Captain Jack Eichel hasn’t asked for a trade out of Buffalo so now he has to help the Sabres turn … [+]
Jack Eichel is wanting for more offense, but it appears he doesn’t want a way out of the Buffalo.
The Sabres captain, who has just two goals and 14 assists through his first 19 games of this season, has not asked for a trade, according to general manager Kevyn Adams.
Speaking during a media conference Friday, the first-year GM did what he could to tamp down rumors that Eichel could be on the move before the April 12 trade deadline.
“I said it in the offseason, step one was going to be for me to begin to get to know Jack, for Jack to get to know me on a personal level, which we’ve done. We have open communication,” Adams said. “No, he has not asked for a trade. Jack is someone that I’ve bounced things off of, he’s talked to me, and we have an open dialogue.”
Eichel missed two games last week because of an undisclosed injury and has two assists in three games — all regulation losses — since his return.
Of course, it’s not known how much longer Eichel can continue to accept what’s gone on in Buffalo since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2015 and seems destined to continue, which is a lot of chaos and disappointment. The Sabres are last in the NHL with 15 points (in 21 games) and are on course to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 10th straight season.
Coach Ralph Krueger has compiled a 36-43-11 record since the start of last season, and $9 million would-be Eichel sidekick Jeff Skinner hasn’t produced after an attempt by Krueger to jump start him with three straight healthy scratches. Skinner has no points since returning to the lineup and has one assist for his only point of the season. The Sabres have gone 1-4-1 since Skinner was first scratched.
If the Sabres aren’t moving Eichel, who’s coming off 78 and 82 points in each of the past two seasons, respectively, something else has to happen to shake up a team that’s played listless, uninspiring hockey. The Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, teams that have had seasons less disastrous than the Sabres, recently fired their coaches. But it didn’t sound as though Adams was inclined to go that route, although he confirmed he has the authority to do so.
“I need to do what’s best for the team right now, and also in the long term,” Adams said. “So I look at those types of things on a daily basis, I have conversations, and what’s interesting about this team, and it just hasn’t flat-out been good enough, but there’s good people in there and they communicate well with the coaches and the players enjoy playing for Ralph and the coaching staff. There’s a belief in that locker room. So that’s something I have to balance.”
The issue just might be that the players “enjoy” playing for Krueger. The Flames just switched out the affable Geoff Ward for the disciplinarian Daryl Sutter. Bringing in a tougher, less enjoyable coach could be the kick in the rear the Sabres need to at least be competitive the rest of this season and develop a positive culture.
As the saying goes, you can’t fire all the players. Sure, in addition to Eichel (who might still be playing through injury) and Skinner, free-agent acquisition Taylor Hall hasn’t done much to impress the 30 other NHL general managers he was hoping to wow while playing on a one-year, $8 million contract. He has two goals.
Hall might still be tradeable, but that would probably bring assets for the future. Adams said he’s not looking to go all in on another rebuild, and Hall said he’s open to re-signing. You better believe Eichel’s not looking for another restart with five years left at an average annual value of $10 million on his contract.
The Sabres’ road to success might come down to Adams, Krueger and Eichel working together. Adams sounded as though he believed all it would take is more passion and competitiveness from the players to bring an air of respectability. That could start with Eichel, wearer of the Sabres’ ‘C,’ taking the team on his shoulders. If he hasn’t asked out by now, he’s might see a light at the end of the tunnel few others can make out.
But Eichel, Krueger and Adams better act fast, or control of their desires to stay in Buffalo might be removed from their hands.
I write about the Bruins and the NHL, and the Red Sox and MLB. I have covered the Bruins and the NHL since 2005 for a number of entities, most recently for WEEI.com and