Regardless of if it’s right or wrong, Jack Eichel has reportedly told the Buffalo Sabres they essentially must decide between him or Dan Bylsma.
In the world of professional sports, you repeatedly hear that no individual is bigger than the team. Regardless, it seems Jack Eichel has decided to put this theory to the test with the Buffalo Sabres.
As reported by WGR 550‘s Paul Hamilton, Eichel has apparently indicated he has no desire to sign a contract extension this summer, if Dan Bylsma remains as coach. In the process, the Sabres’ young superstar has essentially told the organization they must decide between him and Bylsma.
There has been speculation all season, that there was a rift between the younger and older players on the roster, in respect of Bylsma and the system he plays. If this latest report from Hamilton is true, it now sounds like Eichel has put his cards on the table, to have this matter resolved once and for all.
In the process, the 2015 second overall draft pick has theoretically sealed the fate of his current coach. After all, it is no secret the Sabres see Eichel as the long-term face of the franchise.
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And yet, if this happens, could the Sabres be setting a dangerous precedent? They will basically be telling everyone Eichel is in charge, which could in turn dissuade potential coaching candidates from considering Buffalo.
Sabres’ general manager Tim Murray recently indicated he has a strong desire to get Eichel signed to a contract extension during the offseason. The 2017-18 campaign currently represents the final year of the center’s entry-level deal.
However, it now seems like Murray will first of all have to resolve the situation regarding Bylsma, who has three years remaining on his contract. Hamilton also reported the GM is having a meeting with the Pegulas on Wednesday – no prizes for guessing what will now be at the top of the agenda.
There has been criticism of Eichel recently from the Buffalo media, indicating he needs to grow up and start acting more like a leader. Again assuming his ultimatum is true, is this really the type of behavior you expect from the future captain of the Sabres?
In fairness to the 20-year old, this isn’t the first — nor will it be the last — time there has been this type of power struggle between a star player and their coach. One of the more famous incidents I remember dates back to when Dan Reeves was head coach of the Denver Broncos.
At the time, it was pretty much an open secret that Reeves did not get on well with his quarterback, John Elway, despite the duo appearing in three Super Bowls together (albeit, all losses). The then Broncos’ head coach at one point even tried to trade his star player to the Washington Redskins.
In the end, owner Pat Bowlen sided with Elway — who he had a good relationship with — and fired Reeves. While the Hall of Fame quarterback also faced questions about his maturity, he was ultimately proven right, by going on to win two Super Bowls. (For the record, Elway and Reeves did eventually settle their differences.)
Of course, every situation is different, and this does not mean firing Bylsma is definitely the right decision. Ultimately though, it is now probably going to happen, with Eichel putting even more pressure on himself to take the Sabres to the promised land.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Pegulas and Murray – what do you do about Eichel’s apparent ultimatum? Do you give in to his demand, or try to persuade him to give Bylsma one more season to turn things around. Share your thoughts in the comments section.