When the Buffalo Sabres finally traded Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights last week, it didn't just mark the end of the NHL's most contentious standoff -- it marked the end of an era.
The Sabres literally ruined themselves for the chance to draft Jack Eichel in 2015. (Or Connor McDavid ... no disrespect intended to consolation prizes.) In 2017, they signed him to an $80 million contract extension to be the focal point of the franchise, the star at the center of their galaxy. He was the player that was going to lead the Sabres to unprecedented success -- perhaps even the first Stanley Cup in the team's 51-season history.
For six seasons, they built around him, and for six seasons, the Sabres were terrible, finishing an average of 24 points out of a playoff spot during Eichel's tenure.
That lack of success compelled Eichel to ask out of Buffalo. When the team and the player hit an impasse on how to properly mend his injured neck, his "ask" became a demand, a fractured relationship became unmendable and Eichel was welcomed to Las Vegas through a phalanx for showgirls while the Sabres saw the center of their universe suddenly extinguished.
Watching Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams try to sell optimism in his post-trade press conference was like watching someone trying to whisper a sonnet during a Mastodon concert -- no one heard anything but the thunderous noise of Jack Eichel's departure.
But Adams is optimistic. He thinks Buffalo fans should be too, despite the team having had more general managers (four) than playoff games (zero) over the last 10 years.
The crazy part: I think he's right.
Post-Eichel, the Sabres are going to be OK. Maybe better than OK. Maybe great one day.