Firing Bylsma, Murray was a ‘bit of a shocker’ to Sabres star Eichel

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Despite speculation of a rift between Jack Eichel and Dan Bylsma this past season, the Buffalo Sabres star forward has expressed his surprise with the organization’s decision to clean house, firing both the head coach and general manager Tim Murray.

The Sabres fired Bylsma and Murray on the same day, following reports earlier that same week of internal turmoil, most notably between Bylsma and Eichel, the latter being the 20-year-old face of the franchise.

Eichel, in conversation with the Buffalo News, said in a report published Wednesday that it was “a bit of a shocker” to him that both Bylsma and Murray were fired. He then added: “I think the Pegulas and the rest of the organization, if they think that was best for the future, then that needed to happen.”

Eichel had a late start to his sophomore season due to an ankle sprain, but still managed 24 goals (which tied his total from his rookie campaign) and career highs in assists (33) and points (57), despite playing in 20 fewer games from his first year.

Still, the Sabres finished 26th in the overall standings, prompting Eichel to sound off following such a disappointing season, admitting frustration with the team’s culture.

More than a month after the organizational shakeup, it seemed Eichel still couldn’t put his finger on exactly why it went so wrong for the past regime of Bylsma and Murray, or future developments for the Sabres, particularly behind the bench.

“I’m not really sure,” Eichel continued to tell the Buffalo News. “I went through both of my end-of-the-year meetings, and I thought things were all right. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. That’s not my position really. I’m more in terms of playing, as you know. Whoever the GM, whoever the coach are, I’ll just try and show up with a good attitude and be a good player.”

The Sabres have since hired a new general manager, naming Jason Botterill to the position. The search for a new coach still continues. The latest is that San Jose assistant coach Bob Boughner has reportedly interviewed with the Sabres.

Related: ‘I want to be here for a long time’: Eichel says he isn’t interested in leaving Buffalo