It’s Time for Eichel to Lead

It is no secret that the Sabres have been struggling to score this year.  They’re currently on pace for 188 goals for the season, which would be the third lowest total in franchise history.  Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel are the only two Sabres’ players with greater than 10 goals on the season and captain Brian Gionta has only four goals in 37 games played this year.  In case you’re wondering, yes, I am basically advocating a coup.  It doesn’t have to be so dramatic as that, though.  The Sabres need to start taking responsibility for their poor offensive play and it starts at the top.

Gionta said on New Year’s Day, “I feel the overall game is there.  It’s just not scoring, not finishing.”  That mirrors coach Dan Bylsma’s statements.  He said, “we’ve created and done things that you need to do to score goals, and we haven’t always gotten them throughout the year.”  They both seem to think that nothing needs to change and goals will simply start to come once karma catches up with opposing defenses.  Still, O’Reilly and Eichel are finding ways to score.  O’Reilly has 15 goals on the season and Eichel has 13, with two goals today against the Red Wings and 11 points in his last 7 games.  The kid’s just getting used to the speed and talent of the NHL, but he’s already adjusting.  Perhaps Gionta should take some notes from Eichel.

In the locker room, players often talk about holding each other accountable and pushing each other as a team.  The easiest way to do that is by example.  It would have to be a delicate balance for Eichel, who is 19, or O’Reilly, who is 24, to try to “hold accountable” NHL veterans like Gionta (36), especially considering Gionta’s track record.  He had a 48-goal season in 2006 during his tenure with the New Jersey Devils and is one of their all-time best offensive players.  That said, it’s hard to lead from behind and Gionta hasn’t had a 30-goal season for a decade now.  I’m not suggesting the Sabres actually demote Gionta or give Eichel a “C”.  I’m just saying that Eichel was able to be a leader at Boston University as a freshmen and the Sabres’ locker room could benefit from him stepping up now.