Re-Sign or Resign: Bobby Ryan
Did the freshest face in Hockeytown earn another year on the payroll?
Welcome to Re-Sign or Resign, a new segment covering the pros and cons of Detroit’s pending UFAs. We’ll be taking a closer look at each UFA while going over two schools of thought: re-signing the player, or letting him run free into the sunset. So far, we’ve covered Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Marc Staal, Alex Biega, and Sam Gagner. Today’s topic is beloved newcomer Bobby Ryan.
If you’ve read my introductory post, you probably already know how I feel about Bobby Ryan. The good old American boy (not to be confused with the Estelle/Kanye West banger) joined Detroit last year and left a very positive impression. While his season was cut short with injury, Ryan ended the season with 14 points in 33 games — scoring at just a little under half a point-per-game. On a roster where the team’s leading scorer put together only 23 points, this tells us two things: Ryan is still a good player, and the Red Wings have an abysmal offense.
Still, does Ryan fit into the picture of Detroit’s rebuild? Do 14 points in 33 games warrant a contract extension? How effective will Ryan be after suffering his season-ending injury? Is there a better song than American Boy? Find out the answers to all these and more today.
On One Hand: Re-Sign Ryan
Ryan’s a perfect example of the type of vet you want to have in a locker room. The former Bill Masterton Trophy winner battled adversity through addiction, inconsistency, and a comeback worthy of a sports movie. He’s been praised for his positive attitude by his coaches and teammates. Even the media love him. On a team that encounters adversity, guys like Ryan can help to anchor the locker room before things get too out of hand.
If attitude isn’t enough, he still packs an offensive punch. After all, there’s a reason Bobby Ryan was 2nd overall in the eponymous Sidney Crosby draft. He can shoulder the burden of a middle-six winger, jumping between the second and third line to fill in where needed. The former All-Star has over 15 years of NHL experience. The knowledge he possesses could be invaluable in mentoring young players like Filip Zadina and Lucas Raymond. A guy like Ryan isn’t signed to take on big minutes — but the fact that he can take them on is appreciated.
Finally, what separates Ryan from a lot of other free agents is that he wants to be back. In several interviews, Ryan mentioned that he was specifically sought out by Steve Yzerman as a free agent last offseason. After speaking to Yzerman on the phone, Ryan knew immediately that Hockeytown would be his home. Why wouldn’t you want a guy like Ryan as a role model for a young, impressionable roster like the Wings?
On the Other Hand: Set Bobby Ryan Free
Bobby Ryan is 34. Sooner or later, the Red Wings will need to get younger and faster. Ryan, despite his intangibles, is not a fast nor young player. With only a few names signed through 2021-22, the Red Wings have a unique opportunity to dramatically revamp their roster. This could be Steve Yzerman’s chance to revamp the roster from the ground up. With Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, and countless others heading into the organization, finding a home for Ryan might be difficult.
Ryan is a victim of the eye test vs. analytics debate. While on the ice, he generates offense and controls the puck better than most of the Wings’ veterans. Unfortunately, “better than the Wings’ veterans” is not a very high bar. Ryan’s advanced stats indicate that he didn’t generate much in terms of offense. His defense wasn’t much better, either. Even if he’s on an affordable deal, what value does Ryan bring to the table? Will he help, or hurt the team more?
If Yzerman hopes to keep a few Detroit veterans in his repertoire, difficult decisions will need to be made. Of the five UFA forwards on the Wings’ roster, it’s safe to assume at least three of them have played their final game in Detroit. Does Ryan fall among that list — and, more importantly, would signing Ryan block off a player like Jonatan Berggren from making his NHL debut? At what point does signing veterans to short-term deals begin to hurt the team more than help it?
Realistically speaking, Bobby Ryan is a low-risk, high-reward signing. If he underperforms, the team can bury him on the bottom-six or limit his minutes. If he continues the trajectory he had last season, he can mentor the young guys and help the Wings develop. Guys with stories like Ryan don’t come around often. Having a player with the perspective he has can mean the difference between fighting through adversity and midseason collapses.
Also, the only song better than American Boy is Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears.
Should the Red Wings re-sign Bobby Ryan?