The Sabres Observer
I get that Sabres fans love what they've seen from Jack Eichel this season -- count me in that group -- but some of the reaction over the phenom not getting serious consideration for the Calder Trophy has reached ridiculous levels.
It's been pretty clear for most of the season, at least since Connor McDavid's injury, that Artemi Panarin has been the frontrunner for top rookie. Against a tidal wave of scrutiny from a portion of Buffalonian twitter followers, I took the bold step on a few occasions of merely bringing this up. Many writers and broadcasters near the top of the media totem pole have felt the same way. And king of them all Bob McKenzie last night said he surveyed 21 NHL GM's and got 18 votes for Panarin, 2 for McDavid and 1 for Dylan Larkin.
Between that nugget and a twitter poll of hockey fans showing Eichel not listed in the top 4, you'd think from the response here that Buffalo is on the short end of the biggest conspiracy since No Goal.
Folks, it's OK to love Eichel AND be simultaneously and humbly appreciative that there are some other very, very good candidates out there as well. There's no law against that.
And, to be perfectly honest, most of those other rookies are more deserving.
From Howard Simon of WGR-550,
The Sabres are 18-13-7 in the second half of the season. That's 43 points in 38 games. If you project that over an 82 game season, it comes out to 92 points which, if you were wondering, would have the Sabres in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division today and in a playoff spot.
This doesn't mean General Manager Tim Murray doesn't have work to do. He still needs to improve the offense by bringing in another scoring winger for one of the top two lines and another top four defenseman would be nice too.
The two greatest young superstars to come into the league since Crosby and Ovechkin. The opening faceoff. Finally.
Despite their politically correct comments earlier in the day that it was about the teams and not the individuals, this moment was supposed to belong to both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
But when 97 went out to take the historic draw that would begin a 15-year rivalry with 15, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma chose strategy over good theater and sent out..... Johan Larsson.
Coach should've opted for good theater. Just ask the hockey gods, who decided to have a little fun by seeing to it that the number of seconds it took for McDavid to score after that opening draw matched Larsson's uniform number.
But, hey, any small trace of fun these days at First Niagara Center is to be treasured. There hasn't really been too much of it for what now seems like an eternity, which is what happens when the star attraction is a losing team playing boring hockey.
Are you happy with the progress of the rebuild, Sabres fans?
Buffalo (17-22-4) is on pace for 72 points, which would be 18 more than last season.
But 18 points better than one of the worst teams in NHL history isn't really as much as it seems. I was hoping for a bit more. If you've watched this group game after game for half a season, it should be pretty apparent why the jump hasn't been bigger.
That was quite an effort last night in the third period of the Buffalo - Calgary game.
Young Sabres star nets a hat trick, including a couple of power play goals, now second in team scoring, on pace to challenge for a 60-point season. It wouldn't be crazy to vouch for this kid making the trip to Nashville as an Atlantic Division All-Star.
With apologies to Rasmus Ristolainen, whom we in Buffalo love as we enjoy watching his rise to stardom, this is the storyline Sabres fans were hoping -- perhaps not expecting, but hoping -- would be written for Jack Eichel.
It was easy enough to see, even before last night's 2-1 Buffalo shootout win over Toronto, how good Evander Kane had played as a Sabre.
Fifteen shots on net, one disallowed goal and two assists in five games, a 54% Corsi For rating on a 40% Corsi For team, and an energy and presence on the ice that even passed the eye test.
Well, easy enough to see if you aren't a writer either too lazy to do his homework or carrying aspirations of induction into the Hot Takes Hall of Fame.
The centerpiece of a blockbuster deal with Winnipeg late last season, allegedly on the wrong end of "one of the more one-sided trades in NHL history", finally got what he deserved -- a game-tying goal and first star of the night. He also played over 22 minutes, had 7 shots on goal and led the team with 4 hits to boot.
For more reasons than just last night's stellar performance, one question needs to be asked.
What the hell is everyone's problem with Evander Kane?
When Robin Lehner was injured in last night's 3-1 opening night loss to Ottawa, here's hoping Tim Murray was on the phone within 5 minutes.
While most fans in Buffalo sensibly aren't having false illusions about the ceiling for this year's team, one thing for certain is another season struggling to stay out of 30th place is just not going to work. This currently excited and hopeful fan base will turn sour, and understandably so after what transpired during the past two horrific seasons.
Whether Lehner is out for days, weeks or months doesn't matter. This team needs an experienced veteran goaltender, as it has since training camp.
It's time for my annual NHL predictions.
Here's a summary of where I think teams will finish in the 2015-16 season:
Jack Eichel has called Evan Rodrigues one of the smartest players he's ever played with. Boston University coach David Quinn has said that Rodrigues is one of the smartest college hockey players he's ever coached.
You get the idea.
Eichel's linemate at BU is making it difficult for the Sabres to send the intelligent but undrafted rookie forward down to Rochester. It's still likely he'll end up there, but his 2-goal performance in last night's 4-0 Sabres win over Toronto further increased his chances of getting at least a taste of the NHL at some point this season.
Sam Reinhart is pretty sneaky in that you won't notice him as much as flashier players on the ice -- until you check the scoresheet after the game.
Last night was just another example. The "other" second overall pick showed how much he has improved since last season as he tallied 3 assists in a 6-4 Buffalo comeback win over Toronto at the ACC.
About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]