The Buffalo Sabres once again find themselves playing for pride this time of year, though there hasn’t seemed to be much of that around the team’s facility of late.
Forward Ryan O’Reilly talked about his disappointment earlier on Wednesday, saying he’s “sick of losing” and that “it sucks the fun out of the game.”
Jack Eichel offered up a similar sentiment following Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, calling 2016-17 “another failed season.”
“I think more than anything, it’s another year with an outcome that you don’t want,” he told reporters. “Last year I bet you at this time, I bet we were saying the same thing we’re saying this year: ‘Next year we’ll get ‘em.’”
The Sabres finished 23rd in 2015-16 with 81 points, and they’re currently ranked in the exact same spot, with three fewer points.
“It sucks. That’s the best way to describe it. It sucks. We should still be playing hockey and we’ve got two games left and then the season ends and you hit the summer. It sucks. We didn’t make any improvement from last year,” Eichel said.
While there are undoubtedly a few mysteries and plenty of questions around why, exactly, the Sabres couldn’t muster up more wins this year with a roster much-improved over last year’s team, plenty of blame can go to the team’s injury issues. Eichel himself missed a chunk of time to start the season, and star teammates O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Evander Kane have also missed time with illness and injury.
Despite his lengthy absence to start the season, Eichel still had an impressive campaign on the score sheet. The sophomore has 24 goals and 33 assists in 59 games this season—that’s one point up on his rookie totals, and he managed to do it in 22 fewer games.
Judging by Wednesday’s comments, however, those personal accomplishments don’t mean much right now.
“It’s another failed season, in my mind,” he said. “Obviously something needs to change and we just need to be playing hockey more at this time next year. The season can’t end here. So whatever it’s gotta be for us to get there, we gotta do it.”