Ryan O’Reilly Masterton Trophy nomination earns widespread mockery

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2015, file photo, Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane (9) celebrates with teammate Ryan O'Reilly (90) after O'Reilly scored the winning goal during the overtime session of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, in Buffalo, N.Y. Overshadowed for the most part during his first five seasons in Colorado, O'Reilly has needed just seven months in Buffalo to show he's capable of being a top-caliber player. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert, File)

The NHL’s Bill Masterton Trophy nominations are trickling out on Monday. And if the reaction tells you anything, the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association had theirs trickle down their legs. 

Ryan O’Reilly is the Buffalo Sabres nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given annually “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”

And really, what better exemplifies dedication to your standing as a professional athlete than drunkenly crashing your vintage truck into a Tim Hortons and then fleeing the scene?

Once more, with feeling: The Buffalo chapter nominated a 24-year-old athlete whose impaired driving trial will take place roughly two weeks after the NHL Awards this summer for an award that usually reserved for players who overcome catastrophic injury, life-threatening illness or, perhaps most admirably, journeyman goalies.

Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News was tasked with writing the nomination story in the Buffalo News:

In his first season with the team after a blockbuster draft-night trade with Colorado, O'Reilly leads all NHL forwards in ice time (21:48 per game). He has 17 goals and leads the Sabres in assists (35), points (52) and faceoff percentage (56.6). O'Reilly was also Buffalo's lone representative to the All-Star Game in Nashville in January.

But more than just the numbers, O'Reilly has become a de facto captain in the locker room and on the ice.

In what General Manager Tim Murray has dubbed "The O'Reilly Practices," the 25-year-old routinely stays on the ice after the club's regular workouts and leads many of his teammates in more extra skills drills after the coaches have left. Pylons, sticks and other barriers fill the ice as the pucks fly, often for another 30-45 minutes. Only when O’Reilly is satisfied with the progress do the others call it a day.

Clearly, the Mark Messier Leadership Award’s cloudy future forced the nomination of O’Reilly for the Masterton for doing “de facto captain” things.

The nomination has earned quick criticism and bafflement and mockery. And rightfully so.

Look, we get that the Sabres don’t exactly have a deep bench of potential nominees, and that’s when you have to stretch logic to lasso one in. Like, for example, when the Winnipeg media gave theirs to a goalie who lost his job to a rookie, listened to advice and wasn’t a big meanie to reporters.

Winger Marcus Foligno finished second in the balloting and goaltender Robin Lehner finished third. Maybe you kick it over to Brian Gionta or David Legwand as the venerable “old guy” nominee, seeing as how neither have pending impaired driving trials on their dockets.

But the Buffalo PHWAers clearly feel they’ve made the right call, backlashed be damned.

While we respect the defiant streak, it’s unfortunate that a player with such recent off-ice infamy would be nominated for an award that essentially honors the NHL’s greatest role models. 

And with that said, let’s all exhale emphatically and applaud the Chicago chapter for making Michal Rozsival their Masterton nominee this season ...


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.