It’s hard not to love Bobby Ryan. His story is one of true courage, and it’s something that we should strive for every day. His perseverance and ability to come back to the NHL wasn’t something that many people may have expected, especially considering how he made his return scoring a hat-trick in his first game back, but it’s something we needed. Hockey is a brutal game. It’s arguably the most difficult of all the major sports. Every once in a while, a feel-good story is a good reminder that the game, and most importantly, the brotherhood is beautiful. Sadly, this isn’t a feel-good story. No one is happy about it, but letting Ryan go was necessary.
Ryan Deserved a Better Hand
The Detroit Red Wings signed Ryan to a professional tryout (PTO) over the offseason, so he had to earn a roster spot during training camp. With four points in five preseason games, some believed he deserved a chance to prove himself in more games. It’s not only the play on the ice that matters when considering whether or not to keep someone of his pedigree. Ryan is a player with ridiculous amounts of experience. It’s not your run-of-the-mill or vanilla experience either.
Ryan began his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks for six seasons. He scored 289 points in 378 games and then signed with the Ottawa Senators in 2014 on a massive deal of seven years with an average annual value (AAV) of $7.25 million. He went into the NHL player assistance program for an indefinite period during the 2019-20 season. He eventually came back and certainly wasn’t afraid to be open about his experiences. There’s always a need for someone like that in the locker room.
It’s hard to say that there is ever the perfect player for a team in the late stages of a rebuild, but it seemed like Ryan was that guy at this junction. He has the experience, and he proved his worth in the preseason. He showed that he could still play. It’s tough because he did everything that fans, coaches, and management asked of him. I don’t think that there was more to do in terms of earning that spot. He got dealt a suboptimal hand, and it’s unfortunate. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. As a free agent, that opens up plenty of other options for him. I’m sure most people around the hockey world would be shocked if he wasn’t picked up by at least one team. It certainly wouldn’t hurt much considering the number of minutes he would be playing in this scenario.
It’s hard to watch a player like Ryan go. It didn’t appear like an easy decision for head coach Jeff Blashill either. However, there needed to be a spot to make room for the next one in line with Raymond. He made his name well-known in his first-ever training camp and preseason.
Raymond Is Here to Stay
Everyone can appreciate what Ryan did for the league and specifically for the Red Wings—having players like him on the roster can make a massive difference for the young players entering the league. However, I think it’s time to let Lucas Raymond get his shot in the NHL at this point in his development.
One of my colleagues and fellow linemates on The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings show, The Grind Line, Devin Little, has been the leader of the Raymond train this offseason. I’m merely following in his footsteps. They certainly aren’t misplaced either. He has put his name into the spotlight of the hockey world with his incredible goals and excellent hockey IQ. He’s been running on a line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, and that duo looks even more potent with Raymond filling in that final spot. They’re certainly going to be a formidable force in the offensive zone and front of the net. None of them take a shift off.
It’s hard to account for all the lost time due to the Coronavirus, and some might argue that that is reason enough to send him down to the American Hockey League (AHL) to see how he competes. However, I think it will be more telling to keep him up with the full-time roster. What’s the worst that can happen? Either he stays up for the season because of his performance, or Steve Yzerman and Blashill decide to give him a nine-game trial run so as not to burn a year off of his entry-level contract (ELC). There aren’t any significant downsides at all.
Of course, I don’t think he will need to be sent down. Raymond’s mind alone can prove to be valuable on a young roster, and there aren’t many better options, if any at all, to have on the first line. Jakub Vrana being hurt has put a wrench in things. A second line with Robby Fabbri, Pius Suter, and Filip Zadina probably won’t be broken up for the foreseeable future. That means it’s time for him to step up and prove that the performance in Traverse City and the preseason games were no flukes.
Could the Red Wings Have Had the Best of Both Worlds?
The simple answer is yes. Playing Raymond for nine games and then sending him down to the AHL so as not to burn a year off of his entry-level contract may not have been the worst plan. You can mix and match the lineup as you wish if you’re Blashill, and you have a multitude of options in case anyone gets hurt. Not to mention you have a young player who needs someone to be a mentor and the perfect person to influence his career positively. It’s a little too late now, but I think there may have been a better way to go about this particular issue.
Nonetheless, it does mean that Yzerman has decided to put his full-fledged faith in the young forward from Gothenburg, Sweden. Whether that boosts his confidence or not will remain to be seen, but the expectations are high. Along with Moritz Seider on the back end, this Red Wings team will be full of youth and promise. Taking advantage of players with speed and creativity is their game, and although we may not get to see Ryan be a part of it, it’s another step towards ending the dreaded rebuilding stage.