Tim Murray sees Jack Eichel in a longtime leadership role for the Buffalo Sabres. Part of that is going to entail the 20-year-old speaking his mind. That could ruffle some feathers from time to time. The general manager's response to that: So be it.
Murray said Thursday night he liked Eichel's fire following Tuesday's overtime win over San Jose, when the second-year player discussed the boos from KeyBank Center fans following the second period.
"He's an emotional young guy that has a great desire to win," Murray said during his weekly interview on WGR Radio. "We like when our fans are emotional and we completely 100 percent respect the right of the fans who have paid for tickets to boo us off the ice. They're there. They're in control of the emotional state of the arena and I wholeheartedly believe that and agree with it.
"On the flip side, we want our players to be emotional and to care as much or more as the fans do. The fans were pissed. I think Jack was pissed. And let's face it, in life we like proving people wrong. I like the fact he shows emotion."
Eichel's comments sparked a day-long diatribe on the situation from the team's flagship radio station Wednesday. Eichel addressed that Thursday morning by pointing out he simply made the factual statements that the team played poorly for 40 minutes and thus got booed, then responded with three third-period goals and an OT winner and got cheered.
"We want more from our athletes and then when we get more from our athletes, we're like, 'Oh God, I don't know if he should have said that,' " Murray said. "He certainly won't get his pee pee slapped by me for being a little more outspoken than the rest of them, by showing some leadership, by showing some disappointment in the way the team played, disappointment to the reaction to the way the team plays.
"That's his right. He's got a voice. I hope someday he has a huge voice here. If one time out of 10, it pisses people off, I can live with it and I'm certainly not going to put a stop to it."
Murray said there should be no residual backlash to Eichel going forward.
"I think he loves our fans. I think he loves the city," Murray said. "I don't think that he was upset with any individual fan. I think the atmosphere in the arena may have upset him at the time. I can tell you our play upset him more than the reaction to our play."