Featured Image: Tom Brenner/Getty Images North America
Since the day St. Louis Blues players have cleaned out their lockers, fans of the team have been demanding additions to the top six forward unit to boost the team’s lack of goal scoring. Blues GM Doug Armstrong outlined how crucial of an offseason this one is for not only himself, but for his team. Fans across the NHL wanted their team to make a run at superstar center John Tavares and while the Blues have attempted to make their pitch, it appears Tavares’ camp was never interested in bringing his talents to the Gateway to the West. So, where do the Blues go from here? One potential polarizing trade candidate that the Blues have been linked to and are currently actively pursuing is Buffalo Sabres center man Ryan O’Reilly. He is a polarizing candidate because some fans see him as just “another Paul Stastny” who wins faceoffs, plays a solid two-way game, and puts up a fair, but not elite amount of points. Others argue that Ryan O’Reilly is a perfect fit for the Blues in the sense that he could offensively explode on a much better and more talented team, the Blues, than his current team, the Sabres. It is time to dig into why Ryan O’Reilly may or may not be the next Paul Stastny.
When the Blues signed Paul Stastny to a 4 year $28 million contract, he was coming off of a 60 point season where he compiled 25 goals and 35 assists with the Colorado Avalanche. Many fans of the Blues were expecting that his numbers would in fact go even higher playing with the likes of a Tarasenko, Schwartz, Steen, etc. Unfortunately, Stastny never really got into a groove with the team’s top goal scorer, Tarasenko, and never really took off with the Note. Instead, Stastny failed to reach the 50 point mark or 20 goal mark in his tenure with his hometown team and was later shipped off to Winnipeg as a rental piece for the Central division cup contenders. As you can see, the signing was less than impressive in hindsight despite his two-way game remaining a staple of his play while his offense faded. In his defense, Stastny did battle plenty of injuries in his tenure with the Blues as he played at least 70 games in a season with the Blues only once. So, is it fair to call Ryan O’Reilly the second coming of Paul Stastny or should we be fairly optimistic that the Blues are aggressively pursuing one of the game’s best two-way center ice man? Let’s dig deeper.
Over Ryan O’Reilly’s tenure with the Buffalo Sabres, he has put up at least 55 points in all three seasons with his best season since 2013 coming just this past year at 61 points (24 G, 37A). In comparison with Stastny’s last season with the Avalanche, they essentially put up the same offensive numbers. When you compare career face off statistics, which is what Stastny is known for, O’Reilly takes the cake fairly easily at a rate of 55.1% versus Stastny’s 53.4%. To dive even further into the two centerman’s game, let’s reference each other’s career penalty minutes numbers. O’Reilly took a grand total of one minor penalty this past season (2 PIM’s) and has only taken 84 total penalty minutes in his career. That is a whopping 9.33 PIM’s per season. In contrast, Stastny takes a little over 29 PIM’s a season over the course of his career which definitely isn’t bad, but O’Reilly’s numbers are almost unheard of for the hard working centerman that he is. If O’Reilly is able to play on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and do the dirty work for one of the game’s best goal scorers, the offensive numbers will definitely see a boost. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at last year’s Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko line prior to Jaden Schwartz going down with his ankle injury.
When Tarasenko was playing with two puck hounds that do the dirty work like Schenn and Schwartz do, they were all nearly a point per game offensive players and in the conversation for one of the best lines in hockey. Brayden Schenn made a 15 point jump in his offensive numbers coming over to the Blues and set a new career high in points (70) playing on that line. Now, the team probably won’t break up the dynamic duo of Schenn and Schwartz and that is where Ryan O’Reilly will step in and give the Blues two threatening offensive lines given the fact that he gels well with the talents of Tarasenko. Who else steps in on that line? Well, the Blues have been linked to another top 6 forward, Jeff Skinner, who can score plenty of goals himself and if Armstrong was able to pull both moves off, then O’Reilly’s number will skyrocket. In the case that doesn’t happen, you can throw a potentially healthy Robby Fabbri on that line and it will still generate plenty of offense.
My point here is just this: Ryan O’Reilly is no Paul Stastny. In fact, Ryan O’Reilly is a more perfected version of Paul Stastny that is waiting to be saved from the cellar of the league. He has the potential to be an elite playmaker when playing with exceptional talent, is already a better puck hounding center than Stastny was with the Blues, and is essentially flawless on the defensive side of the puck as reflected by his historically low penalty minutes numbers. Drop O’Reilly on a line in between a Jeff Skinner or a Robby Fabbri and you can bet your bottom dollar that a new career high in points will be set, while maintaining a better two-way game than Paul Stastny ever brought to the Blues. And, hopefully we will reflect on all of this as fact in the coming years.
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