Lowe’s Evaluation of Ryan Proves ‘Questionable’

“I’ll tell you this, they have not much coming. Bobby Ryan has been a questionable pick at No. 2 (overall in 2005)”

Former Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe
July 5, 2008

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to see why Kevin Lowe is now the ‘former’ GM of the Edmonton Oilers. Of all the comments made in the war of words between Lowe and former Ducks GM Bryan Burke in the wake of the Dustin Penner signing, Lowe’s unexpected and unwarranted attack on Duck’s prospect Bobby Ryan was easily the dirtiest of the mud slung.

Granted, Ryan was an easy target at the time. Drafted 2nd overall in the 2005 draft behind Sidney Crosby, the highly skilled and hulking winger lagged in his development. While Ryan’s draft peers such as Crosby, Montreal’s Carey Price, San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi and LA’s Anze Kopitar quickly established themselves as permanent fixtures in the big leagues, Ryan struggled to secure a regular roster spot with the Ducks. Of course, all of the changed in the 08/09 season and how!

Following a slow start, Ryan poured it on down the stretch finishing with 31 goals and 26 assists to beat out Chicago winger Kris Versteeg by 4 points for the rookie scoring title. Better still, Ryan turned the trick in a mere 64 games: a full 24 games fewer than Versteeg and 12 games less than the next FIVE rookie leaders. In the process, Ryan also served up the highlight reel play of the season for the Ducks when he topped off a hat trick performance against the Kings with a spin-o-rama worthy of Denis Savard in his prime. Of course flashy goals are all well and good, but the real test of talent in the NHL is in the crucible of the playoffs. Here again, Ryan delivered, leading all Ducks scorers with 4 goals in the first round as Anaheim trounced the President Trophy winning San Jose Sharks.

For a good portion of the playoffs, Ryan was paired with center C Ryan Getzlaf and winger Corey Perry, a trio of blue chip talent that is arguably the equal of any in the league. In fact, the line was so unstoppable at times, they rekindled memories of another Southern Californian juggernaut—the LA Kings’ legendary Triple Crown Line. Comprised of center Marcel Dionne flanked by wingers Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer, the Triple Crown Line was the first line in league history to feature three 100+ point producers in a single season. And, while 100 points is no longer a commonly achieved milestone as it was in the high flying 80’s, there is every reason to believe that Getzlaf, Perry & Ryan could be every bit as productive for the Ducks as LA’s triple threat. That is if the Ducks don’t make the same mistake as the Kings, a team that failed to surround its showcase stars with a suitable supporting cast.

If the Red Wings exposed any weaknesses in dispatching the Ducks in the 2nd round of this year’s playoffs, it was Anaheim’s lack of secondary scoring. Since their Cup win in 2007, the Ducks have traded a glut of forwards including Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner, Sami Pahlsson & Travis Moen. In almost every case, the Ducks have received defensemen in return, the most recent being D Ray Whitney in exchange for Kunitz and D James Wisniewski as the principle player received for Pahlsson. The end result is a team stacked from the blueline back but far too reliant on its three young stars to carry the team offensively.

Fortunately, there is a method to the Ducks’ madness.

In stacking the deck with solid D-men, Ducks’ GM Bob Murray has a few aces up his sleeve should he lose stalwarts Scott Niedermayer to retirement or Francois Beauchemin to free agency. Also looming is the potential loss of Chris Pronger to free agency at the conclusion of the 09/10 season. In a perfect world, Niedermayer stays on for another run at Lord Stanley in which case Murray can let Beauchemin walk. This would free up invaluable cap space enabling the Ducks to target one or two forwards to solve the club’s secondary scoring needs. The leading candidates are the Flames’ Mike Cammalleri along with New Jersey’s John Madden to replace the face-off skills lost with Pahlsson’s departure.

Murray has gone on the record stating that Niedermayer is “irreplaceable” and his return for another season is the key factor in the GM’s plans to reload the Ducks roster for another Cup run. However it plays out, one thing is certain. With Bobby Ryan, the Ducks have found themselves a bona-fide star, a player they can count on for consistent goal production for many years to come. Ironically, that is the same type of production Kevin Lowe was desperately seeking when he poached former Duck Dustin Penner with a highly questionable $21.25 million offer sheet in the summer of 07. Far from filling the opposition net with pucks, Penner was last heard from sending a text to Bobby Ryan congratulating the winger on his breaking Penner’s rookie scoring record with the Ducks. No word on Ryan’s reply to Penner, but if this season is any indication, Bobby Ryan will continue to let his play on the ice speak for itself.