For the better part of an agonizing six minutes Monday, Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel sighed, rolled his eyes and wiggled through a post-mortem on his team’s disappointing season. It’s hard to blame him – having a scrum of reporters ask you why your squad didn’t get the job done yet again is not fun.
Toward the end of his last media scrum of the season, however, Eichel said something that should have the team’s fans and management pretty concerned.
Asked whether more people in the locker room needed to hate losing as much as he does, Eichel replied in the affirmative.
“Yeah, that’s what a winning culture is, you know?” he told reporters. “Not being satisfied with yourself, not being satisfied with the fact that you’re losing.
“I think it’s important to realize that you can’t be satisfied the fact that you’re in the NHL,” he added. “I’m here to win, so it’s pretty frustrating. I think guys want to win, but there’s a difference between saying that you want to win and actually wanting to win, putting the work in, dedicating your life to it, and when you do that and it doesn’t work, it’s pretty frustrating.”
Eichel was careful to say that he enjoyed the group of players in the room, refusing to refer to anyone a “passenger,” but it’s hard to read his comments as anything but an indictment of some teammates’ willingness to compete consistently.
On the plus side, Eichel’s elite play – one of the lone bright spots for the Sabres this season – and frustration at not meeting expectations are what you want from your team’s leadership. Hopefully some of it rubs off on the team.
James Gordon is publisher of HockeyMarkets.com. You can follow him at Twitter.com/James_J_Gordon. Follow Hockey Markets at Twitter.com/HockeyMarkets.