Ryan O'Reilly is again taking the blame for the Sabres' lost season. He also says he wants to stay in Buffalo and help fix things.
O'Reilly, who headlined locker-cleanout day by saying he'd become OK with losing and lost his love of the game, sat down with TSN at the World Championship in Denmark to discuss the season.
"Everything I said, yeah, I was being honest," O'Reilly said to "Dreger Café" host Darren Dreger on Friday. "When I look at it, when I reflect on the year, who else can I look at? I'm one of the guys that plays the most minutes, and it's my fault.
"I want to change. I want to be in Buffalo. I love it there. Obviously, we're getting the first pick, which will be huge, but, gosh, it's a great city and I want to be there and I want to win. Yeah, I was just being honest, and I feel I need to do that more."
As an alternate captain and the highest-paid player, O'Reilly was expected to lead Buffalo. Instead, the Sabres became the first team to finish 31st as an acceptance of losing filtered from O'Reilly on down.
"I'm expected to be a leader and I have to be more vocal, first of all," O'Reilly said, "but I have to, no matter what I’m doing, be the most competitive guy, and that will trickle down through the lineup. That's practice, that's training camp, that's every time we touch the ice.
"I've got to be more strict and not so much kind of care what people think. I've got to be more honest again with myself and the guys and create an environment that's winning."
That environment was nowhere to be found.
"The love of the game is something that's a staple of our game," O'Reilly said. "That's why we're out there. Not doing it and kind of getting away from that is a reason why I wasn't successful.
"When I love the game, it's when I'm competitive. No matter who I'm lining up against, I'm going to outplay that guy. And at times, yeah, I lost that. That's the reason why I wasn't my best in doing what I should be for the team. That needs to change, and I plan to change it."
O'Reilly has five years remaining on a contract that pays $7.5 million per season. General Manager Jason Botterill admitted that the mix of players isn't working and that he may have to change the core.
"I think I have a pretty good relationship with the GM," O'Reilly said. "If something happens, it happens. That's hockey. But I plan and I'm preparing to be in Buffalo in the same role and the same sort of thing.
"The pieces are there. It's bringing them together, and that's on myself and the veteran guys. It's time to pull this thing together. It might take a couple years to get where we want, and it might be next year where we turn it around. I don't know, but I think we're going to try, and things will change there. We're going to have success there."
The Sabres earned a boost by winning the NHL Draft Lottery, which will allow them to select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin next month.
"I was really excited, obviously," O'Reilly said. "I've actually watched him at World Juniors and different things and highlights of him. Obviously, it's not official yet, but I hope, I'm pretty sure, we'll be taking him. I'm excited.
"Watching him, he's so dynamic with what he's doing with the puck. He's just an elite player that any team he goes to he makes better, so I'm definitely very, very excited for that."
O'Reilly regularly experiences excitement and success at the World Championship. It's why he's back for a sixth run with Canada.
"Obviously, it's nice to come here and just kind of get in that winning mindset right way," he said. "It brings that competitiveness back, and I want to bring that back to next season."
Story topics: Ryan O'Reilly