When players change teams and play against their old franchise, it’s usually a must-watch game. It’s even more dramatic if the player leaves on not-so-great terms.
Think of when players demand a trade or leave a team during free agency breaking the hearts of fans everywhere. The former scenario is where the Buffalo Sabres will find themselves when Jack Eichel returns with his new team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Eichel didn’t leave over a salary dispute because he didn’t want to play for Buffalo, but left because they weren’t allowing him to get the specific medical treatment he desired after an on-ice injury.
Even if Eichel and the Sabres had a messy breakout, it’s for a reason that most fans can sympathize with. The overall dysfunction over the Sabres organization over the past decade also helps Eichel’s case for skipping town.
Jack Eichel used to be Mr. Everything for the Buffalo Sabres. Now, he’s nothing more than a former player to them.
Eichel’s return was one of the main questions discussed with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams in a recent NHL.com interview. When asked, it didn’t sound like Adams was ready to roll out the red carpet. In fact, Eichel is nothing more than an image in his rearview mirror:
"“There’s been so much going on, I haven’t really thought a lot about that next week. But on a personal level, I’m really happy for Jack that he’s back playing and he’s where he wants to be. Again, for me, I’m honestly just so focused on what we’re doing and our situation and how we continue to build our players and build the organization. That’s where my head is. But in terms of him and being back, I am super happy for him.”"
Adams was asked a follow-up question on if he hopes the fans show some sort of appreciation, such as a standing ovation for their former captain. Adams conceited that he hopes so, because the organization wants “to do everything first class”. He did stop himself short of saying Eichel appreciated the honor.
Adams wasn’t general manager when Eichel was the much-heralded second overall selection by Buffalo. Adams wasn’t the general manager when the team tanked very publicly the season before to draft “McEichel”.
Aside from a few months in 2020, Eichel wasn’t on the ice while Adams was in charge of the front office. Even if you’re just reading the text of his answers, you can tell Adams was anxious to get the Jack Eichel questions over with.
For Adams, Eichel is nothing more than a ghost of failed rebuilds past. That’s a history Buffalo fans know all too well. Now Adams is left to pick up the pieces while a once-proud fan base wonders why it should spend money on the perennial losing franchise. You can’t blame Adams for wanting to focus on whatever good can come out of the Eichel trade for Buffalo.
Was it surprising to see Buffalo’s general manager trivialize perhaps the most “important” game of the Sabres season? Yes, but Kevyn Adams has his focus on the future and not the Jack Eichel teams of the past.
Then again, Adams was a part of the disagreements with Eichel’s team that ultimately lead to the former Sabres captain getting traded. Adams probably hopes fans forget that part.
The whole, messy Jack Eichel saga was one we’re all glad is over. It was almost a relief when he finally got traded to Vegas. When it comes to Eichel, the Sabres front office just hopes fans never wonder what could have been.