Avalanche Thoughts – O’Reilly Situation Resolved
My thoughts on yesterday’s signing of Ryan O’Reilly and the 24 hour rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames
It looked like one of the worst days in Colorado Avalanche history. The Calgary Flames signed holdout center Ryan O’Reilly to an offer sheet in the afternoon and then jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period in their night game.
It looked like the Flames were not only going to steal from our car in the afternoon, but then come into our house and beat us up at night.
And then something happened after the first period.
Avalanche GM Greg Sherman matched the O’Reilly offer sheet, locking him up for the next two seasons, and the team on the ice completed a comeback to win 5-4 over the Flames.
They tried to steal from us and then come into our home and beat us up, but instead of allowing it to happen, like has been the case so many times over these past few years, we stood up to them and knocked them on their ass.
It was refreshingly unexpected and actually gave me hope for the future.
The Avs will end up paying O’Reilly ten million dollars over the course of the next two seasons, which is reportedly two million more than he was originally seeking. This was a move the team had to make. They couldn’t allow a division rival to take last year’s leading scorer and only give back a first and third round draft pick. The team was seeking far more than that for O’Reilly and had they not matched the offer sheet, heads should’ve rolled.
They matched the offer sheet though and now O’Reilly is set to rejoin the team and answer a ton of questions about his holdout and status with management and his teammates.
I don’t know how O’Reilly will be received by his teammates, coaches, and fans. His relationship with management can’t be very good given that it took an offer sheet for them to sign him and they’ve been trying to deal him for these past couple of weeks. Not only that, but his dad took management to task not too long ago. For the time being, the two sides have to get along. O’Reilly is now under contract and can’t be dealt for another year. So whatever happened in the past couple of months has to be put to bed. O’Reilly may not think the team wanted him, but they obviously wanted him enough to match the offer from the Flames. If they truly wanted to wash their hands with “Factor” they would’ve taken the two draft picks, stood in front of the firing squad, and moved forward, hoping they’d still have a job in a month.
Sherman said that the goal the entire time was to sign O’Reilly. I don’t know how true that is, but given the asking price for him in a trade, there could be something to that. If the team really wanted to get rid of him, they would’ve dealt him for Michael Del Zotto, which was a very fair deal. Maybe they were just holding out for the best offer, which is understandable given the situation, but I also think that they had some hope that they could find a resolution to this whole mess. Maybe that’s why they were so quick to match the offer, because they were just happy that they could finally get a deal done thanks to a third party.
The locker room is a different situation. Rumors were floated that he and Matt Duchene have grown apart and would be rivals on the ice for years to come. Obviously he lost touch with a lot of teammates over these past few months as they’ve been trying to win on the ice and he’s been trying to win off the ice. There could be some resentment towards him. Hell, if I were trying to create a narrative, I would say that O’Reilly’s signing fueled the Avs comeback on Thursday night. They found out that the team re-signed him after the first period, thought to themselves, “screw him, we can win without him,” and eventually won the game. I don’t think there is any merit to that, but maybe subconsciously guys actually thought that.
If O’Reilly wants to win his teammates back, all he has to do is work hard and produce. The thing fans and teammates have always loved about “Radar” is that he did everything to help the team win. He always forechecked hard, he was the first guy back defensively, he took a hit to make a play, and he never got lazy. He has to continue to do those things and everything will be forgiven. Teammates know when a guy is slacking, and if O’Reilly starts slacking, guys will notice and they won’t be happy.
I have no doubt that fans will welcome back O’Reilly with open arms. At least for now. He’s a player that every fan loved and, if he plays like he usually plays, he’ll help the team be successful. But now the pressure is on him. He’s making a lot of money. And with money comes expectations. David Jones and Paul Stastny have caught a lot of heat as of late due to their poor play. Being two of the highest paid players on the team, everyone expects them to put up points and produce. So when they don’t, fans grow frustrated. O’Reilly is now expected to produce night in and night out. And not just with his hockey IQ, because that doesn’t show up on the boxscore. O’Reilly has to put up points. Fans love Duchene right now because he took a cheap contract in order to prove that he’s worth big money over these next two seasons. He’s been the best player on the team this year. O’Reilly now has his money and he has to be just as good, if not better than Duchene.
Now it’s up to Joe Sacco to make this work, which is something I fear. He now has four centers at his disposal. O’Reilly and Stastny are the two highest paid players on the team, Duchene has been the best player this year, and Mitchell has played very good hockey in a third line role. My guess is that Mitchell gets moved to the wing with Milan Hejduk and O’Reilly as I doubt Sacco wants to break up Stastny, Jones and Gabe Landeskog or Duchene, Jamie McGinn, and P.A. Parenteau. Then again we are talking about Joe Sacco here. He’ll probably stick O’Reilly with Patrick Bordeleau and Chuck Kobasew and still expect him to put up a point per game.
I have to applaud Greg Sherman and Avs management here. Earlier this week I wrote that they had no logic when it came to Ryan O’Reilly. But they finally exhibited that maybe, just maybe, they know what they were doing. They knew they had to match the offer and they wasted no time in doing it. Sure there hand was forced and yes, it could mess up their salary structure in the coming years, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there. All I know is that the Avs won on Thursday and became a better team immediately after the game by welcoming back last year’s top play.
Maybe this is the turning point of the Sherman era. We can only hope.