It's finally here folks, the day we have all been waiting for. I figured what better way to preview tonight's game than to hear about Jack Eichel? Big thanks to Andy Boron for taking part in this with me. I think you will find what he has to say interesting:
Copper and Blue: How has the play of Jack Eichel been this year?
Die by the Blade: Watching Eichel this season has been a revelation for Sabres fans, who haven't seen this level of talent on the ice since the days of Chris Drury or Danny Briere in 2007. The Sabres have had nice players over the past decade, but Eichel is another level above guys like Thomas Vanek or Jason Pominville in his skating, creativity, passing, and personality. You can tell the long NHL season is starting to wear on him at times, but he still seems to come up with a few "Wow!" plays every week. Having watched two of the worst teams of all time over the past two years, this year's squad with young talent such as Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sam Reinhart has felt refreshingly great, even though the team is still near the bottom of the league.
C&B: How do you see the Evander Kane saga playing out? Are you concerned about his NBA ASG incident?
DBTB: Kane has had some issues this year off the ice, but personally I don't see them as indicative of a larger problem. I know some who feel differently, and he doesn't always come off as the most humble and reserved player (especially on Snapchat) but he was very honest and sincere after his All-Star Game nap, and while his sexual assault allegations earlier this season were troubling, recent reports indicate that he will not face any charges. There are many Sabres fans who are disappointed with his production, but Kane is on pace for about 25 goals and 40 points, which is essentially in line with his career average, and has continued to be a hard-working, hard-hitting player on the ice, so I think he's lived up to expectations.
C&B: How has Dan Bylsma helped the Sabres on the ice this year?
DBTB: Dan Bylsma is another breath of fresh air for Sabres fans who grew tired of Ted Nolan's "Just work really, really hard and the rest will figure itself out" approach to coaching. The Sabres are miles better in their possession metrics than they were last season, and Bylsma has adjusted his system as the season has gone along to be more defensive, as the Sabres slowly proved that nobody outside their top line or power play could score goals.
The biggest criticism he faces in Western New York regards his never-ending line juggling. Bylsma is a coach who favors forward pairs over forward lines, and almost never keeps the same lines together from game to game. Some of the shuffling can be chalked up to injury - the Sabres are one of the top teams in the league in man games lost - but it's frustrating for Sabres fans who are hoping some of their youngsters can develop some chemistry this season to see them shuffled up and down the lineup. Still, most feel Disco Dan has done a pretty good job - but we also have higher expectations for next year.