BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – We’ve heard a lot of unhappy season-ending press conferences with Jack Eichel over the years since the team hasn’t made the playoffs his entire career. But this year’s frustration not only had to do with the losing but also how the team has handled his injury.
On April 14, the Sabres announced Eichel would miss the rest of the season with a herniated disk in his neck, an injury that caused him to miss the rest of the year starting on March 7.
There were questions as to whether or not Eichel would need surgery and now it seems that decision can’t be made by Eichel even if he wants to have it.
“I’ve been a bit upset about the way that things have been handled since I’ve been hurt. I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. I think that there’s been a bit of a disconnect I think from the organization a bit and myself,” Eichel said on Monday afternoon.
“It’s been tough at times but right now I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year wherever that might be.”
Eichel did not directly say he requested a trade or has expressed interest but right now his future is most certainly up in the air.
“I’m frustrated, I’m sure if you went down the line in the locker room I’m sure everyone’s frustrated. I’m not in any different situation than anyone else. You can’t sit here on media day and be happy that we’re having this conversation and we should still be playing. That should be everyone’s mindset, it should be we’re moving on to the playoffs and we had a good year and we’re gonna try and win a Stanley Cup,” Eichel said.
“That should be the goal of every player at the beginning of the year, every team. And that was our goal when we started. Did we reach it? No. Did we have a hard year? Yeah we did and I think when that happens it forces everyone to just consider what I guess you could do better, what you think maybe the future holds. I think I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason, I think that there’s a lot that I have to consider.”
The Sabres playoff drought extended to ten straight seasons as Eichel has been here for six years and hasn’t come close to playing in a postseason game.
“For now obviously I’m here, I’m the captain of this hockey team and my goal is to be available and to try and help the guys in the room and help this organization win hockey games. I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here,” Eichel explained.
“My number one interest and my number one goal is Jack Eichel. You gotta look after yourself, you gotta look after what you think is best for yourself and the organization has a similar job to do but it’s to look after what’s best for the Buffalo Sabres.”
During this whole zoom call, Eichel hinted that he wants to have surgery but the team will not let him. So even though it’s his body, it’s not his choice on what he can have done.
“It doesn’t work like that, I wish. Obviously I’m under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do,” Eichel explained.
“Things I guess maybe just haven’t been very black and white to put it in perspective. I think we’re all trying to educate ourselves on the situation and what would be best moving forward. There’s been some tough conversations but I gotta do what’s best for me.”
When it comes to just taking care of the issue now, getting it over with and having surgery, Eichel said it’s a “pretty quick reovery”.
“You just want to try and put yourself in as good a position as you can to be ready to rock when the puck drops next year. That’s my goal so I’ve talked to a whole heck of a lot of people and a lot of different opinions so just try to inform myself as much as I can,” Eichel said.
“Obviously this is kind of like uncharted territory for probably a lot of us and how to move forward and you know just try to do what’s best for Jack Eichel in the long-term you know because one day hopefully a long time from now I won’t play anymore hockey and my career will be over and I gotta be a father and a husband so my responsibilities change so there’s a lot to take into it. But we’re not just talking about a black and white ankle sprain or separated shoulder I mean we’re talking about a herniated disk in your neck, it’s a serious thing so there’s a lot of things that go into it.”
We have not yet heard comments from the Sabres on this but general manager Kevyn Adams is scheduled to talk to the media Wednesday morning as well as interim head coach Don Granato.