Ryan O'Reilly breaks his silence and speaks about his time as a Leaf and why he left Toronto

Mike Armenti
July 17, 2023  (11:24)

For veteran forward and Ontario native Ryan O'Reilly, the chance to be a Leaf was something he is glad to have had the opportunity to do. Not only was O'Reilly an important piece for the Leafs down the stretch and heading into the playoffs, but he was a part of the team who finally snapped the first round curse, ending a 19-year drought and helping the Leafs finally move on to the 2nd round for the first time since 2004.

The Leafs did have every intention of trying to bring O'Reilly back this season, but ultimately the Nashville Predators sold the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champ on their vision for the organization and offered him a role that he wouldn't likely have in Toronto. With Duchene and Johansen gone in Nashville, O'Reilly likely slides right into that top line C role for the Preds, so it's understandable why he'd opt for a 4-year deal with the organization where he can be a foundational piece as opposed to just a supporting piece.
O'Reilly joined TSN 1050's First Up on Monday and discussed a few different subjects. The first question he was asked was about his time in Toronto and how his experience was as a Leaf. The veteran center could not say enough good things about his time there.
"Oh my gosh, it was incredible... I couldn't have went to a better place. The way the organization is... [it's like] the Yankees of the NHL. The way you're treated and the people in there, it was an amazing time. I loved it... there's not a bad thing about it." - O'Reilly on his time in Toronto

The First Up crew also asked how close he was to re-upping with the Leafs. O'Reilly admitted that it was a difficult decision, but ultimately, he revealed that he and his family just wanted to pursue the opportunity in Nashville.
"It was not an easy decision by any means to leave Toronto, but there's a lot that goes into it. My family and I felt it was best to join Nashville and I don't want to get into every little detail of it, but it was not an easy decision to not sign back [in Toronto]." - O'Reilly on how close he was to re-signing in Toronto

There have been rumours circulating since O'Reilly had left that he wanted to get away from the spotlight in Toronto more than anything else. Hosts Aaron Korolnek and Carlo Colaiacovo were curious to learn how much of a role the bright spotlight in Toronto factored into O'Reilly's decision to leave in favour of maybe a more modest lifestyle away from the rink. Here's what O'Reilly had to say on the subject:
"No, it wasn't the ultimate decision there. I think there's so many things that come into play, but yeah, I think that it's a factor as well. It is different. It's something that I did enjoy for the time there, but I just felt it was better to be somewhere else. There's so many great things that do come with that though. I think that team is amazing and the pieces they added this [summer] should have them right there contending for [a Stanley Cup]. It is an amazing place, but like everywhere, there's two sides to everything." - O'Reilly on whether the media pressure and noise in Toronto factored into his decision to sign elsewhere

It does sound a little like O'Reilly didn't like all of the attention in Toronto, even if it wasn't the determining factor in him deciding to move to Nashville. Some athletes simply like to have a little bit more anonymity.
Regardless of what it was like for O'Reilly and his family in Toronto and how close he might have or might not have been to re-signing, all of that is irrelevant now. O'Reilly is a Nashville Predator and the Leafs have moved on and signed three forwards in Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Ryan Reaves, whom they're hoping can help propel them deeper into the playoffs this coming year. Turn the page, as they say.
17 JUILLET   |   561 ANSWERS
Ryan O'Reilly breaks his silence and speaks about his time as a Leaf and why he left Toronto

How much of a role do you think the pressure of playing in Toronto factored into O'Reilly's decision to sign in Nashville?

It was the whole reason he left20035.7 %
It probably played a small role23041 %
I don't think it played a role at all13123.4 %
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