Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel said he's "fed up" with the franchise's futility after the team's ninth straight season without a playoff berth, which covers the entirety of the 23-year-old star's career.
"Listen, I'm fed up with the losing and I'm fed up and I'm frustrated. You know, it's definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It's been a tough couple of months. It's been a tough five years with where things have [gone]," Eichel said on a conference call Thursday. "I'm a competitor. I want to win every time I'm on the ice. I want to win a Stanley Cup every time I start a season."
Eichel was drafted second overall in 2015 by the Sabres. In 354 NHL games, he has 337 points. That includes 36 goals and 42 assists in 68 games this season -- which was cut short on March 12 when the NHL paused for the coronavirus pandemic -- leading Buffalo in both of those categories as well as points (78).
But despite his efforts, the Sabres finished 13th in the Eastern Conference at 30-31-8 (68 points), failing to make the cut for the 24-team postseason "return to play" format the NHL announced this week. Eichel has yet to appear in an NHL playoff game during his five-year career. He's had two general managers and three different coaches during that span.
The Sabres announced that general manager Jason Botterill will return next season. Eichel praised coach Ralph Krueger for his work during his first season on the Buffalo bench.
"I'd be lying if I said that I'm not getting frustrated with where things are going and I think we took a step this year, but I will say it's been a pleasure working with Ralph. He does so much for our group every day. There are tough times and he does an amazing job of ... narrowing our focus and getting us back to where we need to be mentally," Eichel said. "And just the few times that I've spoken with him, you know, throughout this quarantine, whatever you want to call it, it's been good."
Eichel said he remains dedicated to finding a way to lead his team to success.
"You know, I've already started preparing for next season now. I'm already back on the ice, I'm already training, I'm already doing things to try and better myself for the start of next season, whenever that is," he said. "But yeah, I'm definitely not in the greatest place with where the last little bit's [gone], and it's definitely worn on me."
Eichel wasn't the only Sabres player to express frustration on Thursday. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who hasn't made the playoffs in his seven-year career in Buffalo, is also tired of the team never breaking through to becoming a contender.
"Buffalo has a bright future, but we've been [talking about] the bright future for seven years now, and I'm not sure when it is," he said.