Without Ryan O’Reilly, the St. Louis Blues don’t win a Stanley Cup. Fitting for a captain.
A statement as clear as day and as full as the hearts of Blues fans everywhere right now, O’Reilly was that missing piece to the puzzle. Craig Berube’s placement as head coach got the fire brewing, and Jordan Binnington’s take-over brand of play aided the comeback in the 2018-19 season, but it was O’Reilly’s presence and performance that I think moved the needle considerably.
Think about back to that time when the Blues had zero depth at the center position, or as I like to say, “the Jori Lehtera proposition.” And then place O’Reilly into that problem, and watch the swelling depart. Out of all General Manager Doug Armstrong’s heists and tricks as a businessman in the game of front office faceoffs, acquiring the former Buffalo Sabre should stand as his finest hour. There was a need, and Armstrong filled that need with a resourceful move, doing so without sacrificing any of his precious commodities.
Let’s go live to the Buffalo front office for their reaction: FUCCCCCKKKKK!!!!
It was the kind of heist that should only happen in the movies. Armstrong sent Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka, and Patrik Berglund along with draft picks for Mr. O’Reilly. A 77 point regular season total followed by the 23 points in 26 playoff games on the road to the Cup. How about the 61 points in 71 regular season games along with the 11 points in nine playoff games this past season? A captain in work ethic and talent combined, O’Reilly is that perfect package of leadership.
If the Blues had a Yadier Molina-type hard worker on their roster, it’s O’Reilly. First one in and the last one out according to teammates and media, no one works harder at becoming better or staying sharp as this guy. Someone who wins 60% of faceoffs and gives your team 60 points a season.
And it’s the best time for him to step into that role. O’Reilly is 29 years old and still has three years left on his contract. He’s not going anywhere and should only get better as the team slowly becomes his own. Once Alex Pietrangelo went to the desert, it was inevitable who the 23rd captain of the Blues would be. After Alexander Steen retired last week, the ink had completely dried. How sweet is this compared to when the workers accidentally stitched the “C” on Eric Brewer’s jersey? I kid, but there’s something about a captain actually producing AND leading the team that’s like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold December night. It’s pure, unfiltered, sweet action!
O’Reilly is now the most important player on the team. Sure, the defense is weaker without Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester this season, but Torey Krug is no slouch and the young guns coming off the farm will provide some illuminating depth on the blue line. But if this team lost #90, it’d be an ugly sight out there. Desolate center depth and a big drop in points produced.
it’s crazy how much of a positive impact o’reilly has made on this team in such a short time— leah (@leahck55) December 21, 2020
Think about the Winnipeg Jets series during the 2018-19 playoffs. There were a couple games where O’Reilly wasn’t himself. Something was off, like the battery was knocked out of Tony Stark’s chest for a stretch. He wasn’t as quick or aggressive on the puck, like other players had shown up to the party and stole the girl before he could get there. It was supposedly due to a couple rough hits from players like the now-retired Dustin Byfuglien, the big bad wolf who messed with the bearded Obi Wan from the Hills of St. Louis. But by the end of the series, O’Reilly was plugged back in and deciding games.
That’s how important he is. As long as each side plays it right, there’s a strong chance this player-team marriage ends with O’Reilly finishing his career in St. Louis. He’s exactly the type of player and person to hold that mantle for a decade. Like 95% of aging players, the Blues may even overpay to keep him in town, but it’ll be worth it.
Captain Ryan O’Reilly. Sounds good, doesn’t it?