With one month (+ one day) left in the team’s season, they’re at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 21-34-11 record and 53 points, 18 points out of a wild-card playoff spot.
Star forward Jack Eichel has been out since February 11 with a high-ankle sprain, an injury that carries anywhere between a four and eight-week sentence. It’s been three weeks and Eichel just recently starting skating again, but still: I think the Sabres should officially shut Eichel down for the season.
As of right now, they haven’t. They also haven’t given any possible return date for the 21-year-old, but what does the team have to gain from bringing him back at this point?
The fact is, the Sabres season, while not technically over, is... well, kind of over. Sure, there’s a possibility Eichel returns and Buffalo goes on an absolute rage in the last month, but at this point, that seems highly unlikely.
In all reality, Buffalo is probably better off shutting Eichel down for the season. Even if he were to return six weeks out from the high ankle sprain, that would put him back in around March 25, after which the Sabres have six more games.
If he waits the full eight weeks, that’s after the culmination of the regular season.
Historically, some players have returned to the lineup four weeks after a high-ankle sprain. While the fact that he skated this week is almost certainly a positive, is it really worth the risk of putting him back in the lineup? Isn’t the team better off letting the sprain heal completely, and then giving Eichel the long summer to fully recover, train and get back into full playing shape for October?
According to head coach Phil Housley, Eichel is aiming for a return this season, which makes sense, when you consider that he’s a 21-year-old who obviously loves playing the game. Many people with an injury want to get back to their normal jobs as soon as possible, both in and out of hockey. You want to return to a sense of normalcy, and you want to help your team.
And of course, the Sabres would love to have him back in the lineup. Even in a season where playoff chances are now pretty much invisible, he brings a spark and an energy to the team.
But at what point is that not the smartest move, especially when you recall that this is the second such ankle injury he’s suffered since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. I don’t want to say it’s troublesome, but it certainly sticks in the back of my head.
And how often do we see in hockey, after a team’s season has ended, that players come forward with a multitude of injuries? Injuries that would certainly sideline a ‘regular’ person from doing their day job, let alone someone who performs such a highly physical contact sport like hockey? Players are lauded as ‘courageous’ and ‘strong’ for playing through these ailments, but doing so can certainly come back to haunt them in the future.
The Sabres should shut Eichel down for the season and rule out a return to game action, but allow him to continue skating - which is great progress - and, if he gets to that point, maybe even return to practice with his teammates.
Let him get fully healthy and return to game action when October rolls around and Buffalo has a brand new season to work with in their eternal ‘quest’ for the Stanley Cup.
What do you think? Should the Sabres shut Eichel down for the rest of the season, or do you think he should return if he can?
What should the Sabres do with Eichel?
This poll is closed
Shut him down for the season - it’s not worth it.
Let him come back if he wants to/is deemed ready.