The saying goes that a rising tide lifts all boats.
When applied to minor-league sports, the theory transcribes this way – when the team wins, your individual stock will automatically rise. Opportunities increase not from production alone – the goals, assists, and other various forms of quantifying individual skill – but from the success of the team as a group.
Easy enough to understand on paper.
It's harder to apply in the midst of an American Hockey League season, when every player on the Rochester Americans roster longs to be with the Buffalo Sabres.
It's the universal task assigned to AHL coaching staffs, and the Amerks are hoping a culture change produces a change of fortune.
The playoff drought isn't as pronounced for the Amerks as it is for the parent Buffalo Sabres. Rochester last went to the postseason in 2014. Since then they've endured three losing seasons. And the six-time Calder Cup champions haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2005.
The Amerks roster is built to set them up for success as soon as possible. That includes signing four players who spent significant time with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the team which had the best record in the AHL last season. It's also the affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill spent the last 10 years.
So the guys coming to Rochester understand the high expectations set by Botterill and the new culture that's descended upon the entire organization.
"We need to win here. It's going to be a little different than the last few years," veteran center Kevin Porter said. Porter played the last two seasons with Pittsburgh and Wilkes/Barre and was with Buffalo and Rochester from 2012-14.
Porter said Botterill "has high expectations this is going to be a good team. That's what he wanted. That's why he put this team together with the players he put in here. We have a great team on paper, but that doesn't mean anything. We need to come to work every day, and that's something he expects. You know, you're not going to win every game. You come to work and learn and I think we're going to have a good team."
And "team" seems to be the focus in word and deed in Blue Cross Arena these days.
Head coach Chris Taylor is ready to try and change the culture, a process that will admittedly take some time, but one that focuses on how team results can help individuals achieve their goals.
"Once you become a team then everyone does well and everyone has success," Taylor said. "I think that's the way we've got to approach it and the players have to approach it, because you can't do it by yourself. Especially the way we want to do it in this organization, it has to be as a team. If you don't play as a team, then it's not going to work for you as an individual. That's our whole culture. That's how we're going to do it. That's what it's all about.
"Individually you could score two goals and the team loses the game. That's not going to help you out. If you block two shots and we win, that's going to help you out in the long run. That's what we've got to get through to these guys and teach them. That's what we want and that's how you're going to thrive in this organization."
Hudson Fasching is one of the younger players looking to thrive in the new system. The forward, who made his NHL debut in 2016 after his season at the University of Minnesota ended, played just 47 total games last season (37 with the Amerks, 10 with the Sabres) due to a lingering groin injury.
He spent the summer working on mobility and flexibility, both to rehab the injury and better prepare his body for his second full season of pro hockey. Fasching said there is new energy and a more positive outlook throughout the organization. That can go a long way to creating a winning culture.
And while winning may help players boost their individual stock, Fasching noted there's another upside to a winning culture – it keeps hockey fun.
Winning "increases your value as an asset in the business aspect of it. That's always part of it, it's part of pro hockey," Fasching said. "Plus winning is just fun in general. So there's kind of both sides to it. I mean to have a winning team and a winning culture is huge."
Amerks 2017-18 Schedule:
Oct. 6 vs. Syracuse Crunch 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Syracuse Crunch 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 13 vs. Utica Comets 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 20 vs. Charlotte Checkers 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Utica Comets 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Laval Rocket 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 vs. Laval Rocket 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Syracuse Crunch 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Utica Comets 7 p.m.
Nov. 3 vs. Hershey Bears 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 4 at Utica Comets 7 p.m.
Nov. 10 at Belleville Senators 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 at Belleville Senators 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 vs. Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 17 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 22 at Syracuse Crunch 7 p.m.
Nov. 24 vs. Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 25 at Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 29 at Utica Comets 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 2 at Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 8 at Springfield Thunderbirds 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Hartford Wolf Pack 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10 at Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 p.m.
Dec. 13 vs. Utica Comets 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 15 vs. Toronto Marlies 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 16 at Utica Comets 7 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs. Belleville Senators 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Laval Rocket 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 23 at Laval Rocket 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 vs. Laval Rocket 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 29 at Toronto Marlies 7 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs. Laval Rocket 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 5 vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 6 vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 10 at Belleville Senators 7 p.m.
Jan. 12 vs. Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 13 at Syracuse Crunch 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 vs. Utica Comets 1:05 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Utica Comets 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 at Charlotte Checkers 6 p.m.
Jan. 21 at Charlotte Checkers 1 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Toronto Marlies 7 p.m.
Jan. 27 at Belleville Senators 7 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Toronto Marlies 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 7 vs. Belleville Senators 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Lehigh Valley Phantoms 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Hershey Bears 5 p.m.
Feb. 16 vs. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Binghamton Devils 3:05 p.m.
Feb. 21 vs. Syracuse Crunch 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 23 vs. Toronto Marlies 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 24 Toronto Marlies 4 p.m.
Feb. 28 vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers 7:05 p.m.
March 3 at Toronto Marlies 4 p.m.
March 4 vs. Laval Rocket 3:05 p.m.
March 9 vs. Providence Bruins 7:05 p.m.
March 10 at Syracuse Crunch 7 p.m.
March 11 vs. Syracuse Crunch 3:05 p.m.
March 16 at Providence Bruins 7:05 p.m.
March 17 at Bridgeport Sound Tigers 7 p.m.
March 18 at Hartford Wolf Pack 5 p.m.
March 23 vs. Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
March 24 vs. Springfield Thunderbirds 7:05 p.m.
March 28 vs. Utica Comets 7:05 p.m.
March 20 vs. Charlotte Checkers 7:05 p.m.
March 31 at Binghamton Devils 7:05 p.m.
April 4 at Laval Rocket 7:30 p.m.
April 6 vs. Belleville Senators 7:05 p.m.
April 7 vs. Toronto Marlies 7:05 p.m.
April 11 vs. Syracuse Crunch 7:05 p.m.
April 13 vs. Belleville Senators 7:05 p.m.
April 14 at Syracuse Crunch 7 p.m.