Some things are just meant for each other. Peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, wine and cheese, Romeo and Juliet — these things simply work well together. To try and separate any of these is to commit heresy.
Let’s add another dyad to that list like, say, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Not as obvious, right?
Well, this isn’t in anyway to romanticize their glowing comradery off the ice. These two young men have a well-documented friendship. They are roommates, they dress up for Halloween together and even rode in on a two-seated bike into training camp together. Adorable, right?
January- Reinhart & Eichel ride ponies
September- Reinhart & Eichel ride a tandem bike
What a time to be alive
(courtesy Sam Reinhart IG) pic.twitter.com/vpKHz6AS21
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) September 14, 2017
Certainly, but all of this is superfluous since their team has stumbled out the gate with a deplorable record of 4-8-2. Not only that, these two players have had almost zero playing time with each other this season. The best place for Reinhart is on Eichel’s wing. Period.
So why has Phil Housley neglected putting Jack and Sam together?
Reinhart was drafted as a center. It’s no mystery as to why a coach would envision him playing the position. Reinhart being a No. 2 overall pick helps enforce this line of reasoning. He has a high ceiling, or at least should.
Having a multitude of adept centers on a team is a good problem to have and the Sabres are beset with such a problem. Already this season, the center position has had its share of injuries, most notably Evan Rodrigues and Jacob Josefson. With that said, Buffalo still has four usable centers on the roster not including Reinhart: Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons, and Johan Larsson.
Perhaps Housley might hesitate in adding Sam to Jack’s line since the top line is red-hot. The Sabres’ top-line of Kane-Eichel-Pominville is one of the most productive lines in the league. 14 games in, both Eichel and Kane have 13 points and Pominville has 12. That’s the thing though – most of the Sabres offensive production is consolidated in those top-three scorers.
It would benefit the Sabres to spread some of their talent across the lineup. That was probably the objective in having Reinhart play the center position, but this experiment is going nowhere. Pominville is a savvy veteran who is more than capable of playing with either O’Reilly or even in a bottom-six role. The Kane-Eichel-Reinhart line has worked before, but even a Pominville-Eichel-Reinhart line doesn’t sound too bad either.
It’s important to remember that it’s not conjecture or wishful thinking to assume that Sam will flourish on a line with Jack. This is proven.
Reinhart’s full rookie season got off to a shaky start. Many thought he was destined for Rochester. Some games he was invisible and appeared overwhelmed by the pace of the NHL. This changed when he found a home on Eichel’s wing. He finished the season with a respectable 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists).
Last season was no different. We all felt the pain of Jack’s high-ankle sprain injury. But no player, besides Jack, hurt more from the injury than his good pal and linemate Sam. Once they were reunited things quickly turned around. Sam avoided the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ and finished with an improved point total from a season prior, with 47.
In 14 games this season, he only has a measly two goals and three assists. His -8 rating is an eyesore on his stat sheet as well. For a second overall pick in his third season, he is inching closer and closer to ‘bust’ territory in the eyes of many.
If the only way he avoids being a bust is by playing on the wing of a generational talent than so be it. One only need read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi to grasp the idea that even the most successful people in our society are the beneficiaries of others. People never do things alone and thrive most because of who they are surrounded by. It’s as simple as that.
Would you break up the #Sabres top line to help spark Reinhart?
— BuffaloHockeyCentral (@BHCdotcom) November 8, 2017
The Sabres should tailor their lineup to the strengths of their players. And though his ceiling may very well be a top-six center, at this point in his very young career Reinhart is best suited on a line with Eichel.
Again, such a move won’t remedy all the ills this team is plagued with. Not even close. However, the Sabres can’t afford to neglect proven solutions, no matter how insignificant or nominal they may appear to be.
Housley should call it quits to Reinhart’s trial as a center and flank him on Jack’s wing – for both Sam’s sake and the Sabres as a whole.