The Bills, in their worst playoff drought in 20 years, can still learn plenty from these sizzling Sabres, who have made a Phoenix-like rise out of Chapter 11, a labor lockout, and their own sustained postseason absence to write the most inspirational chapter of their storied albeit Cup-less history.
The Sabres' run to the Eastern Conference finals against Carolina, which began with a 3-2 Buffalo win on Saturday, has struck a blow for the winning tenets of stability and chemistry, things the Bills have sorely lacked since the late 1990s.
I'd toss in frugality, too. The Sabres operate $12 million below the NHL's new $39 million cap and have adopted a policy under Golisano, the Paychex billionaire who didn't get that way by buying a fleet of Porsches, whereby the team would not disrupt locker room harmony by signing big-name free agents to fat long-term deals.
Shipping out leading scorer Miroslav Satan and defenseman Alexei Zhitnik killed the Sabres' marketing last summer. "Cheap skaters," they were called. But winning cures all.
The fans have flocked back to HSBC Arena and will pack the barn again for Games 3 and 4 against the Hurricanes this week. The Sabres have already brought in $3 million in five home playoff games, above-cost gravy for a team that three short springs ago couldn't pay its players. Season tickets for next year will be around 11,000, almost double what they were when Golisano took over. In due time, the Sabres will be spending more to keep their young, successful team together. But better to reward from within when it comes to fostering a true sense of team.