Losing stinks, as Ducks coach Dallas Eakins likes to say.
The Ducks have done plenty of losing this season, so you might think it would be something of a way of life for the rebuilding team, mired as it is in last place in the West Division with a 10-19-6 record after a 4-1 win Friday over the St. Louis Blues.
It’s not something they say they’ve accepted, though.
It’s been a humbling experience, naturally, but there’s also been a sense that all the losing will harden the youngest Ducks players for what comes next in their careers. It’s been a character-building exercise, according to 22-year-old left wing Max Comtois, the Ducks’ leader with 10 goals.
“At the end of the day, we always want to win and it’s hard on the morale when you lose,” Comtois said. “If we were winning every hockey game, we would think that playing in the NHL would be easy, so I think it’s good for us. We’re trying to rebuild here and trying to push forward.
“It’s only going to build our character. Now we know how the taste of losing is. We’re just trying to push back and play as hard as we can. In the future, it’s going to turn around and we’re going to start winning.”
At the moment, certainly from the outside, it seems like a leap of faith to believe the Ducks will be an elite team again. A return to the days when division championships and deep playoff runs were an annual rite of spring at Honda Center seems as far off as a trip to another galaxy.
Good times tend to follow bad ones, if you follow the right path, according to Eakins. Some might question whether the Ducks are on the right path, given their lowly standing in the NHL. Or on any path, for that matter. But that’s a subject for another day, another round of questions.
“Adversity reveals character,” Eakins said. “It reveals who you are and if you’re ready to dig in. In the same breath, it can build it. It’s the tough days in your life, the adversity in your life, climbing up that mountain rather than taking a walk around it, that’s what builds that grit, that character.”
Eakins said he sees better days ahead for the Ducks precisely because they have gone through some difficult times and he expects everyone to have learned great lessons from them. Giving up isn’t the answer. Nor is accepting one’s fate, even during a lost season like this one.
“Everyone thinks we’ve got choices to make on how to play or how to get fitter or how we’re going to go about our day,” Eakins said. “There’s no choice. There’s one. You do exactly what is required, and that’s it. So, yeah, I think Max is bang on. Once we get on the other side of this, we’re going to look back on this tough, tough time for our organization and I think we’re going to be glad we went through it.
“I know it’s hard on our fans and the people around us to go through it. But I do think it is necessary and one day we’re going to look back and actually be grateful that we did go through this to callous our brains.”
Jamie Drysdale practiced Saturday with his teammates at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, one day after the rookie defenseman was forced from Friday’s game with an unspecified upper body injury. Drysdale left the ice after an awkward collision with the Blues’ Jacob de la Rose in the first period.
“He practiced with us this morning,” Eakins said. “I spoke to him before practice started, and he seemed fine and got through practice well. I’ll swing back with our medical guys and see what their take is. Any time you see a hit like that, we’re obviously going to be very cautious with it.”
Ducks at St. Louis
When: 2 p.m. PT Sunday
Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis