Here's something that's easy to understand once you've been around hockey a year or two:
Players are fiercely loyal to the crest on their jerseys during the season. Everything they do, everything they say, is all about the team, the team, the team. They're geared to think about little more than winning and supporting the boys in the room. That's been especially true in Buffalo, where the front office has done a fine job of accumulating character guys.
But once that final horn has sounded, when the time has arrived to clean out the lockers, players turn into individuals again. After months of putting the team first, they start to think about themselves. They worry about their next contract. They worry about financial security. They worry about stability. Their loyalty is to themselves.
That's where the Sabres front office blew it -- again. For the second straight season they took their biggest bargaining chip -- in-season loyalty -- and tossed it into the Buffalo River by failing to negotiate contract extensions during the season. That was their only leverage. They coughed it up.
Imagine Chris Drury or Daniel Briere, in the full throes of the fervor that engulfed them as they stormed to the Presidents' Trophy, not giving the Sabres every courtesy in contract talks. The Sabres were allowed to negotiate with Drury at any time, Briere after Jan. 1 (the rule for players on one-year contracts).
Briere would have accepted last week's too-little, too-late five-year, $25 million offer had been tendered back then. Drury didn't sign with the Rangers for significantly more than the Sabres' five-year, $30 million offer.
Briere gave them three golden opportunities to lock him up for less. He practically begged them to undercut his value when the lockout ended, asking for a multiyear deal worth a little more than $3 million a year.
Then there are Jay McKee and Mike Grier, players who couldn't have been more loyal to the team yet had no choice but to laugh at the Sabres on their way out the door last summer.