Matt Grzelcyk has seen Jack Eichel’s winning smile — just not lately.
Grzelcyk, from Charlestown, and Eichel, from North Chelmsford, played together on the 2014-15 Boston University team. With Grzelcyk as captain and Eichel, a freshman, having a Hobey Baker season, the Terriers rolled through the NCAA field before falling to Providence in the national title game.
After hearing Eichel voice his frustration recently with his situation in Buffalo, Grzelcyk is counting his blessings.
"It certainly makes you look inward and realize how grateful I am for the opportunity to play for such a great organization," the Bruins defenseman said Tuesday on a Zoom call.
“We have such good leaders and such good veterans and guys who have been there before and know what it requires to get the job done. I’m so blessed to be on this team, and I think that going through the experiences in the playoffs just helps you grow each and every season.”
The Bruins have won at a .681 clip (143-58-33) in Grzelcyk’s three seasons, and will be among the Stanley Cup favorites if and when the NHL season resumes. The Sabres, meanwhile, have missed the playoffs nine years in a row, the league’s longest active streak.
The second overall pick in the 2015 draft by Buffalo, Eichel has 337 points in 354 NHL games, including a 36-42 — 78 line in 68 games this year.
Last week, the Sabres (30-31-8) fired general manager Jason Botterill, members of the hockey operations staff, and coaches and GM of their AHL team. In all, 22 people were canned.
Owners Kim and Terry Pegula have vowed to do right by their 23-year-old superstar center, but Eichel, while playing at a Hart Trophy level, has had two general managers and three coaches in five seasons.
“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” he said late last month. “You know, 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.
“I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I’m on the ice. I want to win a Stanley Cup every time I start a season.”
Grzelcyk said he hasn’t spoken with Eichel directly about the firings (“I’m sure he’s getting texts left and right”) but feels for him.
“I know that’s a tough situation, especially for Jack,” Grzelcyk said. “He’s one of my good friends. 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 you have the most fun at the rink when you’re winning. It’s for sure very frustrating for him.”
Eichel, the Sabres’ captain the last two years, has six years left on a contract worth $10 million per annum. He will cash a $7.5 million signing bonus this summer.
Money, they say, cannot buy happiness.
“I know Jack is quite antsy to get into the playoff picture and play in the most important games and shine in those big moments,” Grzelcyk said. “I hope he can reach that goal soon and we can see his full potential.”