It’s becoming abundantly clear that Jack Eichel has been holding this team back.
When Eichel dropped to the ice, grabbing his leg in pain last Saturday night in a game against the Boston Bruins, Sabres Nation experienced the seven stages of grief in the span of a few heartbeats. But since that injury in the first period, the Buffalo Sabres have gone 2-1-0, scoring 13 goals – their highest consecutive three-game output of the season. In fact, it’s the first time they’re scored a total of at least 13 goals in three consecutive games in three full years (Feb. 24-28, 2015). In hindsight it makes total sense–Eichel wasn’t even on the team yet.
The Ewing Theory
Patrick Ewing is a retired Hall-of-Fame basketball player that played most of his career for the NBA’s New York Knicks. He won Olympic gold medals as a member of the 1984 and 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball teams and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
The Ewing Theory was cooked up by ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons and his friend Dave Cirilli in 1999. Their theory states that teams inexplicably become better after their star player leaves via injury or trade.
In the NBA playoffs, the New York Knicks lost Patrick Ewing to an Achilles tendon injury in the second game of a playoff series with the Indiana Pacers and were quickly written off. However, the Ewing-less Knicks won three of the next four games to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals for only the second time in 26 years.
The Eichel Effect
Who would possibly want a puck-possessing, point-producing, offense-driving talent like Eichel?
Forget the fact that Eichel leads the team in goals (22) and assists (31) and points (53). Forget the fact that the 21-year-old center has more shots (201) than every Sabre other than Evander Kane (206). Forget the fact that the second overall pick in the 2015 draft has been involved in more of his team’s offense than any other player in the National Hockey League this year. And forget the fact that in his last 30 games, he was playing at an elite level, with 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points–good enough to rank in the top 10 in the NHL in goals (tied for seventh) and points (tied for fifth) during that stretch.
It doesn’t matter that whoever head coach Phil Housley has thrown on Eichel’s line has suddenly produced. Jason Pominville, Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and others resuscitated from offensive comas to appear on the score sheet when paired with No. 15. It’s too bad former host and all-around pal Matt Moulson didn’t get a chance or he wouldn’t be stashed in Ontario, CA playing in the AHL.
Never mind that the Sabres have the league’s hottest power play since Jan. 1. With Eichel out of the picture, it will be scorching. This unit will no longer be forced to deal with his shenanigans like skating the puck into the zone with speed and determination. His silly cross ice passes to open teammates will not be missed.
Jack is obviously the problem. He’s terribly overrated. The team is so much better off without him. It’s no wonder they’ve been cellar dwellers all season, saddled with such an elite skating talent.
The Rest of the Season
With Eichel on the shelf with a high ankle sprain for the next four to six weeks, this team of underachievers will no longer be able to stargaze at him while making countless tape to skate passes. They’ll no longer be able to expect him to bail them out and generate offense all the time. Nope, this team has now shed its albatross of tankocity. The Sabres will vault up the standings faster one of Jack’s shots going top shelf, where momma hides the cookies. In fact, without Eichel holding them back, the scoring-deprived Sabres will be lighting the lamp at will, filling the net quicker than Alexander Mogilny and Pat LaFontaine did during the 1992-93 season.
Eichel had been doing everything for this team to the point that teammates were getting lackadaisical. Similar to a parent that constantly cleans up after a child, the child begins to expect that every day.
Now is the time to get excited. This is a roster filled with difference makers. Having shed the 2015 Hobey Baker award winner, the explosiveness that’s been pent up will now detonate. They will likely reach as high as fifth place in the standings, en route to a deep playoff run.
Will the person that had 6:34 AM for the Eichel a cancer to the team text please come collect. pic.twitter.com/6widbcW8z0
— Jeremy White (@JeremyWGR) February 14, 2018
The franchise is poised for prosperity with Eichel on injured reserve. The team’s defense is no longer making outlet passes to opponents. The offense is starting to play both ends of the ice. They’ve knocked off two of the best teams in the league.
Without Eichel, expect Pominville to erupt, Girgensons to find his groove, and Jordan Nolan to instantly transform into a pure sniper. Eichel’s leadership sucked the life out of these players even though he rarely even had them on his line. He forced them to just go through the motions night after night, and wait for his magic to appear.
Hindsight now reveals this team’s lack of effort and heart are directly traceable to Eichel owning the team’s failures after every game. He’s clearly the culprit.
Buy Him Out Already!
In the final year of his entry-level contract, Eichel will likely be bought out of his eight-year, $80 million contract before it even commences. He’ll be lucky to find work in the KHL while Lord Stanley’s Cup is paraded down Niagara Street this June.
*Relax. It’s satire.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”