Please remember: these wish lists are mine, and mine alone! While I would love to see the players I highlight don the blue and gold, I’m in no way writing these to suggest we ship out current players. This is just my way of playing General Manager, which, trust me, is something you want me to do!
Just the other day, I wrote a piece about the current number one center of the Buffalo Sabres, Cody Hodgson. I enjoyed watching Hodgson play last season, and I think he’s going to develop into a pretty good player . . . but I cannot ignore the fact that he would play on the second, maybe even third, line for many other teams in the NHL. In my eyes, the Sabres still lack a true number one, two-way center, which is why I lobbied hard for the Sabres to go after this kid while he was still available last season.
If you know anything about Ryan O’Reilly’s situation in Colorado, you understand that this is one of those times when a player on my Wish List may soon be available. He spent half of last season playing in the KHL, and the only reason Colorado wound up signing him was because of Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster’s terribly idiotic attempt to claim O’Reilly via offer sheet. Still, Colorado only has O’Reilly signed to a two-year deal, and he is eligible to be traded come February of 2014. And as much as Colorado talks about keeping O’Reilly in an Avalanche uniform, new head coach Patrick Roy recently decided that he will be moving O’Reilly from center to the left wing. This could turn out to be a brilliant move by Roy . . . or it could turn out to be the move that results in O’Reilly being shopped once February rolls around.
Why am I so high on O’Reilly? After all, he’s not a huge points producer yet – his career high of 18-37-55 back in 2011-2012 isn’t eye-popping – and we all know the Sabres need offense. I expect his numbers to continue to trend upward, however, so it’s possible ROR will wind up being a 70-80 points per year kind of playmaker. Even if he tops out in the 60s, though, there are so many other things O’Reilly does that makes me angry when I think about how the Sabres could have stolen him from Colorado last season. First of all, it’s clear that he is 100% committed to the game of hockey. Try watching some of the videos of him working out with his brother during the offseason; I thought I was going to pass out just from watching their routines, and I know I wouldn’t make it through one day with those two dudes without calling 911. This kid punishes his body in order to get it in the best shape possible once hockey season arrives.
Second, O’Reilly backchecks. ”Back-what?” half of the centers on the Sabres’ roster just asked. That’s right: he plays defense like it’s his job. Which, when you’re a center for an NHL team, it actually is. Better, he plays defense kind of mean-like, as if the opposing players spoke ill of his momma, his poppa, and his little sista. He has the ability to take players out of the game, which is one of those stats that you’ll never see . . . unless you examine the 2012 Player Usage Chart for the Colorado Avalanche, which would show you that O’Reilly spent most of his ice time skating against the oppositions’ best players, yet still propelled his team to a shooting advantage during that time. Extremely impressive stuff, especially given the fact that ROR was only 20 when that season began.
And oh-by-the-way: O’Reilly is also a solid guy to have in the face-off circle (he wins a shade over 52% of the time) and a huge boost on both the power play and penalty kill, as well. In the NHL, puck possession is pretty important if you want to, I don’t know – win? And we all know the Sabres could use a boost on both ends of the ice when it comes to special teams. Hmm . . . seems like Ryan O’Reilly would help Buffalo improve in no less than three areas of weakness.
It wasn’t just me urging the Buffalo Sabres to take a shot at O’Reilly last year; these guys agreed, as well. (It just so happens I thought of the idea first, however – and I can prove that!) He is exactly the type of first- (or second, if you feel the Sabres should stick with Cody Hodgson out of loyalty) line center that Sabres truly need, which is why I have endorsed, and will continue to promote, Ryan O’Reilly as one of the top candidates that Sabres should try to acquire via trade beginning in next February.
Agree or disagree? Your opinion matters! Leave a comment below, or fire me a Tweet @theamazingMrS).