If Ryan O’Reilly is hurt badly, it could be a significant blow to the Maple Leafs’ playoff hopes. Although he’s only been in the team’s lineup for a few days, he’s become an important part of that lineup. He not only brings solid play, but he brings a lot of experience and leadership to the team as well.
As I write this post just after noon EST, what I know is that O’Reilly was forced to leave the ice after he was hit on the hand with an Auston Matthews’ shot. I also saw a recently-released photograph that shows him with a finger brace on the index finger of his left hand. That photo, sadly for the Maple Leafs, seems to confirm some unfortunate news about his condition. It’s more than a bruise, it seems.
Related: Maple Leafs GM Dubas Did His Job: Now It’s Up to Matthews
Is O’Reilly Out Long-Term?
Should O’Reilly be gone for any length of time, the team would need to find a way to adjust its game plan and lineup to compensate for his absence. Sadly, this situation is reminiscent of what happened to the team two seasons ago when Nick Foligno suffered (or had when he came) a back injury. He made no difference at all after joining the Maple Leafs because he was never able to play up to his potential in his time here.
Such is life when you go all in at the trade deadline. There’s always a risk with any trade acquisition that an injury can happen at any time. In this case, missing O’Reilly could have a significant impact on a team’s success.
Ultimately, if O’Reilly can’t play, the team will need to rely on its depth and the performance of its other players. They need to step up to fill his void. Having a strong and deep roster can be an advantage in the playoffs because teams must be able to adapt and adjust quickly to overcome any challenges they may face.
What Now for the Maple Leafs?
When general manager Kyle Dubas was playing whirling Dervish before the trade deadline, at the time I was happy he did not disrupt the entire roster to add key players to the team. After John Tavares’ concussion early in the first postseason round a few seasons ago, I knew this situation could present itself again. And, it might have now.
Yes, the team lost defenseman Rasmus Sandin and forward Pierre Engvall. While I’m sad to see them both leave, I trust they were adequately replaced by others brought into the mix. I wasn’t unhappy with those trades. In fact, I hope they do really well where they landed. Sandin started out like a house afire, with three assists in his first game with the Washington Capitals. Good on him!
I was happy that Alex Kerfoot remained. I might be one of the few who really like this guy – he’s a smart, hard-working, honest player. He puts out his best, does whatever he’s asked, and can fit anywhere. He’s valuable to the team, and I hope he sees O’Reilly’s time out of the lineup as a chance to shine. [Assuming O’Reilly will be out of the lineup, but we haven’t heard yet.]
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, O’Reilly & Ballard’s Curse
O’Reilly Came In, Fit In and Looked Good
I came to appreciate O’Reilly quickly when he came to the team. He was genuinely pleased to be in Toronto, fit in quickly, and played well. He looked exactly as advertised – a key acquisition at the trade deadline. It took him no time at all to become an important part of the team’s lineup.
Now I hope that losing him for any significant amount of time won’t hurt the team’s performance, particularly as they head into the playoffs. But, as I noted, we just don’t know yet.
Whatever happens, the team must wait for an update on O’Reilly’s status to know how to best adjust its game plan. If he’s out for a few games or longer, the Maple Leafs will need to rely on their depth and resilience to keep moving forward and pursuing their goals.
That’s the Way It Always Is at this Time of the Season
Injuries are a part of the game, and successful teams somehow overcome them. The Maple Leafs have a deep and talented roster. Perhaps now we’ll see if the team is capable of winning games even when O’Reilly’s out of the lineup.
It seems that even Dubas was surprisingly impressed with O’Reilly as a valuable addition to the team since he arrived. Dubas praised his work ethic and attention to detail, both on and off the ice, and noted that his style of play was exactly what the team needed to be successful in the playoffs.
Dubas also noted that O’Reilly played a disciplined game – the kind of game that both produced on the ice and set a good example for other players on the team. That’s no surprise. O’Reilly is both a Selke winner and a Conn Smythe winner.
So, Now What?
O’Reilly is a highly-skilled and experienced player who brings a lot of valuable qualities to the Maple Leafs’ lineup. He plays a two-way 200-foot game. He has strong defensive abilities and can play a physical game. O’Reilly can play “mean” hockey, hard hockey, and playoff hockey. And he can do it all without taking tons of penalties.
His leadership and championship experience make him an important addition to the team, who can guide and support teammates during high-pressure situations – the playoffs. Overall, O’Reilly’s presence on the team has been a significant boost to the Leafs’ chances of success this season.
What (and how) will they do if he’s gone?