Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Come September, Give Eichel Some Space

Sitting a few rows behind the Gold Team bench at last night's scrimmage, I could see Jack Eichel say something to his coaches and teammates as he was huffing and puffing while skating off the ice after another rough shift.

He had just lost two puck battles to Jean Dupuy and been knocked to the ice two other times from hard hits, all in a matter of 90 seconds.

Without being a master lip reader, the look on Eichel's flushed face and his body language made it apparent he was muttering something along the lines of "I just don't have it tonight".

After the media tours, corporate event speeches, filmed fitting sessions at athletic headgear stores, emotional visits with children at Roswell Park, hula-hooping demonstrations at Larkin Square, and all the while still looking like an electric ball of energy at development camp the entire week leading up to this climactic event, it's completely understandable that Eichel hit a wall.

Say all you want about the future with this fine young man playing the role of Buffalo's hockey savior, but even with his off-the-charts talent he's an 18-year-old kid who ran out of gas a day too soon.

His grand entrance in front of a whopping 17,115 Sabres faithful didn't deliver as advertised, but smart fans will know better than to make anything of it. And even if a single performance in a prospect scrimmage were to be taken that seriously, the finger pointers could enjoy memories of the superstar performance they witnessed from Sam Reinhart.

Maybe Eichel's mature-beyond-his-years disposition all week has been in reality just the look of an extremely talented but very young hockey player putting up a good front to hide the fact that this nonstop attention is wearing on him, as it would any mortal human being, and it's time to give him some space.

That will certainly be easy now since, after Sunday's three-on-three tournament, there's no hockey until training camp.

But what then? Are they going to ask Eichel to do a photo-opp at Niagara Falls? Have him tailgate with Bills fans before a home game at the Ralph? Put him next to the mayor for one of those eye-rolling key-to-the-city ceremonies?

The best thing for the Sabres organization to do in September will be to back off the kid a bit. Shelter him from the media just a touch, and save the chauffeured trips all over town. Just let him be another youngster trying to make the team, even though the outcome of such an effort has already been predetermined.

Having Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane around for camp should be a big relief for Eichel, simply because fan and media curiosity about both veterans playing hockey in Sabres jerseys will take a bit of the focus off the future superstar, at least temporarily.

It will all work out in the end. A refreshed Eichel battling with NHL players after a few months off, focusing just on hockey, will be a lot of fun -- especially for him.


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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.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]