The Minnesota Wild knew what they were getting when they traded a fifth-round draft pick to the New York Rangers for Ryan Reaves – a fourth-line guy who doesn’t play a lot of minutes or bring a ton of skill. So why acquire him?
For one, he’s got a giant personality, and they added another tough guy to the lineup — someone who will stand up for his teammates and lay the body when he needs to. But Reaves hasn’t done a whole lot of anything so far with Minnesota, and he has not used his ten minutes of ice time each game very effectively. The Wild are back to a fully-healthy lineup, which means that Reaves might find himself as the odd man out one night.
Last Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues was a perfect opportunity for Reaves to stand out and spark his team when they couldn’t get the offense going. St. Louis was beating a tired Wild team in every aspect of the game. Guys like Joel Eriksson Ek and Ryan Hartman took some pretty nasty headshots. Usually, when someone takes a bad hit, there’s always a teammate coming to their defense and standing up for them. That was supposed to be Reaves’ role, but he was nowhere to be found.
He could’ve been the one to drop the gloves with one of the Blues players to spark something in his teammates. Instead, he played his usual ten minutes with little-to-no gusto. Sure, he logged four hits, but none of them were enough to get Minnesota going.
Reaves played the same way the night before in Buffalo. When a Wild player got his helmet taken off by a Sabres player, there was no penalty, even though it was against the rules. Reaves should’ve been there to step in and handle these matters, but again, he was absent.
The Wild have now lost two games in a row. Reaves is only culpable to a certain extent in these losses because he’s not a scorer. That’s not his role, but his presence alone should be enough to pump the team up and get everyone going. They needed that edge on Sunday, and it wasn’t there.
That’s why the Wild traded for him. You have to love his electric personality. Who could forget earlier in the season when Reaves was still with the Rangers, and he and Marcus Foligno duked it out on the ice? The two are teammates and sharing postgame pizza just a few weeks later. He also dressed up as Santa for warm-ups during a game before Christmas. He’s just a fun guy overall.
However, he is 35 and not a particularly skilled player. In some ways, he’s fortunate that Minnesota has had injury issues all season, or he might have found himself out of the lineup some nights. He’s played on the fourth line with Mason Shaw and Connor Dewar but has been promoted to higher lines when particular guys have been injured. Jordan Greenway was unable to play against the Blues, so Reaves took his spot alongside Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno.
He obviously was not effective in that spot, but there was no other option for that night. Once everyone is healthy, though, the Wild will find themselves with a surplus of fourth-liners. Therefore, one is going to have to sit out. Everyone on the roster deserves to play, including Shaw, who drew the short straw when it came to Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers.
But when it comes down to skill and guys that can help the team win, Reaves does not fit the bill. Therefore, he should spend the most time in the press box. If everyone is healthy, it should be easy to decide who plays and who doesn’t, given the Wild’s upcoming schedule.
Reaves is obviously going to play against his former team on Tuesday. But when the Wild face off against the more skilled teams, like the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, they should feel inclined to play the more skilled players.
That’s not to say there’s no role left for Reaves, even on a healthy Wild team. When the tougher teams like the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers are the opponent, Reaves deserves a spot in the lineup. He provides a good amount of grit that makes the Wild tougher to play against.
Now that Minnesota is at full strength, they should have a rotation of fourth-liners. However, Minnesota has been unlucky when it comes to having everyone ready to go. It seems like the beginning of the season was the last time the whole roster was healthy, and even then, Greenway was out recovering from offseason surgery. The constant open lineup spots have benefitted Reaves.
Being out of the lineup won’t mean Reaves will cease being a big influence in the locker room. He’s loud and boisterous, always trying to bring energy, and everyone loves it.
Ryan Reaves is a very likable guy, and his teammates and fans love him. Opponents? Not so much. The Wild made the first significant move of the season in acquiring the enforcer because they had a not-so-great start to the season and wanted to spice up their lineup. Reaves hasn’t exactly delivered, but he provides an intangible positiveness to the team and will continue to do so whether he is in the lineup or not.