The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington writes how Buffalo’s struggles are just as perplexing as those affecting its franchise player, Jack Eichel. The third year pro has looked frustrated and lethargic this season as the Sabres sink to the bottom of the Atlantic, and the Eastern Conference even before the (American) Thanksgiving holiday. Harrington writes:
There’s one gnawing issue that keeps growing: What’s going on with Jack Eichel?
Forget about an elephant in the room. This is an entire herd. Eichel is not the guy we’ve seen the last two years. He was invisible again for long stretches Saturday — not getting a single shot on goal for more than 48 minutes.
He continues on the subject of Eichel, stating that the “dirty secret” amongst Sabres fans is that Eichel is essentially lolly-gagging around the ice when he should be skating harder. Worse, he pinpoints a play during the Sabres 3-1 loss to Carolina Saturday night where Eichel was a non-factor in what would be the game winning score. It’s Eichel, Harringon pens, who got his wish when former coach Dan Bylsma was fired. Which leads Harrington to his next subject: new bench boss Phil Housley.
- Calling him “Pollyanna Phil,” Harrington opines that while the first year coach finally talked tough following an uninspiring loss to Detroit, he was back to his passive ways Saturday. Where Harrington points out that Eichel may need to be shown how lackluster his play has been, Housley has instead gone a more positive route, choosing to highlight what he believes Eichel has done well. If you have a future captain, inked to an expensive long term deal, Harrington suggests that it may behoove the Sabres to call things as they truly are with Eichel.
- The Detroit News’ Gregg Krupa highlights the Red Wings’ young players as the reason for the team’s latest reversal of fortune. It’s been an uptick in usage of Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha that has helped the team while captain Henrik Zetterberg has taken a lesser role while still playing at a high level. Krupa adds that nine players on the team have four or more goals, showing that the more even distribution of ice time has benefitted the team.
- Tampa Bay hasn’t lost much this season, but when they have, it’s provided a “reality check” writes the Tampa Bay Times’ Roger Mooney. The Bolts have lost for only the third time this season, and as it was in the other two contests, they came out flat and ran out of time. Mooney points out that the team was resilient after both early season losses, ripping off a couple winning streaks after. Bench boss John Cooper likened it to the old Forrest Gump quote: “That stuff happens.” Regardless, it doesn’t seem to have fazed them in the slightest. Simply put, Mooney quoted Ondrej Palat as saying, “We have to be better,”