Excuse me if this seems like deja vu, considering I wrote almost exactly this same article back in 2018 - but it rings true once more. With the Buffalo Sabres season in the dumpster, and Jack Eichel in and out of the lineup recently with injury, depending on the results of his latest evaluation, it may be a smart move for the team to just shut him down for now.
Eichel missed Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury, and he was initially expected to miss “at least a week.” Now, he’s apparently gone out-of-state for another opinion on his injury, and while we don’t know what the results of that evaluation were, he has to quarantine for seven days upon his return to Buffalo.
Depending on what the results of that evaluation are, and what exactly the injury is that he’s dealing with, it may be a smarter option for the Sabres to just shut Eichel down for the season rather than risk further aggravating an injury for an essentially meaningless handful of games.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, there is pretty much no chance that the Sabres make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s been an abysmal season, and if you’re reading this, chances are you don’t need me to tell you that, or to go over the team’s various dreadful statistics.
Eichel’s current ailment comes after he reportedly had a lower-body injury back in February, a situation that was surrounded by confusion and potential miscommunication about when exactly he suffered the injury.
While the Sabres captain has had a decent showing so far - with 16 assists on the season - is it worth it at this point to push him back into game action? Like I said earlier - I think a lot of this depends on the evaluation of his injury and whatever outside opinion he got, but if he’s expected to miss more time than a week (which at this point is the minimum he’ll be out, due to quarantine requirements), it may be something worth considering.
In a tire fire season, you can’t just think about the next game or next week. You have to think longer-term and what injuries can mean, for the player himself, his health & wellness and his career beyond this season. Yes, Eichel is the captain, and no, that doesn’t mean his leadership goes away, but there’s more to it than that.
At this point, there is less than two months remaining in the NHL’s regular season. The Sabres are scheduled to play their last game on May 8. If Eichel returns in a week, after his quarantine ends - which seems highly doubtful - then fine. But if this injury is something longer-term, is it really even worth it to think about him returning this season? For what?