There’s no love lost between Jack Eichel and Buffalo Sabres fans.
Eichel returned to Buffalo on Thursday night for the first time since a trade to the Vegas Golden Knights marked the official end of a messy divorce with the team that drafted him. The former No. 1 pick had a very public falling-out in Buffalo, and Sabres fans were ready to take out their frustrations on the man long thought to be the franchise savior.
Sabres fans booed Eichel from warmups until the game ended, and Buffalo, for one night, at least, got the last laugh. The Sabres got goals from both Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs — two players received in the Eichel trade — and won the game 3-1.
Of course, the frosty reaction for Eichel was a major talking point after the game, and the star forward fanned the flames with a biting response to the criticism.
“It’s about the loudest I’ve heard this place ever,” Eichel told reporters after the game, per ESPN video. “It only took about seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game.
” … They must just be booing me because they wish I was still here. It is what it is.”
Eichel’s frustrations are what they are, but it’s not difficult to see why Sabres fans wanted their pound of flesh, either. Eichel was supposed to be a generational talent for Buffalo, going one pick after Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel did put up some big numbers over the course of six seasons, but Buffalo never reached the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Eichel, though, looks like he’ll finally get to play postseason hockey this season while the Sabres are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs for the 11th straight season.