Diving into the Depth Chart Pt. 1: Right Wing is Revealing
There’s no denying the monstrous success of the Los Angeles Kings this pos-season. They are on an absolute tear and have only lost two games in the entire playoffs. Their torrid pace coupled with the fact that they play an exciting brand of hockey has made them a breakout team that seems unstoppable.
Think back to the start of this playoffs, however, and one will remember that this King’s team squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed, the very same seed the Sabres were gunning for in the East. The Kings put together a disappointing regular season and seemed to have a lack of production as their Achilles heel. Hit the jump to see a comparison of the Kings and Sabres from one point of view.
We’re going to stack one member of each team side by side and see what analysis can be made. It should be noted that this comparison is not designed with the sole intention of making the Sabres look bad. Instead, this comparison serves to contrast a disappointing Sabres team with a currently successful buzz team in the Los Angeles Kings.
To successfully use this comparison, we’ll go with the position of right wing. For the LA Kings, Dustin Brown has no doubt provided a much-needed spark throughout the playoffs. He hits the corners hard, throws many pucks on the net, never stops moving his feet and fulfills pretty much every other hockey cliché one could conjure up. He also has an uncanny ability to draw penalties (which has caused some people to call him a faker). Brown tends to embody the hard-working playmaker that every team yearns for. Although he doesn’t have the biggest frame, he’s a power forward and a playmaker all in one and a major reason the Kings are such a hot team.
The Sabres equivalent to Dustin Brown is one Drew Stafford. This comparison should immediately raise some red flags for any person who has watched the 2012 playoffs. Why? Because Drew Stafford doesn’t even come close to Dustin Brown’s intensity level. Despite this, all hope isn’t lost. During the regular season Stafford posted 20 goals and 30 assists in a season that saw him drop 11 goals and jump up 9 assists from the 2010-2011 season. His counterpart in Brown put up 22 goals and 32 assists which is clearly only four more points than Stafford. The playoffs have been good to Brown and he has been good in them, as well. Dustin Brown’s postseason point scoring currently sits at 15 points in only 13 games. This is second only to Claude Giroux who has freakishly inflated numbers due to the high scoring first round tilt between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Numbers aren’t everything, however, and I have no qualms in saying that I’d take Dustin Brown over Drew Stafford every day of the week. If the Sabres want to up the ante in 2012-2013, they need to inject some intensity into this lineup. Stafford needs to play every season as though it is a contract year. He’s shown he can be a go to guy on this team but hasn’t shown that on a consistent enough basis. So, the Sabres can match a team like the Kings with a less lethargic approach. It starts with core top six guys like Stafford.
The Sabres lacked that special something this season and much of their frustration came from a lack of chemistry. Chemistry is always easier to establish when intensity can be injected into the lineup at any time. If I’m Kings head coach Darryl Sutter and I need someone to make a play, I look down my bench and call on Dustin Brown to manifest that intensity in my lineup. The Kings have no doubt been able to find intensity and scoring as they have smothered their opponents through 13 games. If I’m Lindy Ruff, I don’t (and almost can’t) do the same for Drew Stafford. It is situations such as this where we start to see the problems of the Sabres appear.
One thing to note: Dustin Brown was drafted 13th overall in 2003. Drew Stafford was drafted one year later in 2004 at… you guessed it, 13th overall.
The Sabres have an entire off-season to address the issues that this season unearthed. This was part one in a series that aims to examine the problems of the Sabres through the use of their Depth Chart and comparisons with other teams and players. Hope you enjoyed it!
As always, thanks for reading.