Eichel ‘not going to make excuses’ but says injuries affected him last season

Posted: 29/08/2022 in NHL
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Jack Eichel doesn’t want to pin his less-than-stellar 2021-22 performance on his health, but the Vegas Golden Knights forward says his multiple ailments prevented him from being his typically dominant self.

“Listen, I’m not going to make excuses,” Eichel told NHL.com’s Jackie Spiegel. “I don’t think I played well last year in terms of my expectation of myself, and I’m sure the opinion of the public is probably pretty similar. They expect more out of me, and rightfully so.

“With that being said, I came off a major surgery after not playing for a year, and I had major spine surgery and played three months after and, so, that’s pretty quick and, you know, like anybody that’s had surgery or went through an injury, it takes a lot of time for you to get back to feeling like yourself.”

The Buffalo Sabres traded Eichel to the Golden Knights on Nov. 4 after he and the Atlantic Division club had a lengthy disagreement over the type of spinal surgery he was to undergo. Eichel had the artificial disc replacement procedure he wanted eight days after he was dealt, and he made his season debut with Vegas on Feb. 16, collecting 14 goals and 11 assists over 34 games.

In May, after the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in their brief history, the team’s president of hockey operations, George McPhee, revealed Eichel played the final six weeks with a broken thumb.

Eichel’s production with the Golden Knights would’ve been solid by most players’ standards. But not for the gifted center, who amassed a career-high 36 tallies to go along with 42 helpers over 68 contests in 2019-20. Eichel struggled down the stretch as Vegas was battling for a postseason berth. He registered only one goal and two assists during a crucial eight-game span in April.

However, Eichel reiterated that he still didn’t feel optimal after the operation, and he’s grateful now that he’s had more time to recover.

“Just because you have surgery, (and) you get opened up, doesn’t mean everything goes back to normal,” he said. “I was injured before having surgery for a long time, and you build a lot of compensations, and you get into a lot of poor patterns, and other things start to act up. So it’s been a nice summer of trying to unwind a lot of things that maybe came with the injury and just giving myself more time to heal and more time to do rehab and continue to just try and get back to feeling as much as myself as I can.”

Eichel, who’ll turn 26 in October, led the Golden Knights in goals over the 34 games he played with them. He has four seasons left on the eight-year contract he signed in 2017 while with the Sabres. His pact carries a $10-million cap hit and contains a no-move clause over the final four campaigns.

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