The Ryan O’Reilly situation is coming to a head in Colorado. Reports, and I use that term as loosely as possible, are that the Avalanche are looking to get some value from him in a trade, and negotiations have broken off. One side wants one thing, and the other wants two different things, take your pick.
As a fan of the Avalanche, the entire situation is frustrating, but the frustration comes from every angle. So let us break this down in this week’s breakdown:
– The Avs have a draconian negotiating style, boiling down to “take it or leave it.” They don’t negotiate, and the process has been, at times, brutal. They ship off players who don’t dance to the dollars management wants them to. When you treat your players like terrorists (we don’t negotiate with terrorists, right?), you don’t get a favorable return.
– Information about the situation is rare, and everything comes via leaks and reports. This wouldn’t be a big deal, as negotiations should be happening outside the scope of the public. But when it comes to the Avalanche, everything happens outside the scope of the public. There is a corporate message – that everything is going fine, we are fine, and hard work is all that’s needed – and we fans don’t get anything else. While we shouldn’t know much about what is going on in this situation, the fans never know what is happening in ANY situation. The frustration compounds, and the fans are left wondering if the team even cares about them. Pro Tip: They don’t.
– The team is spiraling, and with the mounting injuries, O’Reilly would be a big help. He won’t be the solution for everything, but he would be something. The problems with the Avalanche exist in just about every department other than goaltending – it’s been a while since I was able to say that – and the banged up defensive corp is probably the most glaring. This is simply weighing the sort term value of the player vs. the long term implications of the contract, and seeing if it’s worth it.
O’Reilly and his camp:
– O’Reilly might not want to play with the Avs. It could be that simple. If so, ask for a trade and move forward. Please.
– If O’Reilly wants to play for the Avs, take something short and work on the rest later. Get that trade in the next contract, or if things work out, hold out then. Coming straight off an entry level contact into a big payday is not something the Avalanche is keen on.
– Honestly, is he worth what he is asking for? Probably not, but the scale salaries right now are so out of whack, there is very little to base this on. You compare him to players of equal production and age, and the range is all over the place. This is how a more open market works, but still, I don’t think he is worth everything he wants.
– There is no shortage of pot-stirring in the Denver hockey media. This is a provocative group, and they know how to push all the right buttons with the fans. The thinking seems to go, no matter how much anger there is from the fans, at least they are talking about the Avs, and therefore are looking to the media for information. The main beat writer, Adrian Dater, is pretty provocative in his tone (I’m being diplomatic here), and the rest of the group seems to follow suit. A few blog posts, a column or two, and the fans are sufficiently whipped up. Even though nothing has really changed, even though the process is moving along as expected, there is a sudden surge of angry fans NOW. I know where it comes from.
– The media here don’t care for the Avalanche and its management, and the feeling seems mutual. Again, toeing the corporate line is one thing the Avs do have some consistency with, so it makes it hard for the local newspaper reporters to get much to work with; the relationship is strained and possibly beyond repair (if that is even a consideration). That doesn’t serve the audience (if that is even a consideration).
– The fans generally want O’Reilly to take the deal, to shut up and play. If they think that the players, after losing half a season to get the CBA they got, are going to just shut up and play, they have another thing coming. And if all they want is for O’Reilly to shut up and play, then they are more interested in the asset of O’Reilly than the person. They didn’t actually like him, they liked his skill. That’s fair, but you can bring in skill with a trade. Or development in the minors. Is this about O’Reilly, or a diminishing situation?
– It’s important to know the difference. Because the fans loved Joe Sakic for his play and for who he was. They loved Patrick Roy for his play more than for who he was as a person. Do they care about Ryan O’Reilly enough to respect his decision to think about his career as opposed to the team? You can’t sacrifice what you think is right for everyone else every time it comes to crunch time. It rubs up against our ideas of the myth of the hockey player in uncomfortable. We think it should be team first, but that doesn’t make sense in every situation.
– It took this situation for the fans to finally come to the conclusion that the Avalanche are a management nightmare? It took O’Reilly to make them realize the team is this cheap or mismanaged or out of sync with the rest of the league or any number of negative attributes that make the fans want to turn their backs on the team? It wasn’t the firesale from a few years ago that saw Craig Anderson, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out. It wasn’t the other players that were ostracized for any number of offenses like wanting a raise. It wasn’t the signing of Brad May (to me, the stupidest offense the Avs every committed). Perhaps it’s the combination of the lockout and the O’Reilly situation that pushed people over the edge. But the signs were there all along. The issues have been with the team for years. Fandom makes people blind to it.
So what now? What happens next? Who knows. The ongoing drama doesn’t make things any better for anyone involved. The team should move forward, in whatever way that means. Trade, negotiate, whatever produces action. This has been an organization driven by inaction and reaction for too long. There is no initiative left. We could be waiting a long time.