So Ryan O’Reilly will be at practice tomorrow. He traveled through the night in order to be medically examined by the Avs staff today. He passed his examination, as expected, so he’ll be able to practice with the team. Coach Sacco wouldn’t commit to him being in the lineup Sunday, because he wants to see if he is in “game shape”.
It didn’t take long for all of the O’Reilly detractors to come out of the woodwork. And while I am excited to see him back, I understand their position. Ryan O’Reilly held out on his team for months, and whether he was acting on poor advice or not, decided that he is worth far more money than he really is in this, especially in this NHL era with the salary cap. The cap does drop down next year, and there are several players who will be looking to for a payraise after next year. O’Reilly is going to have to do a lot to win back favor, and frankly, there are a lot of people who he’s irked to the point of no return.
At the same time, I don’t think the Avs could reasonably let him go for two unproven picks with unverified positions in the draft. If, next year, O’Reilly isn’t meshing with his teammates, or if he isn’t producing, the Avs can trade him. His trade value might have diminished at that point, but I think a talented negotiator can work with what O’Reilly’s given in the NHL thus far and his potential, and make a worthwhile trade.
I know a lot of people are worried about how his return will affect the team chemistry. Matt Duchene’s comments weren’t exactly exuberant when he was asked, and there are too many people on this team who are very, very loyal to the Avs, and who aren’t making as much money as O’Reilly. (I know the Avs aren’t the destination team they used to be, but they have built a group of devoted guys-Bordeleau, Wilson, and McLeod are all undrafted players who were given their NHL shot by the Avs. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Semyon Varlamov all grew up watching the Avs, and are determined to be franchise players. Paul Stastny went to college in Denver, and he’s playing for the same franchise that his father and uncles defected to play for…you get the point.) I know that there is going to be some resentment, and some awkwardness, but at the same time, the team knows that O’Reilly helps them on the ice. They’re all in this playoff push together, and for that reason, I can see them tamping down their negative emotions.
Right now, we have to think about the immediate future-aka the rest of this season. I want this team to make the postseason, and no matter how caustic, or disapproving some fans might be of the team and it’s position and players right now, I think that’s something that all of them want. Let’s try and bury this saga for now, and focus on the upcoming games.