Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly laments lost love of the game

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Ryan O'Reilly
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Ryan O'Reilly /

The Buffalo Sabres cleaned out their lockers on Monday and Ryan O’Reilly discussed another lost season, including how it impacted his passion for playing.

We all suffer bad days at the office from time to time. However, for the Buffalo Sabres, this season has been one long bad day.

The Sabres secured an unwanted piece of NHL history, as they became the first ever team to finish in 31st place. It also represented their third last-place finish in five seasons.

For Ryan O’Reilly specifically, this was the first time in his NHL career he has suffered the indignity of playing for the worst team in the league. As you’d expect, it had a negative effect on him.

However, the extent of this was somewhat shocking, as O’Reilly admitted on Monday, when the Sabres cleaned out their lockers. As reported by Luke Fox of Sportsnet, he said:

"“It’s disappointing. It’s sad. I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times. You need to get back to it because it’s just eating myself up and eats the other guys, too. It’s just eating us up, and it’s tough.“It’s the NHL. It’s the best job in the world, but at times throughout the year I’ve felt I lost it. There’s times where I found my game and just enjoy it and it’s fun, but when you lose consistently like this for years, it’s tough.”"

Despite O’Reilly’s up and down struggles with finding the enthusiasm to play, you can’t claim he didn’t continue to put the effort in. At least when reviewing his statistics.

For a start, the 2016 All-Star set a new NHL record for faceoff wins in a season. He finished the campaign with 1,274, while registering a new personal season-best 60.0 percent winning percentage.

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O’Reilly also scored the second-most overall points of his playing career, and highest since joining the Sabres. This becomes more impressive, when considering he averaged his fewest minutes per contest, since coming to Buffalo prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

However, to get an idea of why the 27-year-old didn’t have a more positive impact on the team, look no further than his plus/minus rating. Whether you are a fan of this statistic or not, his career-worst -23 rating is at least somewhat telling.

As things stand, O’Reilly still has five season remaining on the contract extension he signed shortly after joining the team. However, is it possible he could be moved?

In theory, the answer should be no. After all, the 2009 33rd overall draft pick offers the Buffalo Sabres one of the best one-two center combos in the league, regardless of how terrible the team might be right now.

And yet, it is still a possibility, at least according to TSN‘s Pierre LeBrun. Speaking to Schopp and the Bulldog last Wednesday on WGR 550, LeBrun said:

"“It’s not something they really want to do, but it’s something they should at least listen. (John) Tavares will only end up on one team, what will all these others do? I can tell you other teams love O’Reilly. If someone can put together a package to help Jack Eichel, who knows? He’s a guy that would be in high demand.”"

In our humble opinion, the Sabres should keep firm hold of O’Reilly. He’s an excellent leader, a consistent point-scorer and one of the hardest workers on the team; why would you want to get rid of that combination?

Of course, we appreciate general manger Jason Botterill will listen, if teams contact him about the Clinton, Ontario native. Certainly, it figures to be an extremely interesting offseason in Western New York.

Fox did indicate O’Reilly wants to be a part of the solution in Buffalo. Whether the solution involves him actually staying or being traded, remain to be seen.

Next: Sabres leave their mark on NHL history

What’s your final analysis of the season in general? What about O’Reilly specifically? Do you see him remaining with the Buffalo Sabres, or should they look to move him during the offseason? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.