Close to Jack Eichel Era in Buffalo

After about two weeks of trading that saw Jack Eichel move to Vegas for Alex Tosh, Peyton Cripps, and a couple other non-gamers, I wrote an article here at Die By The Blade. I wrote that as supporters of the Buffalo Sabers we need some perspective on Eichel’s time here. We needed to be wise and understanding. We needed to appreciate what he did here and what the front office put him in. We needed to applaud him and show the whole league that we understand it has been difficult for the team in terms of the surgery. I said we need to not boo him and encourage him from here in Buffalo in all his future endeavours.

I was wrong.

I was not only mistaken: Jacques Eichel rejected fans like me precisely.

There are a few moments in sports that show an exciting turning point for all viewers. As you play, you learn to spot them but in the broad state of the franchise and fan base, these moments are often muted, occurring slowly over years in a declining player or a rising dynasty. I wrote the above article and expected the same thing to happen with Jack Eichel’s relationship with the Buffalo Sabers. It’s been traded, it’s over, let’s be smart fans and move on. I am a good contributor to this site, so I promoted the article especially with Eichel back in Buffalo as the Golden Knight approaches. I thought the excessive booing and adult men with signs against Eshel was embarrassing. Then the game went as it did, and Jack Eichel’s post-game comments shifted the narrative toward closing in a way we don’t often play in sports. My previous article was completely unnecessary and comprehensive overnight.

I don’t know where to begin with the former captain’s comments: tone, disposition, words. I’m not the guy who throws “title” a lot. I think it’s overused and nondescript in most cases. Jack Eichel’s Thursday night comments leaked their entitlement like an open, salty wound.

One specific comment that rises above the rest is: “This is the loudest sound I have ever heard in this place. It only took me seven years and I left for them to get into it.” Yes, it’s a bad season in terms of attendance, but that’s not the norm and Jack knows that. Not only does he know that, but KeyBank Center has made higher octaves on multiple occasions in his time here. There were structural concerns after winning their ten-win streak in the 2018-2019 season due to all the hype.

Are you really so childish and unprofessional that a storm of boos is enough to make you get this confrontational? You seriously told ESPN you weren’t bitter and went on to say that after the match? You really thought you were going to come here and dump the litter on the old barn, right?

Tuch races toward the goal after Eichel is stripped of the puck.
Photo by Bill Webert/NHLI via Getty Images

Another comment jumped to Sabers fans retroactively: “They must be booing me because they wish I was still here.” As upsetting as this may be at first glance, there is something to what he says. The vast majority of fans were fully prepared for Eichel’s departure after five months of waiting in the trade. They don’t wish he was still here at all, especially after the guys we got into the trade did so well (the one who stripped Jack from hacking for 3-1 will probably be the next leader). But then there’s a bunch of absolute lunatics like me. I got the Eshel Gold jersey in Vegas and was watching the Golden Knights even before Jack was back on the ice. We wanted to support Eshel and see him succeed after his three bad front office systems here. This comment has ruined people like me who had some goodwill in our hearts for Jack. Whatever remains of this goodwill will not be made public any time soon after that.

To fans of other out-of-market teams, broadcasters and writers who feel like we here in Buffalo are really hard on him after what Pegolas put in: You’re right. No player should suffer an injury like this waiting for the team doctor nor should the captain be unceremoniously stripped in such a trivial way. When I tell you that’s not even half the story, you have to listen to those of us who watched this team through a decade-long drought with a few happy moments before you sighed at the match and all the boos. He is willfully ignorant of the whole story, not to mention the obvious fact that we haven’t given a remote team a contender in a playoff game since the first Obama administration.

Season-ticket holders have been fed up with rising prices and sharply falling demand. However, we did buy t-shirts and give them some of the best TV reviews in the sport. Spare us the cynical and lukewarm debate about whether or not Buffalo owes hockey. The buried leader is Jacques Eichel asking for more panic then I was ready to deliver before this encounter.

Jack Eichel privately requested a trade in the summer of 2020 after a mass execution of organization employees who saw another new GM take power. Taylor Hall’s wild trade to Buffalo was a swing of the ramparts as a direct result of trade demand. You have failed miserably. By the time Eshel suffered a neck injury at the end of the season, all the cards had already been played. Pegulas and the new front office system in no way needed to draw the lines they did and made us all look like clowns. Given.

Once again: I was one of those who always defended Jack from haters near and far. Even after revealing this trade order I still support it. But context is key, and it made me an idiot.

He asked to trade in 2020 while he was on an eight-year deal for two years. We all know it was an ugly situation already, and he was probably staring at a third rebuild in five years. I’ll engage the player in 90% of player vs. ownership battles, but how the player responds to situations matters. No one had any faith in the monarchy to get it right this time, but Eshel made a commitment he did not honor. And Eichel honored this community with visiting hospitals and all that, so he knew C’s duties and the commitment that comes with a contract of this magnitude. Don’t sign a contract with that kind of term if you’re not ready to stick around that long: good relationships have no exit strategies.

I wrote in this previous post that everyone could be forgiven with some dedication to our fan base: our clothing range, our motto. More than just a property, the fan base is truly forever. In the end, Jack Eichel wasn’t willing to make the dedication. Even more embarrassingly, I compared Eshel’s time in Buffalo to that of Pierre Tourgonne three decades ago. Pierre Torgon must be angry with me for this comparison. At no time did Pierre Turgeon defame fans after losing a reunion match after being ejected out of town. And we got Pat Lafontaine for him! There are a few classic blunders from petty comments to former players and then stalking fans.

I was wrong to think that we need that impression When it comes to Jack Eichel time here in Buffalo. The man himself was clearly lying when he said he doesn’t feel any bitterness towards fans if all it takes is a boo to get him to make that comment. I wanted to back him up so badly, maybe I’ll find a special, quiet way to do it if he makes his playoff debut this spring. But there would be no fond historical context for his time here after those comments. And there would be no need for any Sabers fan to feel conflicted about it moving forward after the 1v1 lockdown the game gave us. Sure, like Peyton Cripps, Alex Tooch, and players who are crafted with choices may not likely be Jack Eichel. That’s fine with every Blue and Gold fan now because we just got the best close possible at the Eichel Era in Buffalo.

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