There was a lot to digest when it came to end-of-season quotes from Sabres personnel just over a week ago.
“Disappointment” was the common denominator among the players, and that spoke to the team-wide feeling of being better, yes, but also to never really being in the hunt for a playoff spot throughout the season.
And while that should always be the sentiment on the heels of a non-playoff campaign, there were other quotes that should help further illustrate the mosaic that is being constructed next to Canalside.
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#5. “I can be more of a voice now, and lead better.” – Ryan O'Reilly
Ryan O'Reilly wears the word “disappointment” as openly as any on this team, but he’s not going to let that define him, or his season.
O’Reilly averaged just under 22 minutes of ice time per night, two minutes more than in any of his six previous NHL seasons, and more than any forward League-wide this past year.
His average of 0.85 points per game was a career-best, as were his 39 assists and 56.5 winning percentage on faceoffs.
Yet, the first thing he spoke of when reflecting upon 2015-16 was the relationships that were built within this group. And because of them, he feels he can take another significant and different step next season.
#4. “It looks like we’re starting to figure it out…I’m determined to have a great summer and come back and play better.” – Tyler Ennis
In the first week of the 2016-17 season Tyler Ennis will turn 27. His goals and games played combined reached only 26 this season past.
Felled by a concussion, the longest-tenured Sabre has yet to play a game in 2016. But through the worst of times both physically and emotionally, he learned a lot about himself and about this team under Dan Bylsma. He seemed proud and excited for his teammates’ improvement over the final 40 games.
And he admitted to GM Tim Murray during his exit interview that “he can be better,” a statement that isn’t just about production on the ice, but also his dedication to his craft off the ice.
#3. “Never satisfied.” – Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel’s word pairing comes in at number three on this list because he said it three times during his final “chat” with the media.
Whether it was in the context of his first year in the league, his personal stats or the team’s gradual rise up the standings in the final months, “never satisfied” should be words to live by in the years to come.
#2. “We have to make the playoffs. That’s why I feel this summer is going to be a true test to everyone. You’ve gotta come into training camp ready to go and with a chip on your shoulder.” – Marcus Foligno
The next big date on Marcus Foligno’s calendar is July 15 when he’ll marry his longtime girlfriend Natascia in his off-season home of Sudbury, Ontario. Recently honored with the inaugural Sabres Foundation Man of the Year Award, “Moose” (as he’s called by teammates) smiled wide when admitting he’s “gotta be ready for that day!”
But now with five years behind him as a pro, Foligno also seems to know his role on the ice moving forward.
Off-season training will be significant, with an emphasis on quickness. And a much quicker start for the team could change their fortunes dramatically.
#1. “If I can put the same work in that I did last summer, that will be a good summer for me.” – Sam Reinhart
With an economy of words, and convincing eye contact at the end (check it out for yourself at the 4:45 mark of the video), Sam Reinhart delivered perfectly a statement that he undoubtedly believes in.
No one within the organization improved more year-over-year than Reinhart, so why get into smaller details when the big picture tells the story?
Just keep doing what you are doing. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with that.