The Sabres are off to a horrendous start this season, sitting at 6-15-4 through 25 games… good enough for last in the Eastern Conference and 30th overall in the NHL. There are many things to criticize the Sabres about, lack of production from the blueline, lack of production from key players, an abysmal powerplay and many more.
A key lightning rod for criticism this season has been Jack Eichel, and coming off an impressive second season and a new 8 year $80-million contract it’s understandable that he has been taking a hit in the media.
Eichel, who has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 25 games is currently the second leading point getter on the team. Obviously he would like to have better offensive numbers, particularly better powerplay numbers (he currently has one powerplay point). But it’s tough to imagine him slumping much longer.
There has also been concerns with his body language and effort on defence, again there is warrant for these criticisms. At times he has looked bored and frustrated, and he does need to work on his defensive game to take the next step, but for some people blaming Jack Eichel for the Sabres season is a lazy excuse.
Jack is their best player, he’s their superstar and their franchise, sure he has his flaws but what young player doesn’t? I agree he does need to take the next step and be the elite player that we all know he can be. But Jack Eichel is not the problem, he’s the solution.
What the Sabres need is to get healthy, start getting production from the blueline, and add to their offensive depth. Jack and Evander can’t do it all themselves, adding scoring depth will go a long way to helping the team and take some of the pressure off Jack allowing him to open up and be the player we know he can be.
Unfortunately Botterill doesn’t seem too eager to make any changes this season, which although frustrating helps the team heading into the future. So Jack has to take it on himself and grind through a grim present before he can lead us to the bright future.
A big argument I hear lately is that Jack should make the team better and take them to the next step, but look at Edomonton… even with McDavid the best player in the world the team is struggling. That’s because one player doesn’t make a team, you need a good supporting cast to help produce on top of having a superstar calibre player.
When Jack arrived in Buffalo we had virtually no depth, a good prospect pool that was depleted quickly via trades, and a salary cap situation that was less than ideal (ie Moulson, Gorges, Bogosian). When the right pieces aren’t in place it can be tough for a team to rebuild even with the franchise player in place.
Unfortunately, now we have to wait for Botterill to replenish our prospect pool and for our current prospects to develop properly in the AHL before things start to turn around.
All in all the Sabres will get back on track, it’s just going to take longer than we thought…but that’s not Jack Eichel’s fault… there’s nothing wrong with Eichel, there’s something wrong with the Sabres.
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