa, Carolina and the New Jersey Devils--as they dropped their division to the Senators. The Sabres also finished with 25 road wins, another franchise record.
Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the first-round of the 2006 playoffs in six games. The Sabres on two occasions, showing their offensive prowess, scored seven or more goals in the series. In the second round of the playoffs, the Sabres defeated the top-seeded Sens in five games. A crucial moment in the series occurred in Game 1 when Tim Connolly forced overtime by scoring with 11 seconds left in regulation. Buffalo went on to win, 7-6, on a goal by Chris Drury. A total of three victories in the series came in overtime, including the series-clinching game five, which was won on a short-handed goal by Jason Pominvillehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEpr8moQBPsVideo] to send Buffalo to the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the first time in NHL history that a series had been decided on a short-handed goal.
Despite being without some or all of their four top defensemen (Teppo Numminen, Dmitri Kalinin, and Henrik Tallinder), and their top powerplay scorer, Tim Connolly, who had 11 points in 8 games in the playoffs, for much of the series, the Sabres fought back from a three-games-to-two deficit to force a seventh game by way of a 2–1 OT win in game six. In the deciding game, the Sabres were additionally without their number one shot blocker (Jay McKee).After Jochen Hecht scored from behind the net with 4 seconds left in the second period, They led the Hurricanes 2–1 going into the final period. But blew the lead early in the third and gave up two more late goals for a 4–2 final score. The game-winning goal was scored on the powerplay by Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour after Brian Campbell was called for a delay of game penalty. The 'Canes went on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in seven games, winning the Stanley Cup. The Sabres finished the playoffs with the most last-minute goals in the 2006 playoffs.The Sabres' better-than-expected season was recognized on June 22, 2006 at the NHL Awards Ceremony, when Lindy Ruff edged Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette 155 votes to 154 to win the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. It was the closest vote in the award's history. After Nolan, Ruff is the second Sabres coach to win the award.
See main article: 2006–07 Buffalo Sabres season. On September 16, the Sabres unveiled new home and away jerseys featuring midnight blue, maize (gold), silver, and white colors, along with third jerseys featuring the Sabres original blue jersey at an open practice at HSBC Arena. The new logo, a stylized bison, has been compared to Donald Trump's hair, Pikachu, a hamster or more commonly a banana slug, with some in the area even giving it the name "Sluggalo" or "Buffaslug". An online petition against the new logo had eclipsed the 30,000 signature mark by that point, indicating that growing numbers of Sabres fans hadn't accepted the logo. Despite that, the team's jersey featuring the new logo topped sales of NHL merchandise. Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn, when asked about the reaction of the fans said, "I can make a promise to our fans, if we're in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup, that old blue and gold jersey is going to be worn if we're at home, so we'll have the opportunity to win the Cup with it. And I've also asked the league if we can wear our white vintage and they're looking to see if we can."
The new jerseys also featured numbers on the front of the jersey, which hadn't been seen in the NHL since the 1949–50 NHL season. Dallas, the New York Islanders, San Jose, and Tampa Bay would also add front numbers in the 2007–08 NHL season.
The jersey's unveiling overshadowed the beginning of the team's training camp, opening with the most expensive group of Sabres to date. The team's payroll was over the league salary cap of $44 million US. Even at that price tag they were forced to let some key figures (Jay McKee, Jean-Pierre Dumont and Mike Grier) from their 2006 playoff run, and move on.
On October 20, 2006, the Sabres defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5–4 win, to set a new franchise record with their 12th consecutive regular-season victory. The previous record was held by the 1974–75 team that won 11 straight games at the end of that season.
The Sabres started 10–0, not only setting a new franchise record for consecutive wins to start a season, but becoming just the second team in NHL history to open a season with a winning streak of ten games. The streak was ended on October 28, 2006, in a 5–4 shoot out loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. The only other team to start a season with as many consecutive victories were the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993–94, who also started 10–0.
On November 5, 2006 the Sabres defeated the New York Rangers in New York to set a new NHL record for consecutive road wins to start a season (eight), which was extended to ten games (tying the team record for consecutive road wins) with a 7–4 win over the 2005–06 Stanley Cup Champion Hurricanes on November 13, 2006. It ended on November 18, 2006 with a 4–1 loss at Ottawa to the Senators.
Three Buffalo Sabres were voted by fans to be starters at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas: goalie Ryan Miller, forward Daniel Briere, and defenseman Brian Campbell. Forward Thomas Vanek also participated in the NHL YoungStars Game. Briere won the All-Star MVP Award, tallying 1 goal and 4 assists. Lindy Ruff was the head coach for the Eastern Conference, who lost the game 12–9.
On February 22, 2007, in a 6–5 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators, the team was involved in a brawl after Senators winger Chris Neil hit Sabres captain Chris Drury, who was injured on the play. Some consider that the hit was late and from behind, though neither the referees nor the league penalized Neil. When the puck dropped, the main brawl began. The fight included Adam Mair immediately engaging Jason Spezza, Andrew Peters going after Dany Heatley, and both goalies, Martin Biron and Ray Emery fighting each other. Peters then went after the Senators goalie Emery, while head coach Lindy Ruff argued with Senators coach Bryan Murray through the glass, with former Sabres enforcer Rob Ray's MSG microphone picking up Ruff telling his counterpart "don't go after my fucking captain". Over 100 penalty minutes were distributed and Ruff was fined $10,000 by the league. In an interesting turn of events, Sabres fans offered to raise money to pay Ruff's fine. Ruff thanked the fans for their support, but paid the fine on his own. Drury returned a few games later. The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the game, with Drew Stafford scoring the shootout winner for Buffalo. On a related note, Clarke MacArthur, called up from Rochester due to injury, scored his first NHL goal in this game.
On March 30, 2007, in a 6–4 defeat of the New York Islanders, the team won 50 games for the second time in franchise history. The Sabres scored 5 goals on the special teams, 3 powerplay goals by Chris Drury, Drew Stafford, and Dainius Zubrus, and 2 short handed goals by Drury and Derek Roy.
On April 3, 2007, in a 4–1 defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sabres clinched the Northeast Division crown and the best record in the Eastern Conference.
On April 7, 2007, in a 2–0 defeat of the Washington Capitals, the Buffalo Sabres won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history, giving the team the home ice advantage for their entire run in the 2006–2007 NHL playoffs. They also tied the 1974–75 team's franchise record for points in a season.
In the April 9, 2007 issue of ESPN the Magazine, the Buffalo Sabres ranked first of 122 major professional sports franchises in North America. Buffalo was cited for its player accessibility, low ticket prices, and exciting brand of hockey. Buffalo fans seem to have noticed, as the Sabres sold out every game for the 2007 season.
The Sabres defeated the New York Islanders and then the New York Rangers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. On May 19, 2007 the Buffalo Sabres were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators after five games. The winning goal was scored in the first overtime by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson at the 9:32 mark. Coincidentally, Jason Pominville had beaten Alfredsson to score the clinching overtime goal over Ottawa in game five of the previous year's Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
The Sabres lost both of their co-captains, Daniel Briere (who went to the Philadelphia Flyers) and Chris Drury (who went to the New York Rangers) during the free agency period. The Sabres nearly lost Thomas Vanek to the Edmonton Oilers who offered him a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet, but the Sabres matched the offer on July 6. After these events, the team changed its policy of not negotiating contracts during the regular season. On October 16, 2007, they signed Jochen Hecht to a 4 year $14.1 million dollar contract.
The Sabres' January 1 home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was played outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the National Football League's Buffalo Bills. Officially, the game was called the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, but in Buffalo and the surrounding areas it was referred to as the "Ice Bowl". The Sabres lost 2–1 in a shootout.
The Sabres, like all of the NHL teams updated their jerseys as part of the league-wide switchover to Rbk Edge jerseys. The team did not make radical changes to the jersey design, adding an NHL crest below the neck opening. There will be no 'third jersey' this season, although the team wore the 1970s design for the January 1 outdoor game.
With a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on April 3, 2008 that eliminated the Sabres out of playoff contention, they became only the third team in NHL history to go from finishing first overall in the regular season standings to finishing out of the playoffs the following year. Both of the previous two teams to do so ended up winning the Stanley Cup the following year.
On June 10, 2008, the Sabres officially announced their new American Hockey League affiliate, beginning in the 2008-09 season, would be the Portland Pirates from Portland, Maine. This officially ends their 29-year affiliation with the Rochester Americans. The Sabres will stock the Pirates with prospects for the next two seasons, with a parent club option for a third..
The Sabres entered the 2008 free agency period quietly, but on July 1 they signed goaltender Patrick Lalime to a two-year contact. Three days later, the team traded Steve Bernier to Vancouver for a pair of draft picks. Just a few hours later, the Sabres acquired Craig Rivet from San Jose in exchange for a second round draft pick in each of the next two drafts. In the month that followed, general manager Darcy Regier added some lower-tier free agents who are expected to spend most of their time in the AHL. On July 24, Mathieu Darche was signed away from Tampa Bay. A pair of signings were made on August 4. The team agreed to minor league deals with Colton Fretter, a former Atlanta draft pick, and Colin Murphy, a former Toronto farmhand.
The Sabres also extended the contracts of three players. On June 30, Paul Gaustad was given a four-year extension. Gaustad was due to become a restricted free agent after the 2008-2009 season. On July 18, Ryan Miller signed a five-year extension through the 2013-2014 season. Two months to the day, Jason Pominville also signed a five-year extension through 2013-14. Miller was slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the upcoming season while Pominville was set to become a restricted free agent.
On August 4, 2008, ESPN's Terri Frei wrote an article entitled "Ranking the NHL Coaches". Part of the article included a section entitled THE ELITE. Head Coach Lindy Ruff was included in this portion of Frei's article. Frei had this to say about coach Ruff..."Laments about "respect" get tiresome, and thankfully they're not as prevalent in the NHL as in the other sports. But this is the guy who has the longest tenure in the league, has persevered through trying circumstances on and off the ice in Buffalo, and on balance has done a terrific job. He deserves to be mentioned among the best in the league, and not as an afterthought."
On August 15, 2008, the Sabres announced that they will unveil an updated version of the blue Third jersey that they wore last season. The jersey will feature a modernization of the team’s vintage design elements from the 1970s. 
The Sabres officially unveiled the new third jersey during open practice September 20, 2008. The jersey combines elements from the classic jersey along with a modern design.  Initial fan reaction has been well received.
The Aud was scheduled to be demolished in October 2008 after being unused for the past 12 years since the opening of the HSBC Arena.
March 4, 2009 marked the trade deadline, and the Sabres were active. First, they signed Tim Connolly to an extention worth $4.2 million for two years. They also acquired Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes for a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft. Then Dominic Moore came from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Finally, they received a second-round pick in the 2009 draft from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for their shootout weapon Ales Kotalik.
See main article: Sabres Hockey Network.
Ted Darling TV Play-by-Play (1970-1991)
Dave Hodge Radio Play-by-Play (1970-1971)
Jim Lorentz Color Commentator (1981-2007)
Danny Gare Bench reporter (?-2004)
Brian Blessing Studio Analyst (1995-2004)
John Gurtler TV Play-by-Play (1991-1995)
Pete Weber Radio Play-by-Play (1994-1996)
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Sabres. For the full season-by-season history, see Buffalo Sabres seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Records as of April 12, 2008.
|2003–04||82||37||34||7||4||85||220||221||1289||5th, Northeast||Did not qualify|
|2004–05||Season cancelled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout|
|2005–061||82||52||24||—||6||110||281||239||1144||2nd, Northeast||Lost in Conference Finals, 3–4 (Hurricanes)|
|2006–07||82||53||22||—||7||113||308||242||1177||1st, Northeast||Lost in Conference Finals, 1–4 (Senators)|
|2007-08||82||39||31||—||12||90||255||242||1040||4th, Northeast||Did not qualify|
1 As of the 2005–06 NHL season, all games tied after regulation will be decided in a shootout; SOL (Shootout losses) will be recorded as OTL in the standings.
2 Won Presidents' Trophy for best overall league record.
Hall of Famers
* When Rene Robert and Rick Martin were retired, Gilbert Perreault was present, as the entire "French Connection" line was given retirement together. Today, each linemate's banner is next to one another at HSBC Arena, with a banner above indicating their line's nickname.
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Sabres player
See main article: Buffalo Sabres records.