FanPost

Opinion: Jack Eichel is not selfish

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

self·ish (/ˈselfiSH/)

Adjective: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

As of this writing this word has been used 10 times in the interview thread, with more variations like "only cares about himself" appearing as well. The thread has gotten a bit overpopulated and I’d prefer to be able to more easily come back to my thoughts so I’ve decided to make a much longer post here. I understand that a lot of people will have knee-jerk reactions to his interview, especially people that only read the quotes, but I really don’t want those few out of context quotes to be the takeaways from the whole thing. First, let’s tackle the quotes:

"For sure, I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the way things have been handled since I’ve been hurt. I would be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury."

"So yeah, I think there’s been a bit of a disconnect I think from the organization and myself. It’s been tough at times."

"But right now for me, I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, where ever that might be."

For me, I see no issues here. I appreciate the honesty to the media that there is a disagreement on how to handle his injury between him and the organization. We don’t know how serious it is, but if there is a disconnect I wouldn’t want him to say everything is fine. He also states he wants to be healthy and available for wherever he plays, an acknowledgement that he needs to focus on his rehab and an acknowledgement that he very well could be traded this off-season.

"With my injury there’s been a little bit of, I guess, one side, my own camp on one page and the team on another," said Eichel. "That’s been tough. We’re kind of going back and forth a bit on the best way to go about it, treatment, so there’s been a few conversations but more so just about getting healthy moving forward.

"Listen, my number one interest and my number one goal is Jack Eichel, you know what I mean? You’ve got to look after yourself, you’ve got to look after what you think is best for yourself, and the organization has a similar job to do, but it’s to look after what’s best for the Buffalo Sabres. Yeah, it was tough. I think that there was a little bit of things I guess maybe just haven’t been very black and white, to put it in perspective. I think we’re all trying to educate ourselves on the situation and what would be best moving forward. So I think that, yeah, there’s been some tough conversations, but I’ve got to do what’s best for me, you know what I mean?"

Once again being honest about the disagreement, being more specific to say that they have 2 different treatment plans, presumably one that requires surgery and one that doesn’t. Hernias are complicated so this should come as no surprise that something like this could happen. It should also come as no surprise that Jack is concerned about Jack, i.e. his personal health, first and foremost. Here’s a quote from further on in the interview to reiterate his intent.

"Just trying to do what’s best for Jack Eichel in the long term cause one day, hopefully a long time from now, I won’t play hockey and my career will be over and I gotta be a father and a husband and you know, my responsibilities change"

A neck injury is delicate and he has his whole life ahead of him, I would be upset if he made the rest of his life more painful to appease the team’s desires. He should absolutely do what’s best for his health.

Eichel still has another five years on his contract, and when asked whether he wanted out of the organization, skirted the question.

"I guess we’ll see what happens. I think there’s a lot to that question. I think, the situation I’m in right now, my main and number one focus has been to try to figure out a way to, one, be cleared to play, and two, just try and get myself in as good of condition to be ready to have a good year next year."

Dodges the question for sure, but that’s better than stating he wants out. Nevertheless I think it’s good to hear that he’s more focused on getting back on the ice than any hockey business decisions in terms of who he plays for.

Now for a few of my own thoughts and quotes (paraphrased):

When given the opportunity he does not attack Ralph Kruegar in any way. He deftly avoids talking about his coaching and says the following:

"Ralph is a phenomenal human being and somebody that I hope to continue to have a relationship with the rest of my life. I think the world of Ralph as a human being"

Not choosing to redirect blame even when everyone in the hockey world knows Kruegar was an awful coach is a respectable choice. He also chose to, unprompted, segway into some praise for Michael Houser and other injury fill-ins for stepping up. He also had some positive words for Granato towards the end of the interview.

"Obviously the goaltending situation that’s been an interesting one with all the injuries but I think it’s been great to watch some of these guys step in and play I mean Michael Houser it’s probably been a whirlwind week for him it’s been really cool to see him get that experience and get to play and obviously play well."

"I didn’t get the opportunity to play for Donny (Granato) but I do know him from when I played for the national team and he’s a tremendous guy, he’s got a great mindset and obviously there was a good connection between him and the players. It was nice to see."

He also shares in a great deal of self-criticism, almost too much in my opinion. After citing his injuries; a broken rib before training camp, a lingering abdominal injury, an ankle sprain, and his herniated disc, he goes on to say:

"I’m sure if you went to any other team guys are playing with stuff, I don’t want to make that an excuse for 2 goals or whatever I had. I mean when I was in the lineup I didn't contribute and play as well as I needed to play and as well as this team needed me to play and that’s just the hard truth. That’s just what it comes down to I was not good enough. I can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘yea you weren’t good enough this year’…. I just gotta be better."

Next:

"I think I have a lot of thinking to do this off-season I think there’s a lot I have to consider. But for now I’m here and I’m the captain of this hockey team and my goal is to be available to try to help the guys in the room and help this organization win hockey games and I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here."

Even though anything can happen this off-season, and he’s most likely open to anything, he still understands his role here and what he has to do as long as he’s here. Yes there’s a lot of times where he prefaces his statements with "as long as I’m here" but I don’t see that as anything but acknowledgement that he isn’t guaranteed to be here, which is definitely true.

"Yea I mean you guys got to write about something right? You guys have a job to do."

This was in regards to the trade rumors about him leaving. This was interesting to me, with Jack popping a joke to try and lighten the mood that quickly fell silent, or was not understood by the reporter. I find it interesting that he’s still acting light-hearted despite the hard positions the media is putting him into. This was also a prime opportunity for him to say he'd be open to the idea, but instead chose imply it's just reporters saying whatever, which is somewhat telling of his opinion.

"That might be one thing that goes unknown is just how good of a group there is here in terms of guys in the room it’s a lot of really really good people. As bad as the losing was and things with how good of a group we have and how good the guys are it made coming into the rink better on some of those bad days. I think that says a lot."

This is actually a continued response to the same question as above. I really like how he turned around a question specifically about him, due to how bad the team is, into praise for his teammates. I’d argue it probably shouldn’t be the team picking him up so much as the other way around, but I still appreciate how he doesn’t throw anyone under the bus. He even went out of his way at one point to talk about Reinhart’s season. Help him get that big money!

Now not all of it was good. I’m surprised this quote didn’t make more rounds.

"Yea we’ve had a few conversations….it’s been tough I think that with my injury there’s been…. You know there’s been a little of a….. I think I said disconnect earlier, but yea there’s been a little bit of it."

This makes Adams look really bad. Jack seemed like he was trying to find the right words to not sow discourse, but his hesitation alone showed how there’s definitely not a good relationship between him and Adams. This is crazy because if there’s one player I want to immediately say he has confidence in the GM, it’s my captain and best player. What’s worse is his wording here:

"Yea I mean I’m obviously under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do."

The fact that he uses "this team" instead of the Sabres is symbolic of some frustration for sure. I got to admit it disappoints me to know that a team can prevent a player from doing what’s best for them in terms of their health. By exercising this option, Buffalo is definitely making Jack regret at least part of that contract which is not what you want to see.

The last few things I want to note.

The reporters were brutal. Their questions were difficult and sometimes ridiculous and their tone was harsh. They did him no favors. Adam Benigni was the only one to even introduce himself and say "Nice to see you". He was the only reporter Jack seemed to enjoy responding to. Still, at the end of the interview he treated them all with respect and wished them a good summer, something I would be unable to do after being attacked like that.

By the end of the interview I find myself unable to question his character. I understand he’s not the leader everybody is looking for; I agree he lacks a bit of charisma and all in all he’s not much of a people person. This doesn’t mean that he cannot lead this team though.

His drive to win is undeniable. Ryan O’Reilly arrived here on the same day as Eichel, and after 3 terrible years of hockey had lost his love for the game. Jack has now been here 6 years, and says that there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing than trying to get back on the ice and show everybody what he’s got. Even if those are just words, it’s more than what ROR was able to muster after half the time here.

He hasn’t resorted to blaming anyone else but himself and there has never been any rumors of locker room strife between him and other players after all this time. All the other players seem to respect him a great deal and acknowledge him as the captain, even after losing so much.

He’s not Jonathan Toews or Bo Horvat, but there are plenty of other imperfect players who are still captains. Steven Stamkos nearly worked his way off the team a few years ago. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has openly stated how disappointed he is with Arizona’s front office. What matters is if can he lead the guys in the locker room, the media part is just showmanship.

When it comes to leading the players, Jake McCabe, our alternates captain, had this to say around this time last year:

"Looking at how much of a leader Michael Jordan was, I couldn’t help but think about Jack and his competitive drive and trying to make his teammates better this year and how big of strides we took," Jake McCabe said. "All he cared about this year was just trying to be the best captain of his he could be day in and day out, just trying to lead this group. He did that extraordinarily."

Okposo:

"I’m extremely confident with the players that we have in a leadership role, and it starts with Jack," Kyle Okposo said. "Jack’s a 23 year old, and he’s only going to continue to get better, he’s only going to continue to grow in that leadership role. He has done that. He demands a lot out of teammates, out of everybody, because he puts in everything he’s got."

"He wears his heart on his sleeve, that’s how he is. He’s growing as a leader. I think when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be a top-tier captain in this league, and he’s going to do a heck of a job leading. In saying that, he can’t do it by himself. I think if you ask him, I would hope he would say he has a good leadership support around him, especially with Jake and Marcus this year."

Dahlin:

"All of the guys in the locker room have been working really hard, especially Jack," Rasmus Dahlin said. "He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with. All of the guys take after him. We really want to win in Buffalo, we really want to be a winning team."

And Eichel in response pushing credit to his coach:

"I think that, first and foremost, the person that I’ve got to give the most credit to is Ralph [Krueger]. I think just being around him every day, the way that he handles himself, being able to learn from him, being able to build a relationship and go to him for advice, I think it’s been so big for me," Jack Eichel said. "He’s one of the greatest natural born leaders that I’ve ever been around on a day-to-day basis, I think that he looks at life never mind hockey, so it’s been a pleasure working with him, and I couldn’t be happier to have him as a coach."

"In terms of me, there’s a lot of good leaders in the room that I go to for advice for just about anything. Just trying to bounce things off them, personally I just try to be myself, just try to work as hard as I can every day, I try to compete during practice, I try to compete as hard as I can in the games, and hopefully that becomes contagious."

He’s not just not selfish, he's a captain. I’m sorry to those who don’t think he’s good enough for them, but considering what an absolute travesty this organization is, we’re lucky to have someone as good as him.

Edit: I just want to add that this opinion doesn't mean don't trade Eichel. I still think that largely depends on the return and direction of the team. I just don't want the reason he's traded to hinge on character concerns and off the ice reasons like ROR.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.