Earlier today Paul Hamilton dropped a bombshell that Buffalo Sabres star center Jack Eichel had supposedly said that he wouldn’t be signing a contract extension if Dan Bylsma was going to continue as coach of the Sabres.
Another local hockey journalist John Vogl got in touch with the player and asked him to clarify some of the comments that were being attributed to Eichel, purportedly made during his exit interview with General Manager Tim Murray.
Here are the notes from Vogl’s Q&A, click on the link to read the full story on The Buffalo News -
Vogl: "Let’s start with this morning then. I talked to your agent and he said you’re hurt by all this stuff. I can imagine if, like you’re saying to me, it’s stuff you didn’t say and it’s being reported that you said it. How hurtful is that and what were you thinking when you starting seeing these things?"
Eichel: "First, when you see that people are writing these things and saying that you said these things, my first thought is where are they getting this information? If it’s not coming out of my mouth and I didn’t verbally say it to you or anybody, then where are you getting this information? Second of all, why are you writing it and trying to back yourself up on it?
"Like I said, I would have liked to have handled my end-of-the-year meeting a little differently, my exit press conference with you guys, but it is what it is. Just hearing these things that people are writing after I have a meeting with Tim and a meeting with Dan, I thought both of them went well. None of anything that I’ve read so far has been accurate of what was said in those meetings with them. It’s a bit frustrating and a bit disheartening because I thought things were heading in the right direction leaving Buffalo. As much as we didn’t have a great year, you’ve got to just look forward to the future. Speaking to Tim and speaking to the Pegulas, just expecting big things for next year. It’s just frustrating to still be dealing with this more than anything."
Clearly Eichel cares about being in Buffalo, and we can’t forget, he is only 20 years old. He’s still learning how to handle the media.
They went on to address the wildfire-like speed of how the news from earlier today was received not only in Buffalo but across the hockey world.
Vogl: "When it moves so fast, what is it like for the person involved with it?
Eichel: "Yeah, it’s tough. It’s try and get a grasp on it, then it spreads like wildfire. As soon as one person writes it, another person reads it and it really hits the fan. Like I said, it’s frustrating more than anything that I think the wrong message is being put out about me and about our organization and team. That’s why I think my agent did a good job of calling you and putting the right message forward about what my real opinions are because I want to be a Sabre and I want to be a Sabre for a long time and I want to be a part of Buffalo when we win. I know it’s an organization that is capable of doing that, and I want to be a part of it and I want to be a centerpiece of it.
"I want to be here for a long time. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I don’t want anybody to think that I want to be somewhere else. I want to be here, and I want to help this team win in any way that I can do that. I just want all the people there to know that.
"I definitely am not the type of guy to point the finger and blame other people. I said in my exit interview and I’ll say it again, it’s self-reflection. You’ve got to look yourself in the mirror before you can call out other guys. I said it all year, if you want to be a leader and be vocal, you’ve got to play well yourself. For me, I don’t think I was good enough this year, so I need to be better. The onus is on me."
If you had any doubts whatsoever that Eichel really wants to be in Buffalo and be the centerpiece of the franchise, this is as close as you are going to get to an assertion and confirmation of intent.
Vogl then asked him about how his exit interview with Bylsma went.
Vogl: "I’ve got to ask about Dan specifically. As you mentioned, he said he has to be better, everyone said they have to be better. How was it with Dan?"
Eichel: "As a coach, he asked me about my season. We go through our meeting, and I thought things went pretty well. By the end of it, I thought we were on the same page. In terms of hockey specifics, we talked a lot about the team, the play and my play and what he thinks I can do better and what I want to work on in the offseason. I think it was a pretty normal exit meeting, and one that you leave saying I want to work on this stuff and this stuff and be better for next year. That’s the way I took it.
"For him, I think I told him some things that I think as a group we can all improve on. He was very receptive. I don’t think what’s being said about the way things ended is accurate in any way."
GMTM was the last person from the organization to speak with the media, and is meeting with the Pegula family today. Eichel stressed that it wasn’t his place to ‘coach’ the team.
Vogl: "Obviously, Tim talked after you guys and talked about Dan and said he’d meet with Terry and they’d decide some things. How closely did you watch that or are you paying attention to that?"
Eichel: "I had seen a few quotes online, but in terms of watching that, that’s not my side of things as a player. My job is to work hard and try to get better as a player every day and be the best guy I can to all my teammates. I think that they realize that.
"I’m not on the management side of things. And I’ve said it before and people take it the wrong way, but I’m also not the coach. Obviously, I speak with them and have a relationship with them, but that’s their job. I look at it as that’s not my job. My job is to play and try and perform every night. That’s kind of my mentality and the way I look at it."
(Transcript courtesy of The Buffalo News)
So there you have it folks - did what Eichel say to GMTM get miscontrued and twisted out of proportion, or is full-scale damage control underway at the Sabres right now?