The Curious Case of Cal O'Reilly

Its pretty well known that the Nashville Predators have had significant trouble developing good offensive talent within the organization. If you're a long time fan, you can probably name them all on one hand - Scott Hartnell, Martin Erat, Alexander Radulov, and Scottie Upshall. Its puzzling, then, when someone with the obvious talent of center Cal O'Reilly comes along that he isn't given a chance or doesn't progress properly. 

What follows are some thoughts on O'Reilly and where the Preds might go from here in his regard. Keep in mind, after the upcoming season there will be a decision to be made about his contract.

Cal O`Reilly

#16 / Center / Nashville Predators

6-0

187

Sep 30, 1986

Contract: 1 year remaining, $562, 500 (RFA)

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Cal O`Reilly 31 2 9 11 1 4 1 0 0 0 23 8.7

What we know

An assessment of O'Reilly's talent and future, via the always excellent Hockey's Future:

Blessed with offensive prowess, the center employs great vision and is summoned to play in all situations.  O'Reilly takes very few penalties and his work ethic is high. His effort to share experiences from his professional training camp has demonstrated maturity and made him a respected leader among teammates. O'Reilly has shown that he has the playmaking ability to be an NHL center, and to create scoring chances for others.  What makes him a very valuable player is his high work ethic and intelligence on the ice. He rarely takes a penalty and has a good eye for chances to push the puck up the ice on scoring breaks.    

  • He played in 31 games this year, and had a three assist game against San Jose in February. 
  • In front of Cal on the depth chart are, top to bottom: Jason Arnott, David Legwand, Marcel Goc, Colin Wilson, and judging by playing time, Nick Spaling. Thats five centers, of which O'Reilly would be the sixth. Spaling moves around the lineup, though, as a Jerred Smithson type player. 
  • In his playing time, O'Reilly was often seen on the second power play unit, with varying success.

What we don't

  • Whether or not O'Reilly is good enough to stick at the highest level. He consistently lit up AHL defenses, but hasn't shown anything in particular that would warrant a spot in Barry Trotz's lineup. 
  • If Dustin Boyd will be on the team. Boyd, a trade deadline acquisition and restricted free agent, fit Nashville like a glove in his short tenure, albeit somewhat inconsistently. Boyd, a center/wing hybrid, would push O'Reilly down the depth chart even further.
  • What, if anything, there is to do with O'Reilly other than just play him. The Predators can't reassign him to Milwaukee, as he's eligible to be picked up via waivers. Though Cal has struggled here, make no mistake: a player with his offensive instincts would be claimed in an instant. Losing him for nothing would be disastrous. 

Conclusion

A center with superb vision and excellent playmaking ability. Just what the doctor ordered, right? Perhaps not. O'Reilly's been yo-yoing back and forth between leagues for two years, with little NHL success. A situation much like Rich Peverley before him, Cal might do better in another system with a different coach. My temporary solution would be to alternate between O'Reilly and Spaling in 2010-11 in order to see which young player is most ready to make an impact. If O'Reilly still can't, there's a good shot that another team would take a flyer on him in a trade. What do you think? Should the Predators start Cal full time, or maybe designate him Wade Belak's butler up in the press box?

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