It takes no expert to say that the Buffalo Sabres have a massive problem with Jeff Skinner.
In the second year of his massive deal that pays him $9 million a season, Skinner has only one point in 14 games to show for it. Talk about getting bang for your buck.
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This has been a problem that has plagued the Sabres for years as they have signed countless players to big contracts who have fallen short of expectations. In a year where Buffalo is supposed to take a step forward, they continue to struggle with their big-ticket players not performing to expectations.
Look no further than Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and Skinner combining for three goals through the team’s first 14 games. This doesn’t describe a winning formula when the top three paid forwards on your team aren’t lighting the lamp as much as they should be.
Skinner’s struggles now have him in danger of being a healthy scratch against the New York Islanders. It’s no secret that Ralph Krueger is sending a message to the veteran.
"“I have a lot of respect for the noise certain decisions will make and in the end my role is not to be popular, but to be respected,” Krueger said after practice. “We strive for accountability and getting players to their potential and in the end that’s my job and when we make decisions, it’s not will they make everybody happy, but hopefully it pushes the right buttons in the individuals to have them fulfill the roles that we expect.”"
Whether or not Skinner can turn things around will take some time to figure out but how long can the Sabres remain patient?
Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner’s big contract presents tough road ahead
This is certainly a tough situation for the Sabres as they cannot simply move Skinner because he has a no-movement clause in his contract. At the same time, you wonder if Skinner wouldn’t waive it to get into a better situation.
What team would even consider trading for Skinner and his contract? It would be tough to expect the Sabres to retain salary on his deal considering the term still left on the contract and how much they would have to take back.
This is where the team simply has to figure out what is holding Skinner back. They haven’t played Skinner and Eichel a great deal at even strength and shockingly, the Sabres haven’t tried him with Eric Staal more than they have.
"“I think confidence comes and goes for every player, for any player,” Skinner said to Buffalo News. “I’m not happy with how things have gone so far. And I think when you’re rolling, you have a different feel. How you go about sort of rekindling that and re-sparking that and changing the trajectory of that is a challenge.”"
It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out as the Sabres will try to avoid losing too much ground in East Division and will need their top players to step up their game.