Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel Reaches Breaking Point

Dec 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) fires the puck into the zone during the third period of the Boston Bruins 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) fires the puck into the zone during the third period of the Boston Bruins 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

After a sixth loss in seven games, Jack Eichel’s reaction in the dressing room shows he’s had enough of how the Buffalo Sabres have been playing recently.

We recently wrote about the influence of Jack Eichel on the fortunes of the Buffalo Sabres. After starting the season 7-9-5, they went on a 5-2-3 run, once Eichel returned to the lineup.

The influence of the 2015 second overall draft pick particularly extended to the Sabres’ effectiveness in front of goal. After averaging 1.86 goals without him, this number was boosted to 3.00.

Unfortunately, it now seems that Eichel’s impact is beginning to wear off. The Sabres have since lost four of their last five games, while scoring just nine goals in the process.

Of course, the influence of a franchise player is about more than your actions on the ice. Sabres’ coach Dan Bylsma recently discussed Eichel’s leadership skills: “What you don’t get to see is his intensity on the bench and he’s right now one of the guys that’s leading on the bench and his words and his demeanor.”

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In that respect, the 20-year old’s reaction following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, was particularly telling. To set the scene, the dressing room was almost silent, as players processed the most recent defeat.

Then, as described by Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, Eichel made it clear to everyone how unhappy he was. He fired pieces of equipment into his duffel bag, pounded others on his locker seat and drove the bag hard into the rubberized floor.

The 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner also let fly with some choice four-letter words, before storming out of the room without speaking to the reporters. Given that he is more of the NHL’s more media-friendly players, this tells you everything you need to know about how furious he is with recent events

Don’t expect any comeback despite foregoing his league-mandated obligations. The media and fans alike can totally understand why Eichel reacted the way he did, basically ignoring the Sabres’ PR official who asked if he would speak to the assembled reporters.

The North Chelmsford, Massachusetts native does not like losing, as is the case with any competitive professional athlete. The fact he is so public with it, only further shows how passionate he is, to the point of not caring who sees how he reacts.

It also couldn’t have helped that the last two losses came at the hands of Eichel’s hometown team. Regardless, Bylsma empathized with the youngster’s volatile reaction, when told about it by the media.

Buffalo Sabres
Dec 27, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Bylsma said: “I think every one of us should be – we know the situation we’re in and we know how desperate we are at this point in the season to win hockey games. We should all find that desperation, that urgency and that anger.”

It should be noted that Eichel is not entirely without blame himself, recently going through a stretch of no points in five games. Yes, he scored the Sabres’ only goal against the Bruins on Saturday, but he had several mental lapses and at times did not seem thoroughly invested.

In fairness, this can be partly blamed on playing on a line with Matt Moulson and Marcus Foligno. Neither player seems particularly capable of complementing his strengths, as opposed to the likes of Evander Kane or Sam Reinhart.

Looking at the bigger picture, the Sabres find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, as we approach the halfway point of the regular season. There may still be 46 games remaining, but time is already running out for Eichel and his teammates.

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As captain Brian Gionta told Harrington and the rest of the media: “Guys need to understand where we are in the season, where we are in the standings. We need to start making a move now – we can’t continue to wait.

“We said before Christmas was a big week and we blew it. And again this week we had two huge games coming in against these guys for that final divisional playoff spot, so it’s disappointing.”

Overall, there is still time for the Sabres to turn this season around, but the point of no return is fast approaching. And if they can’t find a way to fix things, we can expect more volatile reactions from Mr. Eichel.

Next: Does Dan Bylsma deserve so much criticism?

What do you make of Eichel’s reaction in the locker room? Was he right to do it in front of the media, or should it have been behind closed doors? Further, where do you stand on the Sabres’ chances of recovering and mounting a serious playoff challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments section.