25. Mike Donnelly. Owing to my age and the fact Scotty Bowman ran this team into the ground and it took it years to recover, elongated themselves by the tenure of Gerry Meehan, there will be a lot of Bowman's bright ideas on this list, but this was a Meehan trade with the Rangers in 1987. Donnelly was a huge scorer in college and in the AHL who never put it together in New York with the Rangers, so they shipped him to Buffalo for Paul Cyr the year after the Sabres finished last in the league and Meehan replaced Bowman. You'll see Paul Cyr much higher on this list, so I should have a soft spot for Donnelly, but to me he represented Gerry Meehan's idea of the way back to contention; he wasn't. We won that trade, though -- the Rangers threw in a fifth round pick, with which the team chose Alexander Mogilny. (We won that trade by ridding ourselves of Paul Cyr, really.)
24. Mikael Andersson. Remember him? Why? One of Bowman's last first rounders, he had a career high with 18 goals for Hartford after we mercifully ended his experiment in 1989. Like any true Bowman draft pick, he scored a ton in levels below the NHL. Bowman's flaw -- one of Bowman's flaws -- as a GM was that he had a slight problem projecting talent. Andersson became a fixture for the Lightning for a few years and, hilariously for a lightweight, don't-hurt-me Swede, played for the Flyers from 1998-2000.
23. Doug Bodger. Played seven plus completely unremarkable seasons on the Buffalo blueline after Meehan dispatched Tom Barrasso to Pittsburgh because Daren Puppa -- who shut out the Oilers in Northlands Coliseum once -- was his goalie. Barrasso would be a huge part of two Cups with the Penguins. I'm not necessarily taking this out on Bodger, he just wasn't very good. He was impressive enough a puck handler and skater that a bad team thought he was more important than he was.
22. Mal Davis. Does this sound like a Bowman player? 155 goals in 247 games in Rochester, 29 goals in 89 games in Buffalo, followed by an impressive five-year run with TPS Turku. Wore number 29, another irritating thing.
21. Alan Haworth. To Bowman's credit, he wasn't a first-rounder; he was the kind of center you might find excelling in the New NHL. By which I mean he's listed at 5' 10", 190, which I'm quite sure is exaggerated. Tore up the Quebec League in junior, and put together an ok run with the Caps after we got rid of him. In between? Two mercifully short years shuttling between Rochester and the Aud. Traded to the Caps on draft day 1982, back when Bowman kept collecting draft picks as though they were at all useful in his hands. (Mike Anderson and Timo Jutila, in case you were wondering.)
20. Doug Gilmour. Killer didn't. A deadline addition from Chicago, he spearheaded the bid to get the Sabres back to the final in 2000 with one assist in five playoff games. After a point a game in 2000-01 (but not in the playoffs!) left to torture Habs fans. It's one thing to, say, wear number 91 because 19 is taken, because 19 is a hockey number; Gilmour wore 93 because Hasek had 39. Idiot.
19. Jiri Dudacek. Isn't it impressive that a first rounder from behind the Iron Curtain who never saw a minute of action with the team makes this list in the top 20? I think so. Among Bowman's more inspired ideas. I know for a fact he would have sucked if he'd somehow been able to defect; look at how the rest of Bowman's inspired ideas panned out. I just got sick of hearing about him. He was like Godot.
18. Miroslav Satan. The Unabrower scored plenty for the team, but never had the kind of steak sauce on him that the team's best players had at other, less financially scary times in its history. Filling the role Afinogenov did with the 2005-06 team, say, Satan would have been great, but he was the Big Leading Scorer who was Counted On To Carry the Team, and you knew you were in trouble. The perfect Milbury Islander.
17. Darcy Wakaluk. I had no goalies on the list. He would actually be kind of a cool player, absent the abject futility of the team while he toiled in its system, what with the name. Also he scored a goal once in the AHL. Another Bowman draftee who lit the lamp in Rochester but not in Buffalo! When your nickname is Darcy Lotsaluck and nobody's cheerfully chuckling when they say it, you're probably going to not be remembered fondly.
16. Dale McCourt. The hell of it was, when Bowman traded Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare to Detroit, the prize he was after wasn't Mike Foligno, or even Brent Peterson, both of whom he accidentally got, it was this dud. Say it with me: Seasons of 52, 55 and 60 goals in junior. How could Scotty resist? Never mind the barely point-per-game seasons for the Red Wings; this former first overall pick was going to be the keystone to Bowman's next Stanley Cup champion.
15. Doug Smith. The prize of Meehan's first trade, unless it was Brian Engblom, but that's not how I remember it, and Engblom was shipped to Calgary at the start of the next season, stank. A speedy, nifty softie for whom hopes were unaccountably high -- I think he scored on his first shift. Wore number 15, my number, and I tend to remember guys who stink while wearing number 15. (And put them at number 15 on my list! So where's Adam Creighton, you ask?)
14. Lou Franceschetti. He couldn't help being a Leaf or the guy we traded Mike Foligno for, but I still didn't like him for those reasons, and he didn't give me any reason to.
13. Calle Johansson. This (as if nothing else has) shows where in time I focused much of my Sabres angst. Johansson toiled for a season and a half on the Sabres' blueline -- it only seemed much longer, to me -- before Meehan shipped him to Washington for Clint Malarchuk and Grant Ledyard. Was a mainstay for the Caps for many years. Good riddance. Another classic New NHL player back when the NHL was Old.
12. Michael Grosek. Like Dudacek had played. I don't know where the high expectations could have come from, probably because we traded a first rounder for him (we sent Winnipeg Craig Muni and got Darryl Shannon, too). Was conspicuously absent from the 1999 playoff run, with four assists in 13 games. Prior to that, though, he'd been a (for him) monster in the 1998 playoffs, which made the Blackhawks think he was worth Dougie Gilmour and J.P. Dumont.
11. Norm Lacombe. At the 1982 draft Bowman got it into his head that if he could just collect lots of first round draft picks he'd win a Stanley Cup in no time, not accounting, perhaps, for the fact he was likely to draft people like Lacombe 10th overall. Was he a productive scorer in college? Does the Pope poop in the woods?
10. Benoit Hogue. Look, I'm no Francophobe. On my list of favorite Sabres you'll find all sorts of French Canadians. I just hated the sound of this clown's name, and it had everything to do with having to watch him play. He was hurt, he was useless on those rare occasions when his team made the playoffs, and after being part of the LaFontaine trade, then he went on to become a 35-goal scorer. Then got his name on the Stanley Cup... in 1999, with Dallas. Asshole.
9. Christian Ruuttu. The kind of third-liner your middling team can throw out there to eat up minutes and kill some penalties, he passed for a number one center while Pierre Turgeon grew into his role of Franchise Savior and Doug Smith did whatever it was he was supposed to be doing.
8. Donald Audette. Was a ninth round pick who scored 30 goals his first full year, and who ever does that? Never hit 30 again as a Sabre but tantalized management enough that some contract acrimony and he became the Kings' overpaid problem. Returned at the 2001 trade deadline and failed to distinguish himself again.
7. Gates Orlando. This is completely irrational. I may as well hate Hannu Virta. But no one epitomized the Scotty Bowman just-wait-till these-guys-get-used-to-the-NHL-game mentality than this career minor leaguer who was always brought up to great, unrealistic, expectations. Scored a ton in college, scored a goal every other game in Rochester, and after being shown the door, kicked ass in Italy. A grand total of 18 NHL goals in 98 doleful games. And that name. Augh.
6. Shawn Anderson. Fifth overall in Bowman's last draft. In parts of four seasons, scored six goals. No, he wasn't a defenseman. Appears to have been a mainstay in the German Elite League, making one wonder if that league is misnamed. Why waste venom on a guy like this? With someone like John Tucker, you could see the playmaking skillz, with Paul Cyr, you could see The Shot, with Norm Lacombe, you could see the card table under his sweater, with Phil Housley, you could see the creativity (given enough space). There was nothing to recommend Shawn Anderson as an NHL player, let alone a fifth overall draft pick. It's like Bowman wasn't even trying anymore.
5. Paul Cyr. Speak of the devil. Ninth overall in 1982, when Bowman had I think 16 first round picks, you'll never guess what his amateur resume looked like. That's right: 109 goals in 142 WHL games. Then a cool 15 in 36 games upon joining the Sabres. Then the bottom fell out for Bowman's Steve Shutt. His shot must have gone 110 MPH, as I remember it, but he rarely got a chance to use it; like Cerrano in Major League, if you've got only one weapon, any opponent who belongs in the league will make sure you don't use it.
4. Real Cloutier. Meet Bowman's Guy Lafleur. A 60-, 66- and 75-goal scorer for the Nordiques in the WHA, pushing 40 per year after the merger, Bowman shipped three NHL players and a pick to Quebec for Cloutier and, naturally, a first round pick in 1983 (Adam Creighton -- there he is!). By 1983 everyone still figured Actual Hockey Genius Scotty Bowman knew what he was doing, and the collecting of first rounders looked impressive (and none of the players actually drafted had had a chance to suck yet), so if he went out and got his goal-scoring right winger he needed everyone figured that was dandy. Cloutier played a year of completely uninspired hockey (blame the coach!) and was out of hockey a year later. One of those tough love episodes in a team's history: Made you realize things weren't exactly going well. Still very ostentatiously stunk, though.
3. Pierre Turgeon. The man Jerry Sullivan aptly nicknamed the Tin Man (think heart) played tough as nails -- the acrylic kind. I'll admit the French Canadian first overall pick suffered in obvious comparisons to Gil Perreault, but Perreault proved you don't have to play like Mike Foligno when you've got the talent of a Perreault or Turgeon, you just have to have some modicum of determination, some will, some desire. Any determination, will or desire would have been nice. A serviceable point a game guy (more, after we traded him -- thanks, Pete), he was the kind of scoring superstar you build around if your other choice is Alexandre Daigle.
2. John Tucker. I have a lot of fond memories of the Aud, but one that's not so fond was a playoff game some nondescript year when we would be eliminated, as we always were, in the first round when some ass clown put up a sign about how 7 (Tucker) + 77 (Turgeon) = Stanley Cup. Check, please! Stop me if you've heard it: a Bowman draftee who scored at will in the OHL but never quite translated that into NHL success. Never spent a day in the AHL because he looked like a game breaker in practice. He did score 30 goals once! Finished his career in Japan. Nice touch.
1. Phil Housley. There's so much you could say about Bowman's Bobby Orr. Just once I would have liked for Bowman to draft somebody in the first round and say, "now we've got our Orest Kindrachuk!" My second favorite team was the Blackhawks, and Housley holds the distinction of having ruined even that for me by somehow wearing the captain's C for a short time for that allegedly storied, badass, Original Six team. Immortalized in the cry, "hit him with your purse, Phyllis!" Finished his career with the Leafs. Now that's a nice touch.