The Ryan Reaves mayhem and Vegas' chance for a dominant start
Everybody is talking about Ryan Reaves.
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Ryan Reaves dominates the spotlight everywhere he goes.
The Vegas Golden Knights won again and have a chance to keep winning for a while.
Taking a look ahead to the weekend.
It is all Ryan Reaves all the time in Toronto
There is something about Ryan Reaves that makes everybody associated with the team he is playing for absolutely lose their collective minds.
When that team happens to be a contender in a major media market where every single move is put under a microscope and analyzed to an insane degree, the mayhem only gets louder.
That is why Reaves signing with the Maple Leafs this offseason was the perfect storm, especially when it was a multi-year deal worth over $1 million per year.
Some background: Reaves is the closest thing the NHL has to an enforcer in today’s game. He is way more skilled than the old guard of enforcers that would literally only be able to play two or three shifts per game and were only called upon to punch people in the face, but he is still not a player that really stands out or makes a ton of on-ice impacts. He is fast, he is strong, he can score some goals, and at times he has been a useful fourth-liner.
But the overwhelming majority of his perceived value comes from the subjective idea that his presence as a big, powerful, physical mountain of a man will deter opposing players from taking cheap shots on his team’s stars.
He is also viewed as somebody that can swing games or shifts with his physical play and that he will keep people in line.
This line of thinking typically comes from old school hockey people that still see a value in deterrence and players policing the game.
There is zero — and I mean ZERO — objective evidence to support this (I have written on this subject extensively). He is typically brought into otherwise skillful, star-filled rosters that think they need toughness and somebody to get a pound of flesh if one of their stars is wronged. Pittsburgh tried it. Vegas tried it. The New York Rangers tried it. Now Toronto is trying it. It is typically not a long-lasting experience as teams quickly start to figure out that when he is on the ice, bad things are usually happening.
But something really strange happens in every one of these stops.
He becomes the only thing people can talk about.
He dominates the discussion.
Media and fans obsess over every single one of his shifts. They all see what they WANT to see. If you see value in Reaves’ presence, you are going to find it when he finds a the rare fight partner. If you do not see it value in his presence, you are going to point out every shift he takes that results in his line getting absolutely dominated from a statistical perspective.
His teammates almost always speak highly of him.
He is routinely one of the most quotable players in the league and is usually giving an incredible interview.
His impact is often discussed as something that played a major role in the game, even when it was a pointless subplot. This is what happened this week when he talked some trash about Chicago’s Corey Perry, while the Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson talked about “neutralizing” Reaves.
Chicago won the game 4-1.
As an outsider to Toronto, I have heard more about Reaves’ deployment, ice-time, and impact than I have about almost any other player on the roster.
Auston Matthews opened the season with hat tricks in back-to-back games, and it seemed to receive a fraction of the coverage that Reaves has gotten. They have a star in WIlliam Nylander whose long-term future with the team is in doubt due to his contract situation and nobody is talking about. Mitch Marner and John Tavares make over $10 million per year and are always skating around in the pressure cooker that is the Toronto media facing criticism if they go two games without scoring a goal. There has been relative silence around them this season.
In a weird way, I think there is something to be said for that from a teammate perspective. I don’t buy the notion that Reaves deters anything on the ice. The dirty hockey players are going to dirty things no matter who is playing for the other team. But I do buy that his teammates might believe it, and I do buy that they enjoy his presence, And I think one of the things they might enjoy — and this is purely speculative on my part — is that he does take pressure off of them because of the attention his role and presence commands.
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