Tuesday, January 20, 2015

10 Facts About a Fun Team: The 1988-89 Sabres

10 Facts About a Fun Team is a new feature in which we’ll take a look back at a notable team and season from NHL history. That team may have been good. It may been bad. But it was definitely interesting, and as such it deserves to be remembered.

Being a Sabres fan is a fairly miserable existence these days. The team is stuck in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, it’s mired in last place overall, and local media are writing stories with headlines that feature phrases like “taint on the sport.”

So yeah, the Buffalo Sabres are pretty bad. That’s largely by design, and it’s all in the service of a larger goal, so someday their fans might look back on the 2014-15 season and smile. But right now, it can’t be very fun.

Let’s try to cheer up those fans with memories of a better time. Not an especially good time, mind you, because these are still the Sabres and franchise history is relatively thin on those. But a better time, featuring a team that may not have been all that great, but was at least interesting. Let’s use this edition of 10 Facts About a Fun Team to travel back 26 seasons and relive the magical weirdness of the 1988-89 Buffalo Sabres.

1. The 1988-89 Sabres were … OK.

From a standings standpoint, the Sabres were a fairly unremarkable team. They weren’t great, but they certainly weren’t awful. They finished 38-35-7 for 83 points, slightly above .500 in an era when .500 actually meant something. They finished third in the Adams Division, like they did most years.

Under normal circumstances, that sort of record would render the ’88-89 Sabres largely forgettable, just one of the many mediocre teams in any given season that nobody ever thinks about again. And indeed, the Sabres have been largely forgotten. But they shouldn’t be, because once you get past the record, this was one odd team.

We’ll get to all of that in a second. But first, let’s set the mood by enjoying this long-distance Handycam footage of the Sabres beating Mario Lemieux and the Penguins.

2. The roster didn’t feature a single future Hall of Famer.

That may not sound all that surprising, considering we’re dealing with a mediocre team. But back then, it was actually fairly unusual to ice a roster without even one future Hall of Famer. For example, the worst team in the league in 1988-89, the Quebec Nordiques, had three Hall of Famers, and would go on to draft another and sign one more the following offseason. Even other awful teams, like the 61-point Islanders and the 62-point Maple Leafs, had one.

But not the Sabres. They were a decent enough team, but despite that, not one of the 42 players who suited up for them that season would go on to earn hockey’s highest honor.

That’s not to say that nobody came close, though, which is where things get fun. The ’88-89 Sabres may be the greatest team hockey has ever seen when it comes to assembling a collection of near-miss Hall of Famers.

>> Read the full post on Grantland


  1. actually the first thing that came to mind when you said 88-89 sabres was #9. i quit playing rec goalie that night.

  2. Love the 10 Facts About a Fun Team Idea.

    May I request that if/when you get to the Calgary Flames you do the 1985-86 edition? If you need help getting started, there's an 11 game losing streak and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the same season. Plus the fact they won a game (really!) in the middle of that losing streak . . . (I'll leave how that's possible as an exercise for the class . . . or Google.) There's plenty more . . . I expect you'll have difficulty whittling it down to 10.