For the past two NHL seasons, the Buffalo Sabres have hands down been the worst team in the entire league. Buffalo compiled an ugly record of 44-102-18, and collected only 106 of 328 potential points.
This “process” began in March 2013, the then Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier muttered the statement, “I would like to think that people will give up some suffering in order to win the Stanley Cup.”
A little over two years later, and many Buffalo Sabres fans still see themselves suffering.
Very soon, that feeling may begin to dissipate as this year’s NHL Entry Level Draft approaches, due to the arrival of a Boston University forward by the name of Jack Eichel.
Eichel’s arrival in the Queen City surely pushes the Sabres out of the “suffering” territory and into a full blown daydream.
He is only the second freshman in the history of college hockey to win the Hobey Baker Award having put up 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 40 games, or 1.77 points-per-game.
“Everyone around here is pretty excited,” Eichel told NHL.com about Buffalo. “Nothing is set in stone, but it seem that this is where I’ll end up; people are really excited about the future.”
“He’s (Eichel) not a one-trick pony or a two-trick pony,” TSN’s Craig Button told USA Today. “He’s a multiple-trick pony. And he’s not a pony, he’s a thoroughbred.”
The praise does not end there.
“He is proving to be such an amazing game-breaker,” said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. “He’s relentless and driven on the play and has the smarts, speed and skills to deliver a needed scoring drive to tie up or win a game.”
An unnamed NHL scout had high praise for Eichel as well, when speaking to Sun Sports a few months ago.
“He’s the type of guy who you think is cornered but he’s far from it,” stated the scout. “He understands what defenders are going to do and he has the patience to wait until it plays out before he takes advantage of the play.”
While many professional scouts clamor over the skills that Jack Eichel brings to the table, even his coaches at Boston University are thrilled with the player he has become.
“Jack is a consummate teammate,” Boston University assistant coach Steve Greeley told the 716 Sports Podcast recently. “He’s an unbelievable leader, very impressive how he handled our team, and gelled with older guys.”
Greeley didn’t stop there. His praise of Eichel openly continued, with a very interesting comparison ever so subtly dropped in.
“Jack’s skating ability (his best skill), when you see his stride in person, and you see the separation, his skating is on par right now with the elite skaters of the National Hockey League,” said Greeley. “A lot of people like the Mike Modano comparison (with Eichel). I love that comparison but, for today’s fan, I always thought he (Eichel) reminded me of a combo of Ryan Getzlaf with Jeff Carter’s skating ability.”
Big praise for a kid who has never strapped on a National Hockey League jersey, eh?
Fortunately for Buffalo Sabres fans, Eichel appears to be ready to live up to the incredible hype that precedes him.
How can we tell? Just look at Eichel’s performance at the Scouting Combine.
Eichel outperformed expected top pick Connor McDavid in five of the six tests that posted the results, according to NHL.com. One thing that jumps out is Eichel “lasted longer than McDavid on the VO2 Max stationary bike,” which is a test measures a player’s endurance and stamina.”
If people had any doubt about Eichel’s competitiveness, his comments following the testing sealed the deal.
“You’re out there with a bunch of other players just competing,” Eichel told the media. “I think it’s in anybody’s competitive nature to want to top all the score lists.”
Eichel’s competitiveness was something that Steve Greeley had commented on during his podcast appearance. “I think the competition has just begun,” said Greely. “Jack has set out to be the best player he can be.”
We know that it is downright impossible to sit at your laptop as you read this and not imagine what a line of Kane/Eichel/Ennis or (insert your favorite RW here) would look like for the next 10+ years.
That is often referred to as a “good problem to have”.
The arrival of Jack Eichel does something big for the Buffalo Sabres organization. It gives the franchise something they’ve been desperately searching for since the departure of Daniel Briere on July 1, 2007: a bonafide number one center that can lead this team.
Buffalo will also be able to mold their roster around a young hockey player with world-class talent.
“Having coached him at the World Championships, you have the chance to see a guy who is going to be an elite, elite player,” said new Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma. “That was a large majority of NHL players that Jack was competing against. It wasn’t for five minutes a game. It wasn’t for seven minutes a game. He was one of our better players for Team USA, so Todd Richards was putting him on the ice against Evgeni Malkin, he was putting him against good NHL players, and skill-wise, size-wise, ability-wise, he (Eichel) stacks up.”
The pipeline has been stocked full of young, talented prospects the past few seasons but supplementing that pipeline will be very important to determine the future direction of this franchise, and ensure prospects like Eichel will be given the best chance to succeed. Taking a step back now, it is clear that things are already headed that way.
Acquiring forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian was a big step in the right direction. Even re-acquiring forward Matt Moulson last offseason in free agency, everything worked towards the goal of crafting a very good Stanley Cup contender.
Surrounding talent with talent seems to be the way to win in the National Hockey League these days, and Sabres GM Tim Murray has clearly taken notice.
The more that people read about Jack Eichel, and the more the people hear about him, the more people seem to fall in love him.
Who would’ve ever imagined that the Buffalo Sabres would be turning over their franchise to an 18-year old kid from North Chelmsford, MA?
Any way you look at it, Jack Eichel is the answer for the Buffalo Sabres.