BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Frustration and disappointment. Those are the two words Jeff Skinner says that sum up this season both personally and for the entire team.
Secondary scoring was once again an issue for the Sabres as they continue to rely heavily on their top line. Last year, Skinner was a part of it as he scored a career-high 40 goals in his first season with Buffalo.
But this year, the top line consisted of Victor Olofsson, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart who scored a combined 78 goals this season. The rest of the forwards scored 81 and that includes Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues who were sent to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.
Heading into this season, Skinner was one of the guys they were counting on to provide that offensive spark once again but he struggled scoring a career-low 14 goals as he moved a lot throughout the lineup, barely playing alongside Eichel. But Skinner says there were a number of factors that caused his slump.
“I played with Jack a lot obviously the year prior and then it sort of became kind of a story and he’s obviously one of the best players in the league and he makes players around him better and that’s just what the best players do. I think if you get an opportunity to play with him he makes guys better and for me I think he’s an easy guy to read off and he controls a lot of the pace of the game and he takes up a lot of attention on other teams obviously so which opens up space for guys,” Skinner explained on a zoom call with reporters last week.
“I don’t look at that as the only reason, I think for me that’s a small…that’s just part of being on a team. You’re on the team to try and win and you try and do your best to help out the team winning and for me I’d like to have finished on a few more of those. At sort of big points in games I think there were times where we needed a goal and momentum could have changed in our favor and those are the moments you want to be a difference maker,” Skinner said.
Skinner finished with 14 goals and 9 assists in 59 games but he did miss ten games with a lower-body injury. This is coming off of signing an eight-year, $72 million contract with the Sabres last June.
And as the Sabres playoff drought extends to nine years, Skinner’s is now at ten as he has yet to make the postseason after spending the first eight years of his career with the Carolina Hurricanes and the past two in Buffalo.
““I think for me if you like losing then first of all you probably won’t get to this level and second of all you should probably choose another profession. It’s not a good feeling when you lose and it shouldn’t be. It should anger guys, it should disappoint guys, frustrate guys and I think that’s a lot of the emotions that a lot of guys have. It’s about channeling that in the right direction for us going into the offseason. I don’t think anyone’s satisfied or anyone’s happy with where we’re at or where we finished,” Skinner said.
Despite the having the longest active NHL playoff drought, the team did say there are positives to take away from this season, especially after head coach Ralph Krueger took over.
“Going into an offseason you have to try and look at the whole picture and what you’d like to improve and sort of grab on some of those good things and even build on those. But obviously I think overall the tone of going into an offseason without making the playoffs is always going to be disappointment, frustration, anger and those things are normal and now it’s up to us to use those to feed the energy to get better,” Skinner explained.