In one of the biggest trades in franchise history, the Buffalo Sabres sent Jack Eichel and a third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and a first and second-round pick. The return was met with mixed reviews, as is usually the case when high-profile players are traded, but those concerns were put to rest pretty quickly after Tuch and Krebs showed how impactful they can be on the ice. Specifically, in Tuchs’ case, he became a huge part of the Sabres from day one with his on-ice ability, desire to both play and win in Buffalo, and leadership qualities he brought to the group.
Tuch Fit In Well With the Sabres From Day One
Due to the shoulder surgery he had in the offseason, Tuch was unable to step onto the ice right away as he continued his rehab. That injury didn’t stop him from making a quick impact with the Sabres, and with the fan base as well. He originally grew up as a fan of the Sabres, and he was neighbors with former Sabre Tim Connolly growing up. In his introductory press conference, he reminisced about the Sabres teams from the late 2000s and how excited he was to be playing in Buffalo.
Having that excitement and buy-in from Tuch benefitted the Sabres immensely. During general manager Kevyn Adams’ tenure, he has stressed the importance of having players who want to be a Sabre, and want to be in Buffalo. Tuch fit that mantra to a tee, showing his enthusiasm to put on the uniform and stressing the importance of playing with pride for this organization each and every game. Even before playing for them, he became an important part of the leadership group and an even bigger piece of the core of this team, with many years ahead of him in Buffalo.
Tuch, Skinner and Thompson Gave Sabres Reliable Production
When Tuch was finally able to step onto the ice for the Sabres, he didn’t miss a beat. In his debut, he was placed with Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson. It didn’t take long for them to establish chemistry, with Tuch scoring and the trio combining for four points in their first night together. Head coach Don Granato kept that group together through most of the late half of the season, as they combined for 28 goals in 42 games.
Related: Buffalo Sabres Player Season Report Card: Tage Thompson
For Tuch individually, he scored 12 goals and added 26 assists for 38 points in his 50 games this season. He was impactful on both ends of the ice, but it was his offensive production that really stood out. He has a heavy and accurate shot, he is a solid passer, and for a 6-foot-4 player he is a very good skater who can use his speed in transition and for sustained offensive pressure as well. He is also an important piece of their power-play unit, with eight of his 38 points coming with the man advantage.
The leadership Tuch displayed before he made his debut carried over when he hit the ice. The effort he gave night in and night out was contagious throughout the lineup, as he was a big part of the Sabres turning things around in earnest towards the end of the season. Alongside Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, Tuch gives the Sabres another leader for the younger players to look up to and follow. His love for the Sabres and desire to play in Buffalo will be a massive part of their ascension out of the basement of the NHL. He also gave fans one of the more memorable moments of the season, when he helped Rick Jeanneret onto the ice for a standing ovation on the night his name was placed in the rafters of KeyBank Center.
Alex Tuck and Cody Eakin help RJ come out on the ice and everyone takes a picture with him. #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/roqBEboAqd— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) April 2, 2022
The whole night was an emotional and memorable one for the franchise, and Tuch being a major part of it showed just how important he is going to be for this team moving forward.
Future Looks and Final Grade
Tuch is signed for four more years at $4.75 million, locking him in as a major part of this team’s future. He will certainly be in consideration for the team’s next captain, but even without a letter on his jersey, he is a crucial member of the Sabres leadership group. It is hard to see the trio of Skinner, Tuch and Thompson being broken up next season, as they will give the Sabres a line to lean on nightly for offensive production.
Tuch’s first season in Buffalo can only be described as an unabashed success. His play, point totals, leadership qualities and love for both the city of Buffalo and the Sabres earn him an A+ grade. Having him be a part of this team should give Sabres fans confidence they are heading in the right direction.