How Will Sabres Fans React to Eichel’s Return?

Jack gave us a lot over the years... and now he’s back.

On Thursday, Jack Eichel returns to KeyBank Center and Buffalo for the first time since being traded, as the Vegas Golden Knights face off against the Buffalo Sabres.

What will the reaction be when Eichel steps onto the ice?

Some may be inclined to boo him, but I’ll say it right now: I think those people would be in the wrong.

Yes, he left. Yes, he wanted out. No, the two sides didn’t part on good terms. And of course yes, he’s finding quick success in Vegas.

But really.... can you blame him? I guess that’s what it all comes down to: who do you think is at fault for Eichel leaving?

I can’t blame him. After playing for the Sabres for several really tough years, he gets hurt. He wants to do what he believes is best for himself & his health, not just in the present, but in the future, too. Then he gets dealt when they can’t agree, has his requested procedure and seemingly bounces back quickly, just as he figured he would.

I have to believe - I want to believe - that most Sabres fans will welcome Eichel back with open arms and cheers on Thursday night.

His time in Buffalo was special, and he’s clearly a special player, even on a Sabres team that was at the bottom of the barrel. It’s easy for us to watch his success and be bitter about it, but we shouldn’t toss that blame on Eichel.

If the Sabres can do anything right, they’ll have a wonderful tribute video for Jack on his return. It’s the least they can do. (Note: since I started writing this on Monday, Greg Wyshynski/ESPN has confirmed that there will be an in-arena video tribute.)

And no, that tribute video won’t include William Carrier or Brayden McNabb. This isn’t their first time back in Buffalo - that already happened on January 14, 2020. Robin Lehner, too, has already played in Buffalo multiple times since leaving the Sabres organization.

The other interesting thing here will be how big the crowd is, or isn’t. The Sabres have had small crowds most of the season, but this game hits different when it’s Eichel's return to town and featuring an enticing Vegas team.