Every player has a different career path and one of the newest New Jersey Devils — Michael Ryder is no different. The 33-year-old is now on his fourth NHL team, after playing for the Montreal Canadiens (2003-08, 2013), Boston Bruins (2008-11) & Dallas Stars (2011-13) previously. He was drafted in the 8th round of the 1998 NHL Draft, a round that doesn’t even exist anymore. His Junior hockey career was spent with the Hull Olympiques, where in his third and final season there he hit the 50-goal plateau. Then he bounced around in the AHL & ECHL playing for four different franchises over three years until finally getting to make his NHL debut with the Habs in the 2003-04 season where he tallied 63 points (25g-38a) in 81 games as a rookie.
As luck would have it the next NHL season was wiped out due to a labor dispute and Ryder took his talents overseas and played in 42 games for Leksands IF of the Swedish Elite League; he had 61 points that season (34g-27a). The next two seasons with the Canadiens he netted 30 goals in each one, before his production dropped off in the 2007-08 season where he only potted 14 goals & 31 points.
He signed with the Habs archrivals — the Bruins in the summer of 2008 and had a solid three seasons culminating with Boston’s Stanley Cup championship in 2011. As with any championship team, every player can’t be brought back and Ryder signed with Dallas as an unrestricted free agent. Ryder put up 35 goals (62 points) that first season with the Stars and was a bright spot on a team that missed the playoffs; last season he was traded back to Montreal 20 games into the season.
Having played in the Eastern Conference so often the Devils were familiar with Ryder’s talent and skill set and made it a priority to sign him this past summer once David Clarkson bolted for Toronto. Ryder enters this season, his 10th in the NHL with 431 points (213g-218a) in 677 games and is joining a team where he only knew two players before he got to New Jersey.
“He’s kind of crafty. He’s a goal scorer, but he proved tonight that he can pass the puck too; he made some really nice passes, saucer passes,” said New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur after their first preseason game together. “He’s pretty hard on the puck, he keeps the puck alive, especially on the power play. We’ve always played against him; we know he’s always a threat. It’s nice to have him on our side.”
The Hockey Writers caught up with Ryder after suiting up for his first preseason game with the Devils and spoke with him about his decision to join the team and what it was like to become a Stanley Cup champion among other things.
The Hockey Writers: How did you feel about your first game with New Jersey?
Michael Ryder: I felt pretty good; we got off to a slow start there and got behind early. Me personally, I’m still getting used to the system a little bit, but overall I think it was a good first game. It would have been nicer if we got a win.
THW: Preseason isn’t really about results though right, it’s more about working on chemistry & learning the system isn’t it?
MR: Yeah sure, especially for the new guys (like myself) coming in here and taking a lot in. It was my first game so I was trying not to get caught thinking about what to do. I felt I got a little more used to it as the game went on. I think it was a step forward and hopefully I get better for the next game.
THW: You played on a few different lines tonight, anything that clicked?
MR: No not right now, we got switched around a little bit, here and there. Coach is trying to get an idea of what he wants to do, and we were a little short on the bench a few times so the lines got mixed up a bit.
THW: How do you feel you blended in with the team to this point as far as getting used to that stuff?
MR: It’s been great, the guys here are great and they make you feel comfortable. That’s the main thing when you come to a new team – that’s what you want, to feel comfortable around the guys and they’ve welcomed me in here. Now it’s a step-by-step, day-by-day and I just have to get better.
Ryder got a little better a few nights later, scoring his first goal of preseason against his former team:
THW: Did you know anybody on this team before you signed here?
MR: No, not really; the only guy I knew was Ryane (Clowe) and that’s pretty much it.
Both Ryder and Clowe are natives of Newfoundland in Canada.
THW: With Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson leaving New Jersey this summer do you feel any pressure to replace those guys?
MR: I just have to play my own game; I know what gives me success and what I can do to help the team. I have to go out every night, work hard and play to my strengths that I know can help the team win.
THW: Any particular reason you signed with New Jersey over other teams that may have made you an offer?
MR: When it comes down to it you want to go to a team that is going to give you an opportunity to play, and what’s going to give you success as well as help the team win at the same time. Talking to (GM) Lou (Lamoriello) it felt like a great fit and I wanted to come here. You want to go to a place where you are welcome and you’re going to get an opportunity.
MR: (laughs) Offensively I like to shoot the puck and I can create plays also. For me I like to think I am a pretty good two-way player, I can play both sides of the ice. A lot of times people just think I am a shooter, but I can also make plays for my linemates and even though tonight was my first game and I was a little rusty out there but I’ll get better as we go on.
Three years ago Ryder scored on his now-teammate Brodeur with a snipe top-shelf:
THW: Are you excited to join a team with guys like Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias & Jaromir Jagr?
MR: I did play with Jagr for a few games in Dallas, so I know him a little bit. Definitely playing with Marty and Patty is going to be fun. Marty’s been around a while (laughs) and he’s got a big résumé; it’s pretty good to play with a guy like that, especially when I’ve been shooting against him for years.
THW: Is it tough to score on him in practice too?
MR: Yeah, he’s got a different style (than other goalies), so it’s a little harder to score on him.
THW: You won the Stanley Cup with Bruins in 2011, what was that experience like for you?
MR: It’s something I’ll never forget, that’s for sure. That’s what you play for and we had a great opportunity in Boston and we won the Cup. Once you get a taste of it, you want to win it again. Hopefully this year, with this team here, we can do a lot of good things and go the distance.
Ryder had a big postseason when the Bruins won the Cup, including this goal on Roberto Luongo:
THW: What did you do when you got to have your day with the Stanley Cup?
MR: I just brought it home to Newfoundland and had a little parade, and brought it back to my hometown. I just showed it to the people in my town, which isn’t a very big town so it was pretty neat for everyone to get the opportunity to see the Cup. After that we just had a little party at my parents house.
Had I known about this incident, I would have asked Ryder about it during the interview:
THW: Did you look at it and find certain names on it?
MR: Yeah I did, definitely did that when I had it; when I had it I just tried to take it all in and I really enjoyed the moment.