Moving on from Jack
Broken Marriage: Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres’ marriage was flawed from the get go. After tanking in the 2015 season to secure the best odds of winning the draft lottery and thus Connor McDavid, then Sabres GM Tim Murray — after the Oilers ping-ponged ahead of them — infamously said “I’m disappointed for our fans.” An apt quote that succinctly sums up the six years Eichel spent in western New York.
Perhaps disappointment was their destiny — Eichel would have been the best player in any draft other than the one he was in. But 2015 turned Eichel into a consolation prize, one that would see the Sabres miss the playoffs by an average of 24 points over his six seasons. A half-decade of disappointment surely turned bittersweet last week as Sabres fans finally saw Eichel’s tenure conclude after current GM Kevyn Adams pulled the trigger on a deal with Vegas.
Shipping out your franchise player isn’t usually a recipe for success. But that’s exactly what the Buffalo Sabres are hoping for. And as crazy as it sounds, there’s some glimmer of hope that the dream has some doses of reality.
Prospect Capital: Admittedly, you have to look really hard. You have to want to see it. Through all the negatives — the Eichel saga, finishing dead last in the NHL a season ago, having more General Managers (4) than playoff games (0) over the last 10(!) years — there is hope.
Buffalo has an envious amount of young, talented players. 21-year-old Rasmus Dahlin and 20-year-old Dylan Cousins are already focal points on the NHL club. Peyton Krebs (acquired in the Eichel trade), Matthias Samuelsson and goaltender Devon Levi (from the Sam Reinhart trade) are coming quickly. And of course there are the blue chippers Owen Power (drafted 1st overall this year) and Jack Quinn (8th overall, 2020).
Corey Pronman of The Athletic also ranked the Sabres as having the number one prospect pool in the NHL this season.
Of course, prospects only really mean potential, and the Sabres have enough history with unrealized potential. Having a litany of prospects also serves as a reminder of quality players that have been shipped out. Recent trades of Sam Reinhart, Taylor Hall, Rasmus Ristolainen, and, in 2018, Ryan O’Reilly — who won the Conn Smyth and Stanley Cup with St. Louis a year after Buffalo traded him — is a trend Sabres fans hope ends with Jack Eichel.
The Future: To say “the future is now” is misleading; the Sabres are still bad. But with Eichel now gone, the present can start to be the focal point. And with the young talent on board, if the Sabres can develop them the right way and continue bringing in assets, if you look hard enough, you can almost see a plan. The first one in a long time. And that’s not so disappointing.
Links from the Rink
Stellar Debut: Fucale posts shutout in first NHL start
4th overall: Ovechkin passes Hull in all-time goals
Trade season: See who the top trade targets are with Eichel gone
Change in the air? NHLPA muls change at top
It’s Not Complicated: Eichel’s surgery a success