Friday, July 20, 2007

Ryder's On The Storm

Drafted 216th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, one could say that Michael Ryder was a draft day crap shoot that paid off with long shot dividends.

Ryder has come a long way since that day, scoring 85 goals for the Canadiens over three seasons.

Always a natural goal scorer, Ryder was barely in the Canadiens scheme of things, even back when he was selected in the midst of the brutal Rejean Houle era. Through three GM's, and minor league stops in such hockey Hell's as Tallahasse and Mississippi of the ECHL, Ryder has fought off many a bias with his goal scoring prowess.

It was former Canadiens coach Claude Julien, after coaching Ryder for one season in Hamilton in 2002-03, who sought to promote him to the bigs.

While Ryder's complete game has always been questioned, his eyes for net space have rarely been in doubt. Julien's gamble paid off - as a 23 year old NHL rookie, Ryder found net 25 times, and in the ripoff of the decade, he was edged by Bruins flash in the pan, Andrew Raycroft, for the 2003 Calder Trophy.

Since then, Ryder has posted successive 30 goal campaigns, leading the Canadiens in that category in both seasons.

One would think that assessing Ryder's importance to the Canadiens would hence forth be a no - brainer.

The reason I bring up this question is due to Ryder heading for arbitraion, in a what has become the third installment of his annual RFA mid summer rite of recognition.

Ryder, it seems for many, is a difficult player to assess in the Habs overall team scheme of things.

Don't doubt that Habs GM Gainey isn't aware of his worth. Gainey signed Ryder prior to both previous arbitration hearings, avoiding the always messy pro versus con debates that tend to alienate players from teams.

The arbitration process for some players, is akin to going on trial. There will be a one year sentence, where the player is usually paid handsomely, but the thoughts of what your superiors really think of you tend to linger achingly in the backof your mind.

Players whose awards come out in their favor, usually find themselves elsewhere within a year. It is always a win and lose scenario, and surely Gainey is hard at work attempting to avoid it a third year running.

The connundrum is, again, that Ryder is one difficult player to assess.

In Ryder's camp, the argument will be that he is a pure goal scorer par excellance. They may name drop Mike Bossy and Brett Hull, in recognition of the type of shots Ryder can unleash. They will mention that uniqueness, in terms of the Canadiens lack of scoring prowess, in assessing his worth. They will, of course, compare his numbers with NHL'ers who are more fruitfully renumerated for similar production.

They would not be at fault for stating any of this.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, while tipping the hat to Ryder's goal numbers, will counter that he is hardly a complete player, and will seek to expose every defensive liability in his game. They will back their claims with their post season record, stating that the teams goals have yet to be achieved. They will counter than Ryder is a streaky player, who inconsistantly scores goals in bunches before cooling down. They will most certainly offer Ryder a reasonable raise in salary. They will balance both sides of his game in their perspective.

The Canadiens also, would hardly be faulted for stating any of this.

An arbitrator will then decide between each point of view. Previously, they chose between offers from each side, but this is no longer the case, since the bargaining of the last CBA.

Whichever way the decision falls, the spectre of public opinion will be divided.

Last season Ryder earned 2.2 million for the 30 goals he scored. If you were to examine the salaries of the other 29 NHL teams, you would be hard pressed to find another teams leading goal scorer who made so little.

If the Canadiens want to come out on the side of victory in such a case, they would henceforth be best off not comparing Ryder to similar goal scorers around the league. It would be detrimental to their point of view. Gainey will stick to placing Ryder in a team scope.

In either scenario, Ryder would hit paydirt.

For perspective, Ryder has been a Hab for three full seasons in which he has potted the aforementioned 85 goals. In his rookie season in 2003-04, the Canadiens employed 34 players, 25 of which have since left the organization - surprisingly!

Of the nine players remaining ( Higgins, Plekanec, Kovalev, Koivu, Begin, Komisarek, Bouillon, Markov, and Ryder) only 5 are forwards. Considering that Higgins and Plekanec were callups who played little that season, that Kovalev was aquired just prior to the trade deadline, and that Begin is in no esteem a goal scorer, there remains little in respect for comparison other than team captain Koivu.

In the last three season, Koivu's totals are 14-17-22 for a total goal tally of 53. Sheldon Souray, now departed equalled that stat with seasons of 15-12-26. Higgins in two seasons has totalled 45 goals. The next nearest to those numbers is Alex Kovalev, who in two seasons and little has gone 1-23-18 for a total of 42 goals.

Should the Canadiens be in need of goals scored next season, who do expect they will rely on most?

My guess is that Bob Gainey has already offered Ryder a 3.5 million dollar enumeration, perhaps over two seasons.

As Koivu and Kovalev earn 4.75 and 4.5 respectively per annum, my guess the Ryder camp is bidding in the neighborhood of 4.2 tops.

I'd be comfortable with Ryder, all game facets considered, making 3.8 million.
Anything more will be scandalous.


Bryan said...

our D should be a bit better next season so Ryder should fair a tad better in that department. pay him something fair for 2 or 3 years. no sense ripping him off even though he isn't exactly sam pahlsson

kazmojo said...

A fair assessment of our young gun. I think part of the problem is that too much is expected of him. He's a second line right winger, and would do well alongside Plekanec and Higgins. The latter two are defensively sound and go to the net, leaving the sniper duties to Ryder.

The problem with the Habs offense is definitely on the right side, but it is Kovalev, not Ryder. If the above scenario works out, one would assume Kovalev would man the right side of Koivu's line (with Kostitsyn on the left? Latendresse?). Long shots could be Lapierre, Kostopoulos or Milroy -- with Milroy's size and breakout AHL year being most intriguing.

In any case, Koivu needs someone else who will go to the net. Kovalev, even on his best behavior, doesn't qualify.

Uwey said...

IMO, Ryder will get $4 mill plus.

It always seems to me that he rarely ever gives 100%. Every so often he will show a burst of speed that is a couple of gears higher than he usually plays, but not often enough. There is also his ability to hit. On a couple of occasions we have witnessed him just steamrolling over opponents, but that too is very seldom. He all too often tends to grab the puck & tries to carry it all the way, end to end, only to lose it before he gets a shot off or fails to fight thru his check. These couple of points seem to make me feel, rightly or wrongly, that he is a lazy player. The other thing I have witnessed about Ryder, is that he very seldom one times a pass. I feel if he would do so rather than stop the puck to sot it, he could increase his goal scoring that much more, as the defenders would not have that extra time get in front of the shot. I fing hm extremely frustrating to watch, as we know that he can do all these things, but hardly ever does.

BTW, Claude Julien also coached Ryder in Hull/Gatineau.

Jeff said...

Michael Ryder is a huge asset to the habs. The season before last he played injured which really made him look like a one dimensional player. Although -28 last year i believe which has been said here i think that stat is largely due to Koivus necessary slump in order to play a whole season without being injured due to his size and strength. Also Higgins went down to injury. Ryder proved last year that when healthy is more than a one dimensional player. He hit quite often, and I believe was one of Montreal's best players when the team was slumping so badly. When not scoring last year he gave 100 percent and a lot of nights besides Plekanec was the only really energetic habs forward. I think Gainey should have paid Ryder what he wanted especially with his ufa status so closely approaching. If he goes to arbritation then heck unless Gainey tries to sign him long term I think sadly we will lose him in the future.

PPP said...

Raycroft's Calder was a ripoff? Come on ;) 2.05GAA and .926Sv% is more impressive than 25 goals on a bad team.

Robert L said...

Ah, gimme a break! Don't you Leaf fans have better things to do than defend your has-beens? ;)

A rookie scoring 25 goals on a not so good team ( your term - not mine ) has a lot more validity than a goalie who posts good numbers of a defensively sound team. Ryder scored his goals himself, while Raycroft's numbers are due in no small part to playing on a very tight team. Raycroft's numbers testified to his teams strength - Ryder's to his own. There is always the chance, when favoring a goalie for such an award, that voters (hello U.S. hockey writers) do not see beyond the numbers and err in their choice.

I gauge the Calder winner in two ways, and the manner in which I perceive it, seems to hardly taken into consideration.

At the moment, upon winning, which player has shown the most promise. In looking back, which would have been the right choice. Either way, I admit, I am technically wrong - the award is given to whoever voters feel had a better season - minus playoffs.

In those 2004 playoffs, that not so good team defeated Raycroft's Bruins. Since his undoing, he's been a flash in the pan. Traded once, he'd be dealt again if his contract weren't holding him down in Toronto. In getting Toskala, the Leafs seem to have lost confidence in him as well.

Ryder for his part has lived up, notching back to back 30 goal season. Thank Raycroft for that. Ryder scored the last three of the 30 on him.

PPP said...

If we don't defend them then who will!

Yeah, well that series was not lost by Raycroft it was won by Theodore during his Patrick Roy-God-like phase.

I just think it's much easier to be a forward on a bad team with no pressure whatsoever compared to a young goalie on what was a very good Bruins team.

If the award was on potential then maybe Ryder wins. If it was on future performance then Ryder would edge Raycroft retroactively.

Lee Hayes said...

The more of your blog that I read, the more I respect your opinion. I think your assessment of Ryder is spot on. And Raycroft did not deserve the Calder over Ryder.
Keep up the good work.

Go Habs Go

Lee Hayes said...

Sorry if I just made a bunch of multiple posts. I find the interface interesting, nice security.

Go Habs Go

Lee Hayes said...

Robert, Sorry, a bit of subterfuge, I am in reality 5'10", I was just playing games with the saint. I imagine that we'll still see many things eye to eye.

Go Hab's Go

Robert L said...

LOL, Lee you had me totally fooled there. My wife is 5' 2". and I actually stood up and measured down about 3" for her height, with my palm horizontal, and thought "Yeah, I could pick this guy out of a crowd!"

Thanks for the kind words about EOTP. If I were ever to post reader endorsements in my sidebar (thought about it, so far "No"), your comments would top the list. It's much appreciated.