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Bylsma: We have to let Jack be Jack

Howard Simon
February 14, 2017 - 12:02 pm
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After a big divisional win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, the Buffalo Sabres laid an egg on Sunday at the KeyBank Center against the Vancouver Canucks. Instead of climbing up the standings and getting within three points of a playoff spot, the Sabres remained five points back with now 26 games remaining in the season.

Following the game, players like goalie Robin Lehner and forward Kyle Okposo opened up and gave their thoughts on the Sabres' poor performance throughout the night. Both players expressed how disappointing the team has played in the second period, and Lehner said it was disrespectful for the team not to respond to Dan Bylsma's game plan.

On Tuesday, the Sabres head coach joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR and responded to Lehner's comments made following Sunday's loss at home.

"Robin wasn't the only guy who was disappointed with the team's play, disappointed with the team's effort in that game," Bylsma said in his weekly appearance on Tuesday morning. "With himself included, he took responsibility for that. That was my gist of Robin talking about the game and our team's play."

"There's been inconsistencies in how we've played. It's not always due to those types of plays and players doing those things. We've too often been on this train of winning one game then losing one game, but last game was one of those games for sure."

The Sabres have struggled generating quality chances on offense, especially in the second period where they are a league worst minus-22 in goal differential. Bylsma has been criticized at times this season for his dump and chase style of play which could be a contributor to the Sabres' offensive struggles.

One player who Bylsma relies on to carry the puck and create some offensive chances is Jack Eichel. At 20, Eichel has been given a lot of responsibilities that most players his age are not given until later in their careers. But the former second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft has been a staple on the Sabres offense since his return from a high ankle sprain suffered right before the start of the season.

Bylsma told Howard and Jeremy on Tuesday that he wants Eichel to carry the puck and be the one to create chances for his team. With creating chances for the team, Bylsma expects Eichel to turn over the puck which is just fine with him.

"A good turnover game for our team is 40 to 45 [turnovers], and a bad turnover game for us is when you get to 55 to 65," Bylsma said. "We take turnovers and puck management a bit different than maybe you see on the game sheet. But I said to Jack if you're not turning over the puck over five times a game, you're not playing well. If he goes to the red-line and chips every puck in, I'm going to bench him."

"He needs to try and make plays, that's what he does. He's great at it. He has the puck on his stick, it means he's going to turn the puck over over the course of the game. And quite frankly we want him to."

In case you missed Bylsma's interview with Howard and Jeremy, you can re-listen to it below: