The Buffalo Sabres ended the 2016-17 season with a 33-37-12 record (78 points) which ranked 26th in the NHL. By most definitions, the Sabres were anything other than “good” during what was another pretty disappointing season. At the center of it all was Jack Eichel, the best offensive weapon on the team and the future of a franchise still trying to find its place in the NHL.
Preparing to play in the final year of his current contract, Eichel took some time to reflect on the season that was with Sportsnet. Instead of discussing the fact he’s due for a massive raise (his current deal carries a cap hit of just $925,000), he instead focused on how he was disappointed by his injuries and his team’s overall play last year despite having what he believed was a good roster.
“It was frustrating. But injuries happen. It wasn’t the easiest injury to deal with. I started to play much better the second half of the season.
But for me the most frustrating part was the underachieving of the team. I thought we had a pretty good team.”
Maybe it’s a good thing Eichel is out competing on the ice and isn’t an NHL GM. You could make an argument that the Sabres were better than their 78 points, but there’s no denying that they weren’t a very good team last season. They ranked 24th in total offense and 10th in total defense. That defensive rank isn’t too bad, but you’re going to struggle to string together wins if you’re not scoring any goals.
Those offensive issues could be partially tied to Eichel missing 21 games, but the rest of the roster should share the majority of the blame. Eichel led the Sabres with 57 total points (24 goals, 33 assists) despite missing a chunk of the year. The Sabres simply didn’t have enough offensive depth to cover for him while he was out or help him while he was in the lineup.
With a new GM in the mix in Jason Botterill and a new head coach in Phil Housley, change is on the horizon for the Sabres. Eichel won’t be going anywhere and will get a massive contract, but he’ll need a lot of help if the Sabres are going to live up to his “pretty good team” label.