He signed the biggest contract in Buffalo Sabres history. He is, for all intents and purposes, the face of the franchise. But will Jack Eichel be the Sabres captain?
Actually, no one will. At least not in advance of Thursday night's season opener against the Montreal Canadiens in KeyBank Center.
"I will not be naming a captain to start the season off here," Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said Wednesday afternoon. "We'll see how things progress from that standpoint. … We're very comfortable with our leadership group we have here. Jack's a big part of it. We also don’t need Jack to take over the room or take over the organization.
"To be honest, I don't think that happens very much anymore. I think successful teams have a collaborative model. Just like coaches, you can't have one voice. You have to empower your assistant coaches. Within the locker room I think it's important it's a group effort and having young players like Jack and (Rasmus) Ristolainen be a part of that group, but also with veteran players like Jason Pominville and Kyle Okposo leading the charge. We feel very comfortable with our leadership group."
Eichel said he has challenged himself in his third year as pro hockey player to step up and be a leader, and that comes regardless of official designations.
"Whether you have a letter on your sweater or not, I think you can always be a leader," Eichel said. "It's kind of the mindset I try to take. I don’t necessarily need a 'C' or an 'A' to be myself in the room, be a leader, speak up when needed or do the things I would do as a leader on the team. That’s obviously up to the team and the coaching staff. For me, I just try to be myself every day."
There are plenty of options available for first-year head coach Phil Housley when it comes to the official leadership in the room. And Pominville, who was a captain with the Sabres in 2008 and again from 2011 to 2013, knows that the letter shouldn't change the player.
"It's definitely a lot of emotion, a lot of pride for sure, but for me, I always felt that the most important thing is you don't change what you were named for so just be yourself," Pominville said. "Keep doing the things that have led to you being named and don't go out and try to be a hero because you have a letter on your jersey. Just do your thing and guys will respect that. I think the guys that have letters in the room, whether it's preseason or last year, are just being themselves and not trying to overdo things but at the same time get the respect from the guys with hard work. When they have something to say, just say it because you know guys will listen for sure."
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The Buffalo Sabres added some depth to the blueline in Rochester on Wednesday, acquiring defenseman Zach Redmond from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for winger Nicolas Deslauriers. Redmond will report to the Amerks, who open their season at home Friday night against Syracuse.
The 6-foot-2 Redmond, who is 29 years old, had five assists in 16 games last year for the Canadiens and four goals, 14 assists in 26 games at St. John's of the AHL.
A former seventh-round pick of Atlanta in 2008, Redmond has appeared in 130 NHL games over five seasons with Montreal, Colorado and Winnipeg, posting nine goals and 29 assists. He has 29 goals and 100 points in 190 career AHL games.
Deslauriers had no goals and two assists for the Sabres in 42 games last season and had just cleared waivers to head to Rochester. He played 211 games for the Sabres the last four years since being acquired in a 2014 trade with Los Angeles, collecting 12 goals, 18 assists and 186 penalty minutes.
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The show is for real Thursday night as the Buffalo Sabres open the season against the Montreal Canadiens in KeyBank Center.
It will be the first regular season game for Phil Housley and the former Sabre defenseman is optimistic.
"I’m excited. I think our group is in a great place right now. I think they're prepared. Now we've just got to go execute. Obviously we have to have a good start. Montreal's a very good team, "Housley said. "But personally I'm excited and can't wait for tomorrow. I'm sure I won't get a lot of sleep but I’m just excited about this group. I know this camp, the results weren't there but I just see the work being put into it and we have continue to focus on that and on proving ourselves day in, day out."
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Former Sabre Cody Franson signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Franson went to Hawks training camp on a professional tryout contract (PTO) after ending last season with no contract. The defenseman played the last two seasons with Buffalo, scoring seven goals with 29 assists.
"Once we made the decision to come to Chicago, you had to wrap your head around no job security, nothing like that," Franson told The Athletic during training camp. "Just that in itself puts a little extra pressure on you. Going into camp, you’re always going in fighting for spots, staking your claim in the lineup, trying to make sure you’re on the power play or whatever type of player you are, if you’re a penalty killer making sure you’re in that mix. So, there’s a little extra going into it with no contract.
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Fans at KeyBank Center can catch their Uber ride at the Uber Zone, located at the corner of Washington and Scott Streets. New Uber users can use the promo code BUFFALOSABRES2017 for $15 off their first ride.
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Want to find the speediest concession spot or least-crowded restroom? There's an app for that.
WaitTime Technology is now part of the updated My One Buffalo app. WaitTime uses sensors to monitor KeyBank Center's concession stands and the traffic outside its restrooms to provide real-time updates.