Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he understands captain Jack Eichel’s frustration with losing.
“Across the board we are frustrated. We are not where we want to be,” Krueger said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “… It also shows that our core has a youth that is willing to reach for higher standards and now we need to do the work that backs that up.”
In a 27-minute conference call of his own on Thursday, Eichel laid his feelings on the line.
“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” he said. “You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now.”
The Sabres (30-31-8, 68 points) were one of seven teams to miss the playoffs after the NHL deemed the regular season complete on Tuesday. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons, which marks the league’s longest active streak.
Eichel, 23, recorded a career-high 36 goals to go along with team-best totals in assists (42) and points (78) in 68 games this season. He also pieced together a 17-game point streak during the campaign, which was cut short on March 12 when the NHL paused for the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a tough five years with where things have (gone),” said Eichel, who was selected by the Sabres with the second overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Conversely, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was selected with the top pick of that draft, is headed to the playoffs for the second time in his career.
“It’s real difficult (to see that),” Eichel said of seeing other stars reach the playoffs. “Like I said, I’m a real competitive guy. I want to win at everything I do. It’s been five years here, I haven’t played in the playoffs, so it’s difficult. It’s tough.”
Eichel, who was the 2015 Hobey Baker Award recipient as the top men’s hockey player in the NCAA while at Boston University, has collected 337 points (137 goals, 200 assists) in 354 career games with the Sabres.