About a month ago, Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion surprised many fans by trading Mika Zibanejad to the New York Rangers in exchange for Gatineau native Derick Brassard. To many analysts, this was a move to help Ottawa win now rather than in the future. After all, Dorion is on record for believing and wanting to ‘win now’. Beyond acquiring a dynamic, individual talent in Brassard, the Senators also hope they have acquired a player who will renew scoring chemistry to benefit the production of his linemates and the team overall. One likely candidate who could be an early beneficiary this season is forward Bobby Ryan.
It is not hard to imagine Ryan having a strong, offensive campaign in 2016-17 playing alongside Brassard and under new Head Coach, Guy Boucher. When former Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray acquired Ryan in July 2013, the Senators were expecting him to be their biggest offensive weapon. After all, the second overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft had four consecutive 30 plus goal seasons with the Anaheim Ducks.
Since his arrival in Ottawa, Ryan is still looking to achieve that same offensive output. He has not hit the 30 goal plateau in his three seasons in Ottawa. Senators fans have been waiting patiently for the 6’2″, 209 pound winger to reassure them he can be the same scoring machine they witnessed when he played in Anaheim just a few seasons ago. Ryan has always been an offensive weapon, even during his junior days playing with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL.
Chemistry, Not Capability
Rather than questioning Ryan’s offensive capabilities, Senators fans may believe it is the team’s philosophy, approach, and chemistry holding Ryan back. During his early NHL days with the Ducks, the entire Anaheim team played a strong, offensive hockey game. Throughout this time, Ryan was also playing consistently on the same line with unquestionable All-Stars in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
By contrast, in Ottawa, Ryan has never had consistency on his line. Often, former head coaches Paul MacLean and Dave Cameron juggled the lines around him, and players like Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad and Mike Hoffman all had their chances and time on different nights- but nothing settled, or had time to gel.
As per HockeyAnalysis.com, Zibanejad was Ryan’s most frequent centremen, playing 1355 minutes together in 5 on 5 situations. Zibanejad, a 6’2”, 222-pound centre, although skilled with a great shot, was simply not complementary to Ryan’s game. Perhaps the exchange of Zibanejad for Brassard, who is speedy with stronger play-making abilities, will help Ryan generate more offense.
“If I have the chance to play with Bobby I’m pretty sure we’re going to try to click right away. Like I said, his upside is there and I’m just going to try fit with him. If the coach puts us together we’re going to try to make it work.” Derick Brassard interview with the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, August 12, 2016
While playing as a Ranger in New York last season, Brassard managed to score a career-high 27 goals. He also made the players around him, better. Per HockeyAnalysis.com, Brassard’s most consistent linemates were Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash. Together, they formed one of the Rangers top lines, and Zuccarello also enjoyed a great offensive season with a career high 26 goals. Brassard and Zuccarello were one and two on the Rangers for most goals scored during the 2015-16 regular season, respectively.
If Ryan and Brassard can complement each other on the ice as much as they do in theory and on paper- in addition to playing under a new, offensively-minded coach – this could be just what the doctor ordered to restore Ryan to his full potential.