I was not a fan of the draft night move to procure Ryan Reaves. I understand Jim Rutherford’s thinking behind it after watching his stars and 2nd-tier guys get manhandled at times on their march to the Stanley Cup, but it just seemed like a step back in time. The Penguins are one of the fastest teams in a league that every day is relying more on skill and less on brawn. And yet, Rutherford picked up a cement mixer on skates to ostensibly protect his guys from getting beat up.
I was not aware of how much Reaves would come in and not only fit right in, but be a key component of helping team chemistry. It appears that he and Phil Kessel have a push-pull relationship that allows Reaves to feel comfortable enough to wear this shirt in a post-game interview:
Yep, that’s Reaves wearing a homemade shirt of Phil Kessel’s head on Michael Jackson’s body to recreate Jackson’s iconic Thriller album cover. Exhibit 2 is this hilarious video of Reaves wearing a creepy clown mask (yes, I suppose that’s redundant) and scaring the everliving beejezus out of Kessel on a road trip.
— Ryan Reaves (@rreaves75) October 27, 2017
If you were able to watch that video only one time, you must be made of stone and hate fun.
On a side note, periodically you hear in the Pittsburgh media how members of the team don’t like Phil Kessel. I’m sure Kessel isn’t super easy to be around at times (who is), but you can’t tell me that players don’t like him. Malkin and Kessel have funny off-ice interactions, too. So what I’m saying is Phil Kessel is an oddball and his team overall likes him. They wouldn’t mess with him if they didn’t.
Back to Reaves. Unfortunately, there are a finite number of on-ice spots for forwards and as of this writing, Reaves does not appear to be pulling his weight. I’m not talking about goals and assists. When the trade was made, some fans on social media had pie-in-the-sky notions that Reaves could score 10-15 goals this year in the Penguins’ system. Not only was that unrealistic, but it’s unnecessary.
Reaves was brought in to be a deterrent to anyone thinking about messing with Crosby or Malkin, primarily, but also to minimize rough stuff on the Penguins overall. He’s basically the Boogeyman that Rutherford wanted to utilize as a psychological impediment. It seems, though, as if Mike Sullivan wants to keep the Boogeyman in the closet, as Reaves is seeing only a minimal amount of ice time per game. His 7:18 of ice time per game is far and away the lowest on the team and it’s also the lowest of his career. It’s 1:35 less than what he got last year with St. Louis.
In his third game as a Penguin, Reaves put his stamp on becoming a cult hero amongst Penguin fans, by not only scoring a goal but getting into two fights. It appeared as if he was on his way to unseating Gary Roberts as the fanbase’s favorite tough guy that could handle the stick. But that’s pretty much been his only highlight to date.
I went through each individual game’s log to see how much of a deterrent Reaves has been for opposing teams. I pulled out the penalties that I’m referring to as “crimes of passion”; i.e. your roughings, high sticks, cross-checks, boardings, and the like. Here are these penalties and Reaves’ game-by-game ice time for your viewing pleasure:
|Game||Minutes||Crimes of Passion Against Pens||Notes|
|STL 4-5||6:21||Slash on Crosby|
|NSH 4-0||6:23||Slash, Hi Stick on Crosby||
Reaves Goal, 2 Fight, 24 PM
|WSH 3-2||6:35||Slash on Rust|
|TB 4-5||3:25||Slash on Kessel||B2B|
|FLA 4-3||7:06||Slash on Hagelin (2)|
|NYR 5-4||3:20||Hi Stick on Ruhwedel, HS on Dumoulin, Slash on Rust, Roughing on Malkin, Roughing on Rust|
|FLA 4-3||9:23||Slash on Cole, Slash on Kessel, Slash on McKegg|
|TB 1-7||10:32||Boarding on Ruhwedel, Slash on Ruhwedel, Cross Check Reaves (!)|
|EDM 2-1||7:01||Elbowing on Guentzel||1 Assist, Fight|
|WPG 2-1||8:53||Slash on Crosby|
|WPG 1-7||9:02||Roughing on Malkin, Slashing on Rust, Cross Check on Hornqvist, Roughing on Malkin||
|EDM 3-2||6:24||Hi Stick on Cole, Slashing on Hornqvist|
|VAN 2-4||5:37||Hi Stick on Reaves (!)||1 Assist|
|ARI 3-1||9:38||Slashing on Ruhwedel, Slashing on Rust, Hi Stick on Ruhwedel, Hi Stick on Guentzel|
A few observations to tease out. First, holy cow is Chad Ruhwedel getting beat up this season! I count 2 high sticks, 1 boarding, and 2 slashing against him. That’s a lot of lumber being cracked off your body in just the 14 games he’s played. Second, I still see a lot of high sticks (1) and slashes (3) against Crosby. Malkin even had to drop the gloves himself against Kevin Shattenkirk of the Rangers earlier this year.
That’s not what you want to see your 2nd best player doing and risking damage to his golden hands. That’s explicitly what Reaves was brought in to do — keep the peace. It’s hard for me to see him getting significant playoff minutes during another Cup run. And if he’s not, then what was the point of this to begin with?