With the season now over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Cal O'Reilly.
#16 / Center / Nashville Predators
Sep 30, 1986
|2010 - Cal O`Reilly||38||6||12||18||4||2||1||0||1||44||13.6|
Cal's report card comes courtesy of Jeremy K. Gover of Section303.com, an organizer of meetups, producer of podcasts, and steadfast supporter of young Mr. O'Reilly, who appeared to be on track towards a steady NHL gig until a broken leg ended his season...
The Skinny: It's not every day that an organization allows a point-per-game player to grow into his potential in an AHL uniform. The Nashville Predators did just that with center Cal O'Reilly. Sure, the Preds were loaded at the center position and sure, they already had too many playmakers, but O'Reilly was dominating the AHL to the tune of 213 points in 225 games over three seasons before earning his first (and second) NHL recalls in 2008-09. He proved to coaches that he should be given a shot with the big club after collecting five points in his first 11 NHL games. But, after signing a new two-year deal that summer, O'Reilly had a miserable camp and found himself back in Milwaukee to start the year. He was up and down all season long and, while he did amass 40 points in just 35 games for the Admirals, he did little to impress with the Preds, managing just 11 points in 31 games. Would O'Reilly become just another Bill Sweeney? Just another Bruce Boudreau? Just another Tim Tookey? Just another point-per-game player at the AHL level who could never find his way at the NHL level? So much promise yet so many question marks.
The Performance: Despite the sluggish start to his NHL career, the 2010-11 season came and O'Reilly was ready. In an effort to prove he belonged, he came flying out the gate, tallying 12 points in his first 14 games. In addition, he seemed to have natural chemistry with veteran winger Steve Sullivan and the two often put on a show (see: Nashville's 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on October 14). After a little bit of a slide, he started clicking again, posting points in five straight contests from November 30 to December 8. At the time, he was one of the leading scorers in Music City. But, after 11 more games of non-production, O'Reilly suffered a broken fibula that would shleve him for the rest of the campaign. It was a devastating blow for a guy who paid his dues in the AHL, sat idly by while other centers were recalled before him, figured out what it took to be an NHLer, embraced it and then showed glimpses of what could be.
The Grade: Honestly, having seen the potential of O‘Reilly and having gotten a sense that he sees the game differently than most other players on the ice, my expectations for him were in the 40-50 point range. After all, he started the season with Steve Sullivan as his winger and then Matthew Lombardi, the team's top center coming into the year, went down with a season-ending concussion after just four periods in a Predators sweater. The sky was the limit for O'Reilly who was finally going to be put in a position to succeed. Then he broke his leg and that was that. So, as impressive as he was in some games, he'd disappear for long stretches of others. And for the Predators to be consistent, he needed to be more consistent. Remember that 4-1 lead that turned into a 5-4 loss in Toronto? O'Reilly was held off the score sheet. And that's just one example of a time they could‘ve used him. B-