Last season the Vancouver Canucks ran away with their division, earning them the presidents trophy in the process, and rode that momentum all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals where it was promptly halted by Tim Thomas and the boys from Beantown. Though you could make the argument that momentum died the moment Aaron Rome cheap shot Nathan Horton. The Buffalo Sabres meanwhile had quite a run of their own, one that saw them accumulate the most points in the NHL from Jan 20th to the end of the regular season, and turn around what appeared to be a nightmare season to taking the defending Eastern Conference Champion Flyers to the limit in the quarterfinals.
These teams will forever be linked at the hip as they came into existence together in 1970 and have both recently hit their 40th birthdays (if you discount the lockout season 04/05). Who has had the better run?
Well it's not as obvious as it would be comparing Toronto to Montreal, or Detroit to Chicago. Both teams in this case are devoid of championships. But looking deeper you'll see they've been eerily similar over the past two scores (take that Abe Lincoln). It all started with the NHL draft in 1970 and that giant spinning game show wheel with half the triangles going to the Sabres and the other half to the Canucks. Round and round it went, and when that arrow landed on Buffalo there was no doubt where Gilbert Perreault was going. Vancouver took Dale Tallon with the second pick and although he had a very good career, appearing in two all-star games as a Canuck and having quite a few successful seasons in Chicago, the Sabres clearly got the more impactful player. I'm not going to dissect Perreault's career, but for all of us Buffalo Sports fans who think we're cursed and never catch any breaks (and sometimes I'm one of them), I have to admit...we lucked out with the spinning of that wheel.
Before I get to the numbers aspect of this debate I want to compare the two franchises in another area that they seem to mirror each other, their uniforms. Both of these organizations have a penchant for designing classic hockey sweaters and then throwing them away for jerseys that make the Isles Gorton's Fisherman uniforms look fashionable. Nobody has a knack for doing this more than Vancouver, with 15 different variations of their uniform in the past 40 years they have had some clunkers for sure...the mustard "V" and the 2001-2005 third jerseys stand out as some of the worst in league history. However, their original jerseys and their current sweaters are two of the more classic uniforms in the league. As for Buffalo, they chose to abandon their epic blue and gold sweater for an albino goat head and then a banana slug. Not a smart move. Yet, just like the Canucks they've recognized the error of their ways and have brought back the original sweater with some slight modifications and coupled with their classy third jersey I feel they have one of the top four or five jerseys in the league.
Okay back to the point here. Here's some numbers to chew on:
Stanley Cup Final Appearances:
Buf: 2 (74/75, 98/99)
Van: 3 (81/82, 93/94, 10/11)
Buf: 1 (06/07)
Van: 1 (10/11)
Wins and Winning %:
Buffalo: 1530 wins in 3198 games played and a .554% win percentage
Vancouver: 1302 wins in 3198 games played and a .480% win percentage
I'm not going to take individual accomplishments into this as it isn't really indicative of team success. Just glossing over the numbers, Buffalo has an advantage in nearly all of them except Finals appearances, however since Vancouver hasn't capitalized on their additional appearance, that isn't enough to tip the scales their favor. The Sabres overall winning percentage, 5 more playoff appearances, and 40 more playoff wins give Buffalo the edge so far.
Since day one when that spinning wheel pointed towards Western New York, they have had a leg up on their cross continent expansion buddies, but the one thing that has eluded both of them will be the ultimate tie breaker. Who is closer to winning their first cup, Buffalo or Vancouver? Much like I'd like to see a Vikings/Bills Superbowl someday to get one of them off the schnide, I'd love to see a Canucks/Sabres final and have 40+ years of anticipation built up into one series to take home the hardware. Will it be this year?
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