BUFFALO – Years of losing has beaten down Ryan O’Reilly so much the center said he lost his love for hockey at times as the Sabres trudged to a 31st-place finish this season.
“We’re stuck in this mindset of just being OK with losing,” O’Reilly said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “I feel too it’s really crept into myself. Over the course of the year I lost myself a lot, where it was just kind of get through, being OK with just not making a mistake, and that’s not winning hockey at all and it’s crept into all of our games. It’s disappointing, it’s sad.
“I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times and just need to get back to it because it’s eating myself up and eats the other guys up, too. It’s eating us up, it’s tough.”
That, of course, sounds like a player who would like to be moved. O’Reilly, 27, is two seasons into a seven-year, $52.5 million contract.
But O’Reilly said he doesn’t want to leave after three seasons in Buffalo.
“No, I really want to be part of the solution here,” he said. “I love this city, I love it here, I call it home. There’s some good pieces, but it’s a big change I need to make mentally. I’ve said this so many times that I got to be a lot better and I sound like a broken record, but I’m going to stick with it, I’m going to keep trying.
“If something happens and I move, then obviously it’s a change they decide to make. But I want to win here, it’d be special here. It’s a great city, they deserve a winning team.”
O’Reilly believes playing for Team Canada at the upcoming World Championship in Denmark will ignite more passion.
“We all need to get better right away,” he said. “For a lot of us and myself, it’s getting time away from the game. For myself, I’m getting ready to go play overseas, I’m excited for that, it’s a great opportunity. It’s been a while since I had that kind of excitement in myself that it’s like I got a chance over here to go win something.
“It would be nice to get that back and hopefully I do and can carry that over into next year, that fresh, excited mindset.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley said he didn’t feel O’Reilly “lost his passion for the game.”
“That could be a direct result of the position we’re in,” he said of O’Reilly’s words.