The St. Louis Blues’ 2021-22 season represented a major transition for the franchise. No longer a stout defensive team built from the blue line out, they finished second in the NHL in goals scored, with nine forwards recording 20-plus goals. Though the season came to an end in a six-game defeat by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, there are plenty of highs and lows to reflect on. In this series, we’ll evaluate each player who played 10 or more games with the team (as well as the head coach and general manager), grading their individual performance and looking at their future with the team.
What Went Right: O’Reilly’s Consistency
Consistency may be an odd thing to say about a player who had his lowest point-per-game average since 2017-18 with the Buffalo Sabres, but Ryan O’Reilly is an exception to the rule. Despite his inability to produce on the scoresheet, he remained a force in the faceoff circle, winning 900 draws over 78 games, a 56.8% success rate. He ranked fourth in the NHL in faceoff’s taken with 1,585 and ninth in winning percentage.
While his offense went cold for a period of time, O’Reilly continued to work his magic defensively this season. His takeaway/giveaway ratio remained strong with a 50/26. He continued to press each game, anticipating a breakthrough in his point production, and consistency was the key to his success.
What Went Wrong: Lingering COVID Effects
After three seasons with the Blues, O’Reilly had never finished with a point-per-game average lower than a 70-point pace in 2019-20. After struggling with COVID early in the season, he finished with 58 points over 78 games this season, a 61-point pace over 82 games. On his return from COVID, the Blues captain went pointless in five games from Nov. 7 to 14, his longest drought of the season.
Before the Christmas break, O’Reilly was eighth on the team with only five goals, seventh on the team in points (18), and a minus-three rating over 28 games, a 52.7-point pace. After the break, he seemed rested and ready, and it showed on the scoresheet. From Jan. 1 until the end of the regular season, he was sixth on the team in points (40) and seventh on the team in goals (16) over 50 games, a 65.6-point pace. It is difficult to gauge the effects COVID may have played on him this season, but the rest and reset allowed him to come back a different player.
“Yeah, I think (COVID) definitely did a number on me,” O’Reilly said last week. “It was tough. It was tough coming back from it. Needing to have jump and stamina. It was tough. It was hard. It took a little while to find my rhythm again. I don’t think anybody had an easy time with COVID” (from ‘Lingering effects of COVID took a toll on O’Reilly’s season with Blues,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/6/22).
The 31-year-old forward made up for it in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and 12 points over 12 games. He continued to showcase his elite playmaking abilities and vision to help set teammates up for a scoring chance or a goal as a result.
- O’Reilly finished fourth in Selke votes (415 points)
- 19:05 of ATOI was the lowest since 2012-13
- O’Reilly’s 18 penalty minutes this season matched a career-high (2009-10)
Final Grade: B
O’Reilly will surely want this season back, given the team around him and the individual production he missed out on. A player cannot control the impact of an illness on their season or how long that it will last. He made the most of his season, but it was still one of his worst offensively. While many wanted more from him, himself included, he exhibited all-out efforts each game, providing his team with every opportunity he could to win.
What’s Next for O’Reilly?
With one season left on his contract, all eyes will be on him and general manager Doug Armstrong to determine what his next deal will look like. At $7,500,000 per season, he and Vladimir Tarasenko have the most expensive contracts on the team. The Blues will have a number of decisions to make regarding their forwards as only three of their NHL forwards are under contract beyond the 2022-23 season. O’Reilly will be an unrestricted free agent soon and will have full control over his future should he wish to explore his options before signing.
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.