Mar 14, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Derek Roy (9) and Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O

Why The Buffalo Sabres Won’t Get Ryan O’Reilly


Mar 14, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly

I hate to brag.  No, that doesn’t sound right.  How about this: I love to brag!

Weeks before Ryan O’Reilly became the “It” child for teams looking to salvage their 2012-2013 NHL season, I wrote a piece that identified O’Reilly as the sort of player the Sabres should consider pursuing if they were truly serious about contending for the Stanley Cup this year.

I thought the Sabres’ lack of a true number one center was a glaring concern, a deficiency so significant that the Sabres would have labeled fixing it their number one priority.

I was wrong, and now the Buffalo Sabres have pretty much guaranteed that they will not be major players in the scramble to acquire Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche.

People I have spoken to, and read, today have numerous theories as to why Buffalo should not be considered a true player in the O’Reilly sweepstakes.  Some fans just feel Buffalo isn’t a glamorous enough location, or that it is not a large enough market and won’t provide as big spotlight for a young, budding star like Ryan O’Reilly.  Others make the argument that Buffalo doesn’t have enough to offer Colorado in return for O’Reilly’s services.  And others point out that the Sabres won’t touch him because of the reason Colorado is shopping this kid in the first place: his asking price of $5 million a year.

Good arguments, all of these . . . but they are not the biggest reason why Buffalo has doomed itself to being an irrelevant factor in the circus that is about to ensue.   To me, the biggest reason the Sabres should consider themselves the extreme long shot to nab this kid is because they flat-out deluded themselves for far too long.

For whatever reasons, no one in the Sabres organization seemed too concerned about the fact that they had no true number one center heading into this season.  As a matter of fact, it would seem that Darcy Regier, Terry Pegula, and Ted Black all felt like they had assembled a Stanley Cup contender, and didn’t need to consider shopping for parts.  (Apparently, Steve Ott and John Scott were the pieces to the puzzle Buffalo had been missing all along – who knew?)

So they sat back, watched the Sabres stumble out of the gates, and waited until a handful of large-market and more “desirable” teams found themselves missing parts of their own, and now there is little to no chance of luring someone like O’Reilly to Buffalo.

To me, this is a case of an organization over-valuing itself.  Coming into the season, most people thought Buffalo would make the playoffs based on the strength, not of its offense, but its defense and goaltending.  Question marks have been surrounding the offense of the Sabres for some time now, and anyone who follows hockey wondered how well Buffalo would fare with no true top-line center.   The results are in: the defense isn’t as good as advertised, and the offense is exactly as good as we thought, meaning it’s not good enough to win high-scoring contests.  The offense has some holes to plug, and a two-way player like O’Reilly would be the perfect fit.

Had Buffalo been honest in its assessment of its roster, Ryan O’Reilly would have been on their radar weeks ago, which means they would have already started the process that other teams are just now initiating.  There’s never any guarantees when it comes to these negotiations, but at least the Sabres would have had their foot in the door before teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, and Phoenix Coyotes came calling.  Instead, they are just one more team vying for Ryan O’Reilly’s attention, and a team with less to offer Colorado than their competition, to boot.

Who knows how willing Colorado would have been to part with O’Reilly two or three weeks ago; it’s a moot point now.  Heck, I don’t even know if Buffalo is seriously considering going after this kid anyway; I strongly feel they ought to, but if they were, they have waited too long to wake up and realize their ship is sinking, right up the middle.  This kid could really be the player that helps the Sabres get over the hump this year, but my gut tells me the Sabres have outsmarted themselves right out of the picture.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Ryan O'Reilly Trade Trade Rumor

  • PaulR

    O’Reilly must have a very aggressive agent. $5 million per year is quite rich for a guy with 3 seasons under his belt, and in his best season (last year) scored only 18 goals, and 37 assists. Hell, Drew Stafford’s 31 goals 2 years ago were “only” worth $4 million/year!

    Yes, O’Reilly is young, and will get better as he peaks into his late 20′s, but that is all speculation and $5 million per year is quite a gamble. I imagine Colorado had to draw the line, as they will also need to lock up guys like Landeskog

    Besides, do the Sabres even have cap space to go after such a salary?

  • Brian Walterich

    I could have saved you some time writing this…
    Sabres won’t get O’Reilly because Darcy Regier is their GM.

    • Rich Spalding

      True, but I cannot get 200 words out of that, can I? :D

  • davidmuscalo

    I don’t see the Sabres getting into the trading frenzy before the deadline. I am almost certain that Darcy Regier will tell us that he, Terry, Black and Ruff are happy with the players that they have. In fact, he may very likely predict that they will finish in first place in the East and go on to win the Stanley Cup. Now don’t be skeptical, just keep the faith, baby.
    Seriously, this is one of the most disfunctional Sabres’ teams ever and one or two trades will not help. Regier has put them in a Cap straighjacket with the ridiculous contracts awarded to Meyers and Leino to name just two.

  • Kevin

    I don’t know what more you have to do than Hodgson is doing well enough to do as the #1 center? His face-off % has gone up, he is an assist type player which is what a center does. He is still very young and learning. I see alot of growth in him since we got him. I say I’d rather be patient with what we have then get someone who will cost way too much to do the same thing with Vanek and Pommer.

    • Rich Spalding

      I certainly wouldn’t want them to trade Hodgson – I like what he is doing. I just don’t see him being the sort of player who is going to run the offense through him. Maybe time will prove me wrong, but I look at O’Reilly and I see a playmaker and a solid defender who is going to grow into a potential 70+ points a year player. The Sabres need to have two lines capable of scoring; right now, they’re stuck at one. O’Reilly is asking too much, sure, but he’s available and exactly the sort of player the Sabres need to add to their roster.

  • Troy Berkely

    where is Scotty and John when you need them?

  • Andrew

    I see people mentioning Stafford as part of a trade.

    Get real.

    If the Avs won’t pay $5 for ROR, they prolly don’t want to take Staff at $4.

    It would take Ennis, a Dman, and a prospect or pick. Regier may not have the balls for that one.

  • PaulR

    When I saw the Sabres brought back thrice-concussed, 35 year old Jochen Hecht, I knew that R&R’s thinking is frozen in amber, and this team would go NOWHERE.