Jason Pominville is sad for the Buffalo Sabers, a team he was captain of.
The Sabers are last in the general classification, far behind the 30e team, they will miss the playoffs for the 10e season in a row and the tiles keep falling on their heads.
The most recent scandal: their in-house advertiser has just been fired for racist remarks …
“Most disappointing to me is the criticism of the owners, Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim. They don’t deserve this. They treat their players so well. They buy the team, they completely renovate the locker room, they spend millions on free agents, the infrastructure, they buy the Bills, they revitalize downtown Buffalo, and not having results, it must tire them. . ”
Pominville ended his career at Buffalo between 2017 and 2019, after five years with the Minnesota Wild. He played the first eight seasons of his career with the Sabers. He took advantage of the kindness of the Pegula.
“They have a yacht, and when they passed through the Old Port of Montreal, they would call the players who are in Montreal to invite them to dinner on board. They treated my family so well during my 1000e match. They want so badly to make your job easier. “
It has always been more difficult to attract free agents to Buffalo, but slowly there were starting to be more of them. The Bills are successful, but it doesn’t work with the Sabers.
Instability is very damaging to the Sabers, believes the Quebecer, back in Quebec to live there.
« [Le DG] Darcy Regier et [l’entraîneur] Lindy Ruff have been in office for a long time. It has been more difficult recently. They often changed coach and general manager. How many coaches has Jack Eichel had so far? Four? Guys won in the junior ranks or the NCAA, but winning in the NHL is different. Most of the players in the lineup saw nothing but losing. ”
Jason Pominville avoided tough years by being traded to the Minnesota Wild for young goaltender Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson and a first-round pick in April 2013. Hackett and Larsson didn’t have a great career at Buffalo. First-round pick Nikita Zadorov served as bait with Mikhail Grigorenko and JT Compher in the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly in June 2015.
“I had great years in Buffalo. Being a little selfish, I was lucky to leave as they started rebuilding. Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek followed. I was able to join a good team and play in the playoffs with good players for many years in Minnesota. But coming back to the end of his career has been incredible. I would even have stayed longer, but I was not offered a contract. I don’t blame Jason Botterill, we have a good relationship, I played with him in the AHL, if he could have extended my career he would have. ”
Losses that hurt
Two losses hurt the Sabers: Ryan Miller, in 2014, then Ryan O’Reilly, years later, said Pominville.
“Ryan Miller is the best goalie I’ve played with. But they wanted to rebuild and I don’t think Ryan would have wanted to participate in a rebuild. I’m sold to him because I’ve played with him for a long time, even in the American League. He was a dominant player, he could steal games. It was a crazy year, the season he won the Vézina and participated in the Olympics. Such guards are difficult to replace. It is not easy to find a Vasilevskiy, a Price or a Miller. ”
The departure of Ryan O’Reilly, traded to the St. Louis Blues in July 2018 for Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka, a first-round pick in 2019 (Ryan Johnson) and second-round in 2021, mostly hurt in Eichel, according to Pominville.
“O’Reilly could take the tough minutes and allow Eichel to breathe on occasion. At home, with the last change, he didn’t have to face the best lines and the best duos of opposing defenders. The second center player is hard to replace. It hurts. Eichel is forced to play the tough minutes all the time. He’s talented, for sure, and his production increased last year, but it’s not an easy job when all the pressure is on you. All the media are after him. ”
Eichel is not yet at the level of the most complete centers in the league, believes Pominville.
“Not everyone is able to do what Patrice Bergeron does. Him, both abroad and at home, he faces the best lines, he must neutralize them and produce at the same time. It is not easy to maintain such consistency in the long term. He is also better surrounded with Marchand, Pastrnak and, for many years, Chara. Eichel doesn’t have that in Buffalo. ”
The Sabers also lack character players.
“They are all talented, but a bit the same, with Olofsson, Skinner, Eichel, Reinhart. The Canadian picked up Josh Anderson. He might have been a little less well-known, but the guys who’ve faced him know how tiring he is. It skates, it is always in your face, it is robust, they are hard to find, those. Tampa got some too, St. Louis had some when they won. They’re all heavy on the puck. ”
A return to hockey?
Since his retirement, Pominville has returned to Quebec, to his corner of Repentigny. He devotes more time to his young children and acts as coaches for young hockey players in a sports-study program.
He is not saying no to a return to the hockey world. “When Jason Botterill was still stationed at Buffalo, he told me to let him know when I was ready. I did not revive it. I wanted to spend more time with family, which I couldn’t always do when I was playing. “
What if Joël Bouchard called him back up for the Laval Rocket?
I saw that Frank [Bouillon] had gone to help. Laval is close. I know Joël. We played trailer hockey tournaments. We text each other occasionally. It might be interesting, but the many trips, it’s a trickier situation right now. But I never close the doors.
What would be his best assets as a coach?
“When I was playing, we almost hid so as not to meet the coach and the GM. When the coach wanted to talk to you, it was negative. Today, kids want information. The approach is completely different. You realize it more at the end of your career with the new generation. I enjoyed that as a player the last few years, I didn’t learn my withdrawal from the roster just by seeing the names on the board. It is not difficult for the coaches to do. I’ve always been an offensive guy, but I also played in defensive situations. I would be a good communicator. ”
The message is launched. Here is one that will one day be able to help vocational training.