“I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” Eichel said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “I’m a competitor, I want to win every time I go out onto the ice, I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season.”
The Sabres finished the pandemic shortened season with a 30-31-8 record but will not be among the 24-teams returning to play if the NHL is able to conclude the 2019-20 post-season. The Montreal Canadiens, who with a 31-31-9 record was just above the Sabres in the standings, will get to play under the format announced earlier this week.
In the five years since Eichel was taken second overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Sabres have yet to finish a season with a .500 record or place higher than sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Division. On a personnel level, Eichel set a new career-high in goals this season with 36 and was on pace to break his career-high in points before the pandemic ended the season early.
Still, Eichel isn’t taking time to celebrate small victories like that after the way the season ended.
“I’ve already started preparing for next season now,” Eichel said. “I’m already doing things to try and better myself for the start of next season whenever that is. (But) I’d be lying if I said I’m not getting frustrated with the way things are going.”
“I’ve been reflecting pretty much since I came home in Sweden and especially now that we couldn’t make the 24 best in the league. It’s tough to be here in Sweden when all my Swedish buddies are going back and playing and I’m staying here in Sweden and not playing. It pisses me off a little bit actually to not play now,” Dahlin said. “It’s going to be a long summer. I can take care of my body well. I can do all the small stuff I can to get better every day. I can be a lot better over the summer for next year. I take this as a fuel to be a lot better next year.”
On Tuesday Sabres owner Kim Pegula confirmed that general manager Jason Botterill will return for a fourth season in charge. Head coach Ralph Krueger will also be retained for a second season, meaning any major change that comes this off-season will come at the player level.
Veteran forward Kyle Okposo summed up the feelings of the team and the city in a conference call Wednesday, saying another season without playoffs just adds to the disappointment and the pressure next year.
“It’s disappointing, it’s where we ended up,” Okposo said. “I understand the weight of the team that’s in the city, and I get it, because I now live here full-time. I talked to a lot of people, I’ve become friends with a lot of different people, and I know people are pissed, I know people are mad and they want to win. We want to win, too.”