The Buffalo Sabres have been without a captain since veteran Brian Gionta left the team via free agency in the 2017 offseason. The team played the entirety of the 2017-18 season without a captain, joining only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes as teams without a captain. With future Hall of Famer Henrik Sedin retiring this offseason, the Vancouver Canucks are also without a captain. But for the Sabres… that may all be about to change.
In his latest article for The Athletic, Sabres insider John Vogl caught up with superstar Jack Eichel to talk about the upcoming season, the changes that general manager Jason Botterill has made and, yes, the team’s captaincy.
Regarding offseason changes:
“I think it needed to happen,” Eichel says about the addition of players like Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary and the departure of players like Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane. “Whenever you have as little success as we did last year, changes are bound to happen, and I think it’s a good thing.”
The dressing room should have a new feel when Eichel gets back to town. The room should also be his to mold.The Sabres went without a captain last year, and the top candidates to eventually wear the “C” were Eichel and fellow center Ryan O’Reilly. Botterill shipped O’Reilly to St. Louis in a July 1 blockbuster, leaving the 21-year-old Eichel as the team’s spokesman and conscience.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with Ryan,” Eichel said. “Obviously, I need to influence the room in a positive way and do the right thing. More or less, it’s just come to the rink, be a pro, push this team in the right direction and obviously stepping up and being The Guy.”
Regarding the team’s biggest acquisition, first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin:
“I was able to come to Buffalo before development camp and spend some time with him,” Eichel said. “He seems like a great kid and obviously a great player, so we’re lucky to have him.”
“The hockey part, obviously, will be a bit of an adjustment,” Eichel said. “Somebody with his talent and somebody who cares about hockey the way I think he does, I think that side of things will happen naturally for him.
“The other part of things — the expectations, the attention he’s going to get just day in and day out, his daily life and living over here compared to over there — will be a bit of an adjustment, but that’s why we’re all here for him. We’re so lucky to have him, and there will be a lot of people helping him out.”
No word yet on when or even if the Sabres will announce their 28th captain in team history, but don’t be surprised if Eichel ends up wearing the “C” when it’s all said and done.