Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk watched from afar as his good friend and former teammate at Boston University, Jack Eichel reached another boiling point of frustration with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that drafted him second overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, last week. In a Zoom call with the media Tuesday, Grzelcyk – who played with Eichel on the 2014-15 Terriers team that lost to Providence College in the National Championship game at TD Garden – was asked if he’s been paying attention what’s been going on with Eichel and the Sabres over the last month?
“I know that it’s a tough situation, especially for Jack,” an empathetic Grzelcyk said. “He’s one of my good friends and I know first hand how competitive he is and how much he just wants to win more than anything. He’s not really concerned with individual accolades or anything like that, he’s aware that you have the most fun at the rink when you’re winning. So it’s for sure very frustrating for him.”
When Eichel and the Sabres officially missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fifth straight season, the 23-year-old North Chelmsford, MA native aired out his grievances over the mediocrity that has plagued the once-proud franchise and it’s fans since they last made the dance in the spring of 2011, the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
“Listen, I’m fed up with losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” said Eichel, whose first five seasons in the NHL have gone the complete opposite of Grzelcyk’s first three. “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].
“I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I go out on the ice. I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going. it’s been a pleasure working with (Sabres coach) Ralph (Krueger) and he does so much for our group every day. There are tough times and he does an amazing job of bringing us back in and narrowing our focus and getting us back to where we need to be mentally. But yeah, I’m definitely not in the greatest place with where the last little bit went and it’s definitely worn on me.”
After the Sabres ownership gave General Manager Jason Botterill a vote of confidence that very same day (May 28), they pulled a complete 180 and fired Botterill after just three years on the job and cleaned house in management and scouting. That once again ignited trade speculation around Eichel, who just scored 36 goals and added 56 points in the second season of an eight-year, $80-million contract with the Sabres. Grzelcyk was asked if he’s begun the recruiting process with his buddy to get him to come home to Boston should he ask for a trade out of Buffalo and if Eichel’s situation makes him appreciate even more what he has with the Bruins?
“I haven’t really had the chance to speak to him yet,” Grzelcyk replied. “I’m sure he’s getting texts left and right about the situation that’s going on but certainly it makes you look inward and realize, like you said, how grateful I am for the opportunity to play for such a great organization. We have such good leaders. Our veterans are guys who have been there before and know what it requires to get the job done.
So, I’m so blessed to be on this team and I think that going through the experience in the playoffs just helps you grow each and every season. I know that Jack is quite antsy to get in the playoff picture and play in the most important games and really shine in those big moments. I hope that he can reach that goal soon and we can see his full potential.”