Reyes: Flashing the Leather

Logo for Flashing the Leather column. - Graphic / Spencer Reyes

Former Captain Claps Back at Fans in the Nickel City

The 25-year-old phenom Jack Eichel made a return to KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York on Thursday, March 10.

Eichel has been making hockey headlines ever since he was drafted second overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.

It all started when the young center was looked at as a side piece to a struggling Sabres offense. Eichel verbally complained about his experience with Buffalo, and the front office responded with an eight-year, $72M contract to the 26-year-old, left-winger Jeff Skinner. This offensive piece was not enough to complement the likes of Eichel. 

Fast forward to March 7, 2021, Eichel is injured for the fourth time in his six-year career. The youngster herniated a disk in his neck when the Sabres lost 5-2 to the New York Islanders.

Although he was only meant to skip out on seven to ten days of practices and games, this was not the case. His absence ultimately led to 18-straight losses for the team.

When it came to the treatment of his injury, Eichel did not trust the team’s doctors and felt that they were not worried about his long-term health. He trusted his personal doctors, who advised that he should have surgery to replace the disk in his neck, while Buffalo’s doctors wanted him to have a fusion surgery to get back on the ice faster. 

This led to multiple reports of discomfort in the locker room between players and management. It even escalated to Eichel hiring lawyers to battle having the short-term surgery.

On September 23, 2021, Eichel failed a physical and Buffalo stripped him of this captaincy. The center was officially done with the Sabres and wanted to be moved as quickly as possible. By November 4, he got his wish and was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. As soon as news cleared of the trade, Vegas’s General Manager Kelly McCrimmon publicly gave permission to Eichel to have his disk replacement surgery.

Now, in March of 2022, Eichel returned to Buffalo in a white, gold and black uniform. He was welcomed with waves of boos.

“It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard this place ever,” Eichel said to ESPN after the game. “It only took seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game.”

It’s clear to see there are still some hard feelings on both ends.

2022 Opening Day is Closer than you Think

The MLB lockout is officially over!

Sing your praises, thank your lucky stars, and pick up your gloves. The Major League Baseball 2022 season will not be canceled as it is set to start Thursday, April 7. Spring Training is slated to start on Thursday, March 17, in Florida and Arizona.

Even more good news is that there will be a full, 162-game schedule. There have also been some new rules put in place for 2022.

The MLB and the Players Union have agreed to a 12-team postseason bracket, including a three-game series for the first round, which will change playoff baseball as we know it. This will replace the ten-team system that was originally in place with a one-game first round.

There has also been an increase in the amount of money a team can spend, going from $210 million to $230 million, and have promised to reach $244 million by 2026. If a team spends a dollar over this threshold, they will be taxed by the league. The annual minimum salary has also increased from $563K to $700K and will continue to jump to $780K by 2026 as well.

As far as playing terms, both sides have agreed to a universal designated hitter (DH), meaning pitchers will no longer be forced to be a part of the lineup in the National League.

They have also implemented a draft lottery for the six worst teams at the end of the year, creating a draft system like the NBA and NHL.

Players also were happy seeing that their player options increased by two per year. This is the number of times a player can be moved down from the MLB level to a minor league team each year. 

The last two points agreed on have to do with player acquisitions.

As soon as the newest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) deal was reached on Thursday, March 10, the floodgates were open as trades and signings were now allowed to occur prior to the season starting.

They also instituted a deadline of July 25 to reach a deal on the idea of a draft for international baseball prospects. This idea is up in the air but was supposedly the last piece to this three-month lockout saga, and both sides agreed to defer this side argument to start the 2022 season.

So make sure you mark your calendars for April 7, as the top baseball players in the world will be back to doing what they do best, playing ball!

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