Open Letter: Can Sabres Fans Please Stop Making This Social Media Argument?
The Buffalo Sabres have been alright through the first four-to-five weeks of the regular season. They're 7-6-2 through the first 15 games of the regular season and had a winning streak to start the season, with a losing streak right after that.
Last night they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 2-1, but let's be honest, the Penguins dominated that game. They outshot the Sabres 46-19 (yes, really), and the only reason Buffalo won was because goaltender Dustin Tokarski stood on his head.
The Sabres are better this season than they were through 15 games last season. They have 16 points through 15 games. It took them 33 games to reach that point total a year ago.
Some Sabres fans on social media are making an argument that may seem like an obvious one, but is it true?
That is, the Sabres are better -- or, better yet -- a better team without former captain, Jack Eichel.
A recent poll on Twitter says fans are actually split down the middle on this debate.
Yes, Eichel didn't win with the Sabres in his six years in Buffalo. Yes, the Sabres are playing better this season than they did after 15 games last season. But is not having one of the best players in the NHL on your team a good thing?
I think the answer to that is "no." Sure, the Eichel trade stuff was a distraction since June, and having a disgruntled player in your building and locker room is never great, but fans may forget just how spectacular Eichel was before his neck injury.
During the 2019-2020 season, Eichel scored 36 goals and 78 points through 68 games. He was on pace to score over 40 goals and nearly 100 points had it not been for the pandemic-shortened season. He was even in the MVP discussion, on a bad Sabres team.
Imagine if Eichel hasn't been on the 2019-2020 roster? How many wins do the Sabres get? You could without a doubt make the argument that Buffalo is last in the standings that season; maybe by a lot.
The January and February of 2021 version of Eichel is not a fair comparison. He was hurt and on a team led by head coach Ralph Krueger, who was pretty much enemy number one in fans eyes. The team immediately played better when he was fired.
It's unfortunate how things turned out for the Sabres since Eichel was drafted. The Evander Kane trade didn't pan out. Robin Lehner as their starting goalie didn't pan out. Dan Bylsma, Phil Housley, and Ralph Krueger didn't pan out; neither did Taylor Hall. Former general manager Tim Murray did more harm than good with the roster, and former GM Jason Botterill barely changed anything when he came in.
Eichel should have worked in Buffalo and it certainly was not because he wasn't productive. He was head and shoulders the Sabres best player since his rookie season and the Vegas Golden Knights gave up their best prospect, a solid 20-goal scorer, and a first-round pick for a reason -- because Eichel is a world-class player.
I do not believe the Sabres are not a better team because Eichel is no longer here.