Eichel knows he can be better
Take a notepad. Write down a quick list of the Buffalo Sabres’ problems. If you include Jack Eichel, he’s probably well down the list.
To even imply that Eichel has to be better could be called blasphemy. Before reaching for the pitchforks, know that Eichel and I have had this conversation multiple times over the last two years. The topic came up again Monday in KeyBank Center. And Eichel agrees.
Right now, four years into his super-hyped NHL career, Eichel is a very nice player and still carries all kinds of potential. But the Sabres expected a superstar and are now paying him like one. He’s not there yet.
That’s the way of the NHL world now, where young players are paid long-term extensions on potential so you’re not stuck with veterans on overpriced contracts like Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles. But it leads to a situation where Eichel has never played in the postseason, has never had a 30-goal season – and has a higher cap hit than Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Ovechkin.
“There are still a lot of strides to be taken. I want to be an elite, elite player in this league,” Eichel said during an insightful 12-minute session with reporters on the Sabres’ locker cleanout day. “I want to be the best. There’s a long way to go. There’s a lot of really good players in this league and I think I can be there with them.”
Eichel set career highs this season in goals (28), assists (54) and points (82). He was the Sabres’ first 80-point man since 2008. But again, they expected a superstar. They threw an entire season trying to get Connor McDavid, but figured Eichel was a close choice 1B. That hasn’t happened.
Eichel finished tied for 23rd in
Where is Eichel’s work down low on the forecheck or coming back to the defensive end?