Jack Eichel is the best thing going in yet another dreary season for the Buffalo Sabres.
And we shouldn't see him again until next season. Such a shame.
Tough as it to say – especially with 15 home games left for the team's battered fan base – the only prudent thing for the Sabres to do at this point is shut Eichel down.
The kid is going to want to do everything to get back from his second high ankle sprain in two years but there's no point. When he was injured last year, it was at the start of the season and he felt the need to return quickly with the team struggling early.
In the end, Eichel missed 21 games and the Sabres went 7-9-4. There's 27 games left in this season and there's no point in Eichel pushing the envelope here with the team last in the Eastern Conference at 16-29-10.
Eichel has 22 goals, 31 assists and 53 points in 55 games in what was headed for easily the best season of his three-year career. He played in his first All-Star Game two weeks ago in Tampa and was one of the game's standouts.
This has been the best stretch of Eichel's career, with 29 points over the last 23 games. Since Dec. 15, only Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin (35) points and Islanders rookie phenom Mathew Barzal (30) have more. Eichel was on his way to his first 30-goal output, probably his first point-a-game campaign.
And now those numbers are certainly toast, in the wake of a freak injury after a collision with former college teammate Matt Grzelczyk. In his hometown. Playing in front of family and friends. And on the team's father's trip.
That's pretty cruel of the hockey gods.
Last year's injury was to Eichel's left leg. This year, it's the right leg. Last year was a practice collision the day before the opener with Zemgus Girgensons. It says here the Sabres may have actually gotten a break here.
Saturday night's situation sure looked like more of a knee injury than an ankle. It would have been no shock to hear about ligament damage and surgery required. This injury is a bear, of course, but Eichel has already proven all it needs is time to heal and this is not something with a timetable that could have carried into next season.
The Sabres should be able to give Eichel plenty of time. If they're smart, their message will be simple.
See you in September.