By Ryan Jahnke
Michael Ryder – Right Wing
2013 Season Stats
Games played: 46
Average Time on ice: 16:02
Points: 35 (16g, 19a)
Season Grade: B+
Today’s player preview focuses in on, and introduces us all to, one of the highlight acquisitions of the Devils’ offseason, with veteran forward Michael Ryder.
Michael Ryder has been an integral player in this league for nine seasons now (losing a year to the first lockout with the lost 2004-2005 season, during which time he played in Sweden). Since his first season with Montreal, Ryder has been a substantial contributor. In his rookie year of 2003-2004, he introduced himself to the world by racking up 25 goals and 63 total points, both tops among NHL rookies. Unhindered by the lockout, he would return to Montreal coming off a powerful performance in the Swedish League to post back-to-back 30 goal seasons with the Habs. His only weak point came in 2007-2008 where nagging injuries would reduce his ice time to 70 games and nearly halve his production.
This would also be his last season in Montreal. In 2008, Michael would sign a 3-year contract with the Boston Bruins. The depth of the Boston lineup led to a drop in his ice-time and production. After a debut season where he scored 27 goals, Ryder was reduced to just 18 the following two years. However, his best showing as a Bruin would come during the team’s Stanley Cup run in his final year with the team. During these playoffs Michael Ryder stepped up as the team’s third leading goal-scorer with 8 goals netted in the playoffs (3 in the Stanley Cup Finals), and a total of 17 points, good for fourth best on the team.
After his cup run with Boston, Ryder had one of the best statistical years of his career with the Dallas Stars in 2011-2012, registering a career high 35 goals. The momentum of that performance carried through into last year where Ryder would split time between a struggling a Dallas team and brief return to Montreal, who re-acquired their former right winger to help with their playoff push. During his time with these two teams, Michael Ryder put up 16 goals and 19 assists in the lockout-shortened season, numbers that would have been good enough to make him the highest scoring man in red and black, had he been here at the time.
It’s hard to even imagine, given his 33 years of age and his early career success with Montreal, but statistically the former Montreal Canadien is as good as he has ever been. As consistent as anyone in the league, Ryder comes to the Devils as a dangerous offensive threat, particularly on the power play. Half of his goals last season came with the man advantage. Normally this could cause a concerned fan base to raise an eyebrow (or two) at a player’s acquisition, but after New Jersey’s abysmal performance last year with the extra skater, seeing a man out there who knows how to finish with the advantage is a cause for celebration.
Ryder steps into a New Jersey lineup that is desperate for scoring. As a player with a strong offensive résumé, Ryder is poised to make an immediate impact. The combined losses of David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk cannot be overstated, as they dominated the subject of a New Jersey Devils offseason that got off to an overwhelmingly positive start with the acquisition of goaltender Corey Schneider. Ryder will help take the sting out of those departures and help a team that relied far too heavily on superstar contributions get back to its roots.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered about the talented goal scorer. We don’t know who he’ll play with, or how he’ll adjust to playing in, arguably, the most competitive division in the NHL. We don’t even know what number he’ll be wearing yet. After taking a look at his career stats, you’ll probably start asking whether we’ll be getting the kind of offense we’ve seen in Montreal and Dallas, or maybe more of the role-player we saw during his last two years in Boston. I personally think that those two years were more the exception than the rule, but it is a valid concern.
The answers to all of these questions will depend heavily on the team around him. Without a couple of bounce-back years from the likes of Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac, Ryder’s role could conceivably be a big one.
As much as I agree with this acquisition, I do have to be the bearer or bad news; Ryder’s production will drop a little as a Devil. I know, it’s shocking, isn’t it? Everybody’s production drops a little when they enter New Jersey’s system. Whether it’s the “old trap” or DeBoer’s forecheck, the Devils’ system doesn’t translate into big numbers for anyone on a consistent basis. That’s just the nature of the beast.
“What’s the good news?” He won’t be dropping off by much.
This system is similar to the one that Michael played in under Claude Julien in Boston. So while it won’t take him long to adjust, I do feel that Ryder’s numbers will be closer to the 20-25 goal range than they will be to the 30+ goal days that he saw in Montreal and Dallas. That being said, he is also easily capable of accumulating 25 assists each year, so a 45-50 point season from him is not unreasonable.
My prediction is that the Newfoundland-born winger will benefit greatly from the balanced team approach. I expect a 48-50 point season and while he’ll fall short of the high bar that he has set for himself, we will see an all-around improvement, perhaps leading to him recording 30 assists for the first time since his rookie year.
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