On Monday, the Detroit Red Wings signed veteran Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout (PTO), after going unsigned as a free agent. He was released by the Ottawa Senators following the 2019-20 campaign, despite winning the Bill Masterton Award for Perseverance in Hockey that same season. Detroit signed Ryan to a one-year, $1 million deal on Oct. 9, 2020, bolstering the level of experience in the Wings’ young locker room.
It worked out very well in the beginning. Ryan was one of the top performers on the team, starting hot before ultimately missing the final month of the season due to requiring surgery on his injured triceps. He finished the year with 14 points on seven goals and seven assists in 33 games, but his future in the league was in doubt after not receiving a contract this offseason.
Ryan Hopes to Find a Home in Detroit Yet Again
Ryan made it clear near the end of last season that he hoped to return to the Red Wings, but the former second-overall draft pick has his work cut out for him if he hopes to crack an already-crowded lineup. While his presence could help provide an offensive boost on a bottom-six line that has struggled to find the net in recent years, the true benefit would come from his veteran presence in the locker room. Considering the influx of youth on the roster, his wealth of experience and professionalism could do wonders for the continued development of the incoming prospects.
At 34 years old, Ryan has recorded 261 goals and 308 assists in 866 career games spent mostly between Ottawa and the Anaheim Ducks. Even though his scoring slowed as last season pressed on, his offensive prowess could go a long way in helping a team that, yet again, was at the bottom of the league in offense. Despite having a better win percentage than the 2019-20 season, Detroit was 30th in the league with 125 goals scored—only better than Anaheim’s 124. Its power play didn’t fare any better, coming in at 11.41 percent for the season—again, only the Ducks’ abysmal 8.94 power-play percentage was worse.
Statistically speaking, Ryan’s best season came with Anaheim back in 2010-11, when he notched 71 points on 34 goals and 37 assists. He also recorded 42 points across 71 games with the Senators as recently as 2018-19. His drive is still there, and the playmaking ability is something that can truly benefit the Red Wings’ scoring woes, as he already showed early last season.
Perseverance, Character Help Define His Comeback Story
As a Masterson Award winner, the benefits Ryan can bring to the Red Wings extend beyond the scoresheet. Anyone who knows his story understands that his road back to the NHL was not an easy one. A journey that included running from the FBI, Ryan’s path was not typical in any sense of the word.
If surviving that type of trauma throughout those stages of childhood development wasn’t enough, Ryan faced another type of adversity in adulthood: alcoholism. Finally, after years of struggling with trying to battle the illness on his own, Ryan entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in November of 2019. During his first game back with the Senators, a little over 14 weeks after declaring his intentions to enter the program, he recorded a fight and scored a hat trick in an emotional win over Vancouver.
On a team that is nearing the end of a rebuild like the Wings, players who have longevity at the NHL level are important pieces in getting those young guys to the next step. Paired with even deeper life and personal experiences dealing with and overcoming adversity, Ryan brings an intangible to a Detroit team that would greatly benefit from him being on the roster.
Born and raised in Michigan, Kyle Knopp started playing hockey when he was 3 years old. Knopp has played, coached, or worked at every level of ice hockey — including three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 2008. He covers the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers and is the editor of THW’s Morning Skate newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter @THW_Knopp.