Niagara Gazette — Yes, the Buffalo Sabres are suffering.
Management warned the fans, the players have — for most of the season so far, anyway — shown it on the ice.
So how bad does the suffering have to get? Well, the Sabres played a fantastic opponent Tuesday night to demonstrate what could happen if the team is lucky.
Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and the Los Angeles Kings were Stanley Cup champions following the 2012 season. But the team didn’t start out that way. It was a process that took multiple seasons of suffering in the locker room to finally have the right pieces around to get the job done properly.
”It’s the way we were built,” said Brown, the Kings captain, following a 3-2 shootout victory by the Sabres in First Niagara Center. “We drafted well, we kept a core group of guys together and that’s probably been the key to our success and will continue to be the key to our success. Going through a few rough periods together and when you win together there’s that collective hunger.”
There really are a lot of parallels to be drawn between what the Sabres are attempting to do and what the Kings already accomplished. In a way, it could be Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier is looking at the Los Angeles hockey team as the model for his rebuild.
To start, Los Angeles got better with a few key acquisitions, as Brown said, in the draft. A first round pick in 2003, Brown played as an 18-year-old with the club just after being drafted. Then Kopitar, a fellow first-round selection, joined him in 2005 following the season-long lockout.
But it didn’t get any better for the Kings after that. In fact, it got worse. Entering the lockout, the Kings were in the middle of the pack, barely missing the playoffs in Brown’s rookie season. Coming out of the lockout, with a bevy of young talent, the Kings finished out of the playoffs from 2005-06 through 2008-09, including a finish in the Western Conference basement in 2007-08.
That summer, they drafted Drew Doughty with the second pick overall and the path to success was approaching soon.
”You learn pretty quickly how to lose,” Brown said. “You have to understand that aspect before you learn how to win.”
Buffalo could find itself in a similar situation over the next handful of seasons. They’re mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference through the first quarter of the 2013-14 season and have been looking to acquire plenty of draft picks over the last two seasons.
They may have even found their own Dustin Brown in Zemgus Girgensons, a player with the drive of the Kings captain. Management might also feel Mikhail Grigorenko, if he can develop, may turn into its Kopitar in the future.
Or maybe those pieces haven’t been found yet and they’ll be future acquisitions. It doesn’t matter yet. They need learn how to lose. And so do the fans, unfortunately.
The winning will come later. And it’ll feel so much sweeter when it does.
Respond to Niagara Gazette reporter Timothy Chipp by email at email@example.com.