(Kevin Lowe is now a verb)
So a long way’s back, some time ago right around the time that we learned that hockey was to be roused from it’s eternal slumber, it was reported by, like people or something, that underrated Avalanche center and likely all around badass dude Ryan O’Reilly was staying in Russia, with Metallurg, which is also located somewhere on the periodic table, instead of returning to Denver to do cool things with Gabriel Landeskog.
Our hero Kent Wilson wrote a wonderfully detailed piece as to why the Flames should put in an offer sheet for the 21 year old mensch, which you can read here.
But for the record, I like to think I had the idea first:
Kent Wilson is such a biter.
Nonetheless, it was a good idea, and I imagine more than a few people had similar ideas, for similar teams. Regardless, they can eat their own faces.
The notion and any accompanying momentum eventually simmered down, as you might expect, seeing as HOCKEY STARTED AND WE WERE ALL LIKE WHOOOOOOOAA I MISSED YOU, and then we all sat back and watched as your Calgary Flames, against all odds, logic, and all of my sternly worded emails still signed Pro Tryout Offeree Steve Begin to a contract. To play hockey. In the NHL. In 2013.
Which made us all sad and reach for some Advil, but we sucked it up and moved on.
But while we were all snuggled in our various beds last night, whisked away to Slumberland (or, alternatively, up all night shooting smack. The Book of Loob does not discriminate), news came across from across a few ponds over in Russia that RO’R, as I want to call him, had been released from his Serbian ticket and will once again be traveling by dirigible back to the enchanted lands of America North.
But of course, that does not mean, as of yet, that he is a Colorado Avalanche.
Cue picture of O’Reilly looking like a hockey player:
So he’s still, for now, an RFA, which a) gets Brian Burke’s hackles up, wherever he is now, and b) is a scenario that should be revisited.
HOLD ON. HOLD ON. Let me finish.
I think this is something that Jay Feaster and John Wiesbrod and like, other people, should look into, eventually. Because there are certainly risks. you are probably screaming those risks at your computer screen right now, in a verbal package of expletives and just the right touch of spit.
The most immediate one being what it costs as far as compensation. I get it, I do. I have no idea what O’Reilly is asking for as far as money. Friend of the blog Anthrax Jones (who writes here) speculated it’s more of a term than a money thing, suggesting RO’R wants a 5 year deal, where the historically stingy Avalanche only want to offer three (on someone who has all the potential in the world to be a career 1 or 2 C for a long, LONG time. What an organization). But hey, realistically, if you could ink him to a 4 year deal, he could be had for $4 million a year. Sounds like a lot, but I think he’s worth that and more.
But if you sign him to that contract, under current CBA RFA compensation laws, it would cost the Flames a 2013 first and third round draft pick. Hefty price to pay, but worth the risk, in my humble but right opinion.
And here’s why. Obviously you’d prefer in most cases to not have to give up your first round pick (especially when you don’t have a second round pick either). A first round pick is an 18 year old kid with incredible potential that you want to turn into your franchise cornerstone, ideally. And if you score one of the top 5 to 10 picks, chances are, you have landed yourself a player that fits somewhat into that mold.
Which is great, but draft picks, especially Flames draft picks, as we’ve seen over the past two decades, are a gamble. For every Sven Bärtschi you draft, there are two or three Greg Nemizs’ (Nemi?) that you drafted before him. Not to mention, everyone past that 10th seeded pick is not typically in the same realm as those first few studs.
Meanwhile, you have a guy in O’Reilly who is only 21 (and I mean JUST 21), who already has a couple of seasons under his belt getting some NHL polish all up on him. And golly, how he has looked good. I mean, the numbers aren’t necessarily there (although 107 points over your first 3 NHL seasons ain’t not nothing, y’heard?), but he progressed tremendously last season, earning top minutes with Avs other wunderkid Gabriel Landeskog.
And brother, they did everything. O’Reilly played in all ends of the ice, in all situations. PP, PK, 5 on 5, in both zones, just fucking EVERYTHING man, and he was spectacular along the way. All while playing the hardest minutes against the opposition’s best players. (Robert Vollman at Hockey Prospectus covers how valuable Ryan is in so many different ways, and it makes me swoon so fucking hard. Read it, because it’s so well done, and he’s not exaggerating: O’Reilly is truly as good as Vollman says he is)
Which is to say the following: at 21, you’re basically acquiring a first round pick with previous NHL experience who addresses a lot of needs on the Calgary Flames. Draft day is fun, no question, and teams invest months over months of time scouring these players to find their gem, but here’s a guy who’s already done the legwork and made it easy to see what he’s worth.
Again, it comes with risks. Who knows what he’s asking for as far as money and term? Can he continue to excel playing along, hey, let’s say Sven (which, yes, he can). The Globe and Mail article I linked to earlier reports of a potential foot injury; is there any truth to that? WHAT ABOUT OUR DRAFT PICKS MAN???
I think a potential foot injury might actually be a blessing in disguise, assuming the Flames would be thinking about this (whether they do it or not, I think it would be atrocious if the Flames upper management DIDN’T have this on their radar, and if they don’t, we have a much bigger problem here)
Calgary, as we all know, are off to a less than auspicious start, at 0-2-0-1. But the record is not necessarily indicative of who the team is. Quite honestly, I think they’ve played well. They’ve lost, but they’ve never truly been out of the game. I thought against Vancouver last night, despite losing in the shootout, they were at times the better team. Like, in the third and overtime, I thought the Canucks looked tired, while Calgary had some more to give.
They’re not as bad as the record says, is what I’m getting at. With Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka due back in the lineup soon, and Miikka Kiprusoff hopefully shedding the skin of what was truly abysmal goalie in the first two games, the team actually has a chance to surprise a few people, get on a roll, and start moving towards good things.
Or everything could turn into an unmitigated disaster, and anyone on the team short of Harvey the Hound and Sven Bärtschi will have their head served to the fans on a platter.
The direction the team goes on while the fates decide what happens to Ryan O’Reilly can really dictate what you do regarding him.
If the Flames start going all world beaters and start putting some wins together, and maybe it looks like they can finish in, oh, 8th place, which I guess is a goal because why wouldn’t it be at this point, than that would a) be a major surprise given the dearth down the middle, and b) suggest that an upgrade in that position down the stretch might not be such a terrible idea, as anytime you can be better going into the playoffs, well it’s good times party for everyone.
That’s when you put in the offer sheet to O’Reilly’s agent, whoever he is (I hope it’s not the same guy Joffrey Lupul employs). O’Reilly is exactly the kind of player you want on your team for a(n extended?) playoff run. Not only that, if that lands you your first round draft pick somewhere in the range of 16-20, than chances are whoever that player ends up being is not as good as Ryan O’Reilly.
However, if the whole butterfly effect theory holds true, and instead the Flames go toilet mode, the bounces don’t go their way, Jiri Hudler becomes Jiri Who?dler, and the team finishes up in Nathan MacKinnon territory, by all means, hold off and DRAFT NATHAN MACKINNON.
It’s win – win to some extent. You either get a player you can build around for years to come, or you can get a player you can build around for years to come who makes you better immediately. Nothing is guaranteed; if you wait around too long, a guy like O’Reilly will be snapped up by SOMEONE before too long, and so be it, doing your due diligence on these things comes with these pratfalls. And maybe he doesn’t sign. Maybe Colorado matches. But at least you try. If you’re overachieving and are moving up, you have to try.
I know I would.
(One final thought: You could probably take every instance in this article where it says “Ryan O’Reilly” and substitute it with the words “Jamie Benn” and all the points would remain the same)
UPDATE: Re: Jamie Benn: Nevermind.
Posted in Hlushko Hodgepodge |