October 30, 2012 - 12:04 PM
The Sabres' new Alumni Plaza has been a hit, with folks stopping by the French Connection statue to take photos during those rare days when there's a reason to go to First Niagara Center.
Another highlight of the plaza is the mural of all-time greats that extends across the walking bridge above the plaza. It's a who's who of Sabreland, with huge photos of 18 players running from the parking ramp to the arena. The players who made the cut are, in order:
Roger Crozier, Danny Gare, Jim Schoenfeld, Craig Ramsay, Mike Foligno, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Ramsey, Phil Housley, Alexander Mogilny, Pat LaFontaine, Dominik Hasek, Michael Peca, Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov, Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers.
Wait ... Afinogenov?
Yup, the Russian who personifies "enigmatic" made the list of team legends. He beat out the likes of Dale Hawerchuk, Miroslav Satan, Don Luce and Rob Ray.
On one hand, there's a case to be made for Afinogenov. He spent nine seasons with the Sabres. He ranks 18th in team scoring with 334 points, including 200 assists. He was popular among fans, with his jersey ranking among the league leaders in sales during the rush to the registers from 2005 to 2007.
Then again, Afinogenov's time in Buffalo is almost equally as notable for the down times. He slumped while refusing to play a team game. He suffered mysterious concussions. He was run out of town after totaling only 16 goals during his last two seasons.
Satan, meanwhile, led the Sabres in scoring for six seasons. He's 10th on the team's all-time points list with 456, including 224 goals, which ranks eighth.
Hawerchuk is a member of the Sabres' Hall of Fame after putting up 385 points in 382 games.
Luce ranks seventh with 526 points, put up in 766 games, which ranks seventh in team history.
Ray played 889 games for the Sabres to trail only Gilbert Perreault (1,191), Ramsay (1,070) and Ramsey (911). He spent 14 years in Blue and Gold while establishing an unbeatable record of 3,189 penalty minutes.
Daniel Briere played a bigger role in the Sabres' success while Afinogenov was in town, but it's tough to put up a player who still skates for a key rival (and torments his old team with goals and points).
The mural tries to include all the eras of Sabres hockey, so it makes sense that Afinogenov could beat out Luce or Hawerchuk. His inclusion evens out the decades.
But Satan and Ray could be considered contemporaries of Afinogenov. It seems both have more credentials for a prized spot in Alumni Plaza.