Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel Adamant Season Isn’t Over

Dec 1, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) during the third period against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center. Sabres beat the Rangers 4 to 3. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) during the third period against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center. Sabres beat the Rangers 4 to 3. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

A day after storming out of the dressing room following a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, a much calmer Jack Eichel insists the Buffalo Sabres can still challenge for the playoffs.

As we reported during the weekend, Jack Eichel was an extremely unhappy person following two consecutive losses to his hometown team, the Boston Bruins. Saturday’s 3-1 defeat was particularly galling for the youngster, as it came in front of family and friends at TD Garden.

While the majority of his teammates’ quietly absorbed the recent run of two points from five games, Eichel was firing pieces of equipment into his duffel bag and pounding others on his locker seat. When he had finished packing, he stormed out of the dressing room without speaking to the assembled media.

Given a day to calm down, the Buffalo Sabres‘ center was finally able to talk to reporters. And despite the obvious — and understandable — frustration with the current situation, he remains convinced the team can turn their fortunes around.

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Speaking to John Vogl of The Buffalo News and the rest of the media, Eichel said: “I don’t think we’ve hit the halfway point yet – I’m sure not giving up on this, and I don’t think anyone else is.

“Have we frittered away some good opportunities for ourselves to put ourselves in a good position? Yes, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played.”

One of the many impressive things about the 20-year old is his maturity. This is evident in how he hold everyone accountable, rather than singling out anyone – a sure sign of a good leader.

Eichel said: “As a whole team, everyone needs to look in the mirror and we all need to get a lot better. I think I speak for the team in saying that we’re all frustrated with where we’re at, and I don’t think I’m the only person in the locker room that’s not satisfied.”

Another sign of the 2015 second overall draft pick’s maturity is not making any excuses for the struggles this season: “We’re just not executing well enough.

Buffalo Sabres
Nov 29, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) celebrates his goal scored against the Ottawa Senators in the first period at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports /

“I don’t think as a group that we should be blaming what’s going on on line changes and injuries, because every team deals with it. Obviously with us we’ve had some key players injured at key times in the year and have not played 100 percent as a team in the two years that I’ve been here, which is frustrating.”

One area where Eichel will have to show more growth is in his consistency. In the 15 appearances since his return from injury, he has had eight games without a point, including one stretch of five consecutive games.

Of course, it comes down to more than points production for the North Chelmsford, Massachusetts native. He might have scored the Sabres’ only goal on Saturday against the Bruins, but he still made several mental mistakes and at times just didn’t seem fully invested.

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Despite Eichel’s volatile reaction after the game, he knows he isn’t the only one hurting from recent results: “All these guys have probably been winners their whole life.

“We’re a group – we’re one. We go through adversity as a team together, and the highs when we win games (are) also together.”

For many media analysts and fans alike, the Sabres’ are unlikely to make the playoffs this season. The Sabres are currently bottom of the Eastern Conference, with the second-fewest goals and third-fewest wins in the NHL.

Regardless, Eichel refuses to give up: “We’ve got a game against New York in New York on Tuesday, another opportunity to get two points and win a game.

“That’s all that matters. At the end of the day, nothing really matters but winning.”

Next: Does Dan Bylsma deserve so much criticism?

Do you agree with Eichel? Do you still believe the Sabres can turn their fortunes around and challenge for the playoffs? Or are you already resigned to the season being over? Share your thoughts in the comments section.