Ryan O’Reilly has been the St. Louis Blues’ captain since December 23, 2020. Moreover, he became the 23rd captain in the team’s history.
O’Reilly replaced defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who served as captain from 2016-20 before signing a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on October 12, 2020.
O’Reilly was definitely up for the challenge. He told NHL.com: “Obviously it’s very different for sure, but I’m excited for it ... It’s definitely an honor to be seen in this light from the organization and the players as well. To hear from them and get their support, it’s pretty amazing. I know my parents and family are very excited too. It’s something that will take a little while to get used to, but it’s an exciting challenge.”
With that said, O’Reilly has achieved a lot of success in a rather short amount of time. His first season in St. Louis was nothing short of amazing. He recorded career-highs in assists (49) and points (77) and tying his career-high in goals (28) in the Selke Trophy race. He was invited to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, where he recorded seven points in two games and was a runner-up to Sidney Crosby for the NHL All-Star Game MVP.
When the Blues punched their ticket to the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, O’Reilly continued his success, becoming the first player to score a goal in four consecutive NHL Stanley Cup Finals games since Wayne Gretzky in 1985.
Despite COVID-19, O’Reilly strived for success on the ice. He recorded 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) in 71 games. He was promoted to alternate captain following Vladimir Tarasenko’s upper-body injury. He, along with Alex Pietrangelo, David Perron, and Jordan Binnington, were all invited to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.
For a center who previously had stints in Colorado and Buffalo, O’Reilly has done well for himself. Not only is he financially stable, thanks to his lucrative deal agreed to while in Buffalo, he’s a team leader. Blues fans shouldn’t want it any other way. According to The Buffalo News, he puts in work and hopes it filters through the dressing room. He also seems like a quality guy on and off the ice.
Tarasenko was allegedly disappointed that he wasn’t named the Blues’ captain, but it’s out of his control. More recently, I saw some people on #BluesTwitter tweet about wanting Tarasenko to replace O’Reilly when the Blues were trapped in a seven-game losing skid from late March to early April.
Tarasenko isn’t the same player that he used to be. His injuries have been a question of concern. In 2014, he underwent a successful surgery for a hand injury. In 2019, he got tangled up with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Walker and subsequently suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for at least five months. He returned to the Blues’ lineup in March 2021 and scored 14 points (four goals and 10 assists) in 23 games before sustaining a lower-body injury. He can’t seem to stay healthy, and if he gets injured one, two, or maybe three times more, he might consider retirement out of precaution. He isn’t the answer to the Blues’ issues.
O’Reilly is the whole package. He’s a center and captain who’s talented, skilled, and hard-working. He seems to be a nice and friendly guy who you can approach to ask a question or simply say “hello.” He strives to improve offensively, plays a pretty physical style of hockey without racking up penalties, and makes sure that his teammates also improve offensively or defensively.
In a season of inconsistencies, O’Reilly remains a consistency. He not only leads the team in goals, he also leads by example.
The Blues’ culture has improved since O’Reilly joined the team and eventually earned the “C.” He refused to settle for less, and he expects his teammates to do the same. Being an “average” player isn’t an option in his eyes.
Without a doubt, O’Reilly is this team’s captain.