We may be in the doldrums of the NHL off-season, but the Buffalo Sabres woke everyone up today by announcing that they are bringing back the 'Goathead' crest and the red-and-black color scheme for their 2022-23 third jersey. While the look used to be divisive - it's basically the opposite of Buffalo's traditional blue and gold jerseys - like many things, the Goathead look has inspired more love as it has become retro.
It's also worth noting that when the Sabres wore the crest, they had some of their best seasons ever, including their appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup final. So who were the best players to wear the Goathead? Let's have some fun and remember some Sabres from that era, which spanned from 1996 to 2006. Here's my top 10, based on what they accomplished while wearing the Goathead. Ryan Miller, for example, won his Vezina Trophy in 2009-10 - the end of the Buffaslug era. Meanwhile, Pat Lafontaine spent just 13 games in the Goathead. Of course, No. 1 on the list would have topped pretty much any era...
1. Dominik Hasek
The GOAT of the Goathead era, the best player ever to wear any Sabres uniform and a pretty good argument for best goalie ever. Hasek won back-to-back Hart Trophies, back-to-back Lester Pearson Awards (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award) four Vezina Trophies and a Jennings Trophy in this era. He was a four-time First Team All-Star and backstopped the Sabres to that Cup final in 1999 with a ridiculous 1.77 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in 19 playoff games.
2. Michael Peca
A premier two-way center, Peca won the Selke Trophy in 2002 and was always among Buffalo's top scorers in the era (he also won a pre-Goathead Selke in 1997 and was a finalist a number of other times). Most importantly however, he was an offensive driver for the Sabres during that Cup run (though in the Dead Puck Era, Peca's defensive contributions up the middle were even more important).
3. Miroslav Satan
You could certainly argue for Satan at No. 2, given that he led the Sabres in scoring six straight years between 1998 and 2003 - though Peca's individual NHL award is the counterargument. Either way, Satan was a massive acquisition for the Sabres, who got the talented winger from Edmonton in a trade for Craig Millar and Barrie Moore. Satan's best campaigns were a 40-goal effort in 1998-99 and a career-high 75-point season in 2002-03.
4. Alexei Zhitnik
Tied for tops in Buffalo playoff scoring with 15 points en route to that '99 Cup final, Zhitnik was a fantastic defenseman who finished second to Satan in team scoring in 1997-98. Acquired from Los Angeles in a blockbuster deal that sent Grant Fuhr the other way (among other pieces), Zhitnik was a mainstay for Buffalo in the Goathead era. The Ukrainian national is currently fighting in his home country against the Russian invasion.
5. Jason Woolley
Another defenseman who came up big during that Cup run, Woolley tied with Zhitnik for the team lead with 15 points in the post-season. He also had the OT goal in Game 1 against Dallas - which is pretty important, I would think. Woolley also hit the pinnacle of his offensive production that year with 10 goals and 43 points in the regular season. He played six years in Buffalo, all while wearing the Goathead.
6. Danny Briere
It's hard to believe Briere was only in Buffalo for three and a half seasons (and I know fans aren't too happy about how it ended), but the diminutive ace certainly put his stamp on the city. Briere was the Sabres' top scorer in 2003-04 with 65 points and his contributions were even more important after that: In 2004 and 2005, he helped the Sabres go on two long playoff runs, where he put up 19 and 15 points respectively. Only the first of those runs was during the Goathead era, however.
7. Chris Drury
The other one that got away from the end of the Goathead times, Drury finished second to Maxim Afinogenov in scoring in 2005-06 and like Briere, he was a playoff demon for the Sabres. His 18 points in 18 playoff games was one behind Briere in 2005-06 and his regular season featured a team-high 30 goals. An excellent center, he landed with the Rangers as a free agent.
8. Maxim Afinogenov
Buffalo's leading scorer during the last Goathead season, Afinogenov was nearly a point-per-gamer in 2005-06 and an exciting Sabre to remember. He broke 20 goals twice during the Goathead era, using his amazing speed and sick hands to make things happen. His Buffalo career spanned almost the entire red and black era before ending his NHL time in Atlanta.
9. Curtis Brown
Another playoff hero from the '99 Cup run, Brown put up 13 points in that post-season and the versatile forward would count a number of memorable goals throughout his Sabres career, including an OT winner in the 2001 playoffs and a shorthanded marker one series later. But that '99 squad was known for its workmanlike, team-first mentality and Brown was a perfect example of that. His son Garrett was just drafted by the Winnipeg Jets.
10. J-P Dumont
Talk about consistency - Dumont broke the 20-goal mark in four of his five seasons with Buffalo (and this was during the Dead Puck Era) and ranked second in team scoring in 2000-01. While the solid right winger only made the playoffs twice as a Sabre, his 14 points in 2005-06 put him fourth on the team. Dumont went to Nashville for five seasons after his tenure in Buffalo.