Photo by cerebusfangirl
After four seasons away, Michael Ryder returned to Montreal part way through the season to post his best points per game rate since his rookie year, going 10-11-21 in 27 games. Despite the Habs winning their first Northeast Division title since Ryder left, and scoring at their highest goals per game rate since Ryder’s last season as a Hab in 2007/08, GM Marc Bergevin apparently doesn’t have Ryder in his plans for next season. Come July 5th, Ryder could be a free agent target for the Jets, who have a widely recognized hole at right wing in their top six, and a general lack of offensive punch on the powerplay. Does Ryder make sense for the Jets? Let’s take a closer look.
Who is Michael Ryder?
Upon trading for Ryder, Bergevin told media, "[h]e’s a guy who is going to help our power play. He’s a sniper. He scores goals." In fact, Ryder scored 25 or more goals in 5 of his first 8 seasons, and was on pace to crest that mark again had the NHL played 82 games this year. Three times Ryder has scored 30 or more.
The question of whether Ryder would fit with Evander Kane is an open one. Ryder’s style is as a shooting scorer, and he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Kane (as few do). Kane isn’t a distributor, and neither is Jokinen (if they intend to play him at 2C until Connor McDavid is ready). Wellwood or Scheifele may fare slightly better in the middle on that line – Wellwood for his playmaking, Scheifele for his nose for rebounds. Still, it’s Ryder’s ability to improve a league-worst powerplay that makes him so valuable to the Jets.
His powerplay numbers are extremely impressive, totally 86 of his 213 total career goals on the man advantage, along with 84 of his 218 career assists in that discipline. For fancy stat enthusiasts who demand to see numbers expressed as rates, his career powerplay points per 60 minutes* is 5.01. To put that in perspective, Blake Wheeler led the Jets this season with a powerplay points per 60 minutes of 3.59. Wheeler’s career best season was just last year when he managed 4.2 PP pts/60. Historically speaking, Ryder would immediately be the best powerplay scorer on the roster. To belabour the point and add shame the Jets Nation Goat of the Year, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on the 105 minutes Olli Jokinen spent on the ice with the man advantage this season. Here at Jets Nation, we will never forget the single point he recorded in that time.
So what’s wrong with him?
Well, there’s the tiny weeny problem of every single fan base he’s played in front of referring to him as ‘inconsistent.’ Boston was just thankful he showed up for the Stanley Cup run. Dallas was confused and a little peeved at first, but eventually decided he was cured. (Do I even need links for Montreal?) The narrative is set for Ryder. One game he’s apparently dominant, the next supposedly invisible.
I take issue with this particular narrative. The word ‘consistent’ is usually a euphemism for ‘better.’ The question actually being posed is, ‘if Ryder can dominate a game sometimes, why can’t he do it all the time?’ Well, because he’s not better. We give a free pass to guys who can’t even do it sometimes. That he’s averaged 52 points per season over a long NHL career still makes him ‘better’ at scoring than Antti Miettinen, regardless of how regularly those points seem to come.
More importantly, the narrative of consistency is driven entirely by expectations. That expectations are high for Ryder speaks to his skill and scoring ability – his 35 points this season (64pt pace) would have put him 3rd among Jets forwards, despite playing similar even strength minutes to Jets whipping boy Alex Burmistrov.
Hockey is a game in which each individual player only has a handful of opportunities to create a scoring chance, and he has to do it against the world’s best in the NHL. Fewer minutes equates to fewer opportunities. Ever since Kovalev stole his powerplay time in Montreal, dropping his powerplay output from 34 points in 06/07 to just 13 in limited minutes on the second unit his final year with the team, Ryder has been fighting for minutes everywhere he goes.
Michael Ryder is a near perfect fit for the Jets. With a shrinking cap and a number of teams scared off by the idea of a spotty scorer, I suspect Ryder is available on two to three year contract in the neighbourhood of 3.5 million per year in spite of the weak UFA class and his excellent season. The question of fit with Kane is unanswerable at this stage, but is a valid concern. Nonetheless, the potential for Ryder to improve a disastrous powerplay unit, his relatively low cost, and his usefulness as a ‘gap’ player while the Jets wait for the future to arrive make him a very attractive addition.
* All ‘points per 60min’ rates use both 5×4 and 5×3 numbers in this case, as Ryder’s data goes further back in time than does readily available data for just 5×4.
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