Buffalo Sabres: Criticism of Ryan O’Reilly unwarranted

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Ryan O'Reilly
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Ryan O'Reilly /

WGR 550’s Howard Simon had some damning words for Ryan O’Reilly on Monday, but were his comments about the Buffalo Sabres’ center reasonable?

As we reported on MondayRyan O’Reilly admitted there were times during this season when he lost his love for playing hockey. The comments from the Buffalo Sabres‘ center were as shocking as they were honest.

The only thing more surprising that O’Reilly’s musings was the reaction from people. More specifically, those who chose to criticise him for what he said.

Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, it quickly became clear a lot of the naysayers had effectively just read their chosen media outlets’ headline and little more, subsequently taking it out of context.

Consider O’Reilly’s comments in full, about his lost love of playing hockey. As per NHL.com, 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.”"

So, why are we telling you all of this? I’m glad you asked.

WGR 550‘s Howard Simon wrote an article on Monday regarding O’Reilly’s interview on locker cleanout day. The headline read: ‘ O’Reilly needs to suck it up’ and was accompanied by a subheading which read: ‘Add him to the Sabres’ list of problems.’

Now, before we proceed, let’s just point out there is no particular issue with Simon or WGR 550. In fact, I listen to his show on a semi-regular basis and often find it make for interesting radio.

With that said, the headline and subheading were somewhat surprising. However, given that writers often don’t create their own headings for articles, combined with our earlier point about people taking them out of context but not reading much more, I knew it was best to read the page in full.

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In fairness to Simon, he wasn’t performing a hatchet job on O’Reilly. He made sure to point out he appreciates his honesty, stressed he wasn’t singling him out and admitted he sympathizes with the player, as no one wants to be on a losing team.

However, there was still plenty which the WGR 550 host wrote, that I disagreed with. For a start, Simon is tired of hearing the 2016 All-Star say he needs to get better, and just wishes he would go ahead and do it.

Well, we can come up with at least one area right away, where O’Reilly did improve. He set a new NHL record for faceoff wins in a season, along with a new personal best 60.0 percent winning percentage.

What really struck me, was how Simon went on to say the 27-year-old is part of the problem and not the solution. He doesn’t want one of his team leaders moping around and feeling sorry for the situation.

However, O’Reilly’s statistics would suggest otherwise, with him tallying the second-most overall points of his playing career, and highest since joining coming to Western New York. In fact, this is even more impressive when noting he achieved this, despite his lowest average ice time in three seasons with the Sabres.

Simon also asked how the organization can expect accountability in the room, when one of the leaders of the team isn’t accountable to himself or his teammates? However, admitting the struggles you encountered throughout the season is the very definition of accountability.

Now we could spend the rest of the day picking apart every last aspect of Simon’s column. And in that respect, I will stress again there were parts I agreed with and a lot I disagreed with, while acknowledging the WGR 550 host clearly has no particular beef with O’Reilly.

Ultimately though, the 2009 33rd overall draft pick is not part of the issue. Despite having a tough time this past season — and didn’t everyone associated with the Buffalo Sabres — he still played hard, continually displaying his excellent work ethic; attributes which help define a leader to me.

O’Reilly proved as durable as ever, playing in all but one regular season game and once again finishing in the top two in team scoring. If and when the Sabres turn it around, they need more players like the Clinton, Ontario native, not less.

Next: Sabres leave their mark on NHL history

Is the criticism of O’Reilly warranted? Or do you side with the Buffalo Sabres’ center? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.