Inconsistent in the regular season. Valuable in the playoffs.
That is the problem and it was all anyone could say about Michael Ryder during his days with the Boston Bruins. Last season he had a modest 18 goals and 41 points through 79 games played during the regular season before exploding for an 8 goal, 17 point performance in the playoffs that included 2 game winners. Unfortunately the Dallas Stars do not have the luxury of being able to count on a player for his playoff performance. This is a team that’s going to have to fight tooth and nail to even earn a spot in the playoffs.
Coming into the season, the Morrow-Ribeiro-Ryder line was heavily anticipated, with Mike Ribeiro and Ryder being reunited after playing together in Montreal. They were labeled the Stars’ number one line, and they lived up to those expectations throughout the preseason. They were dominate on the ice together, tic-tac-toe passes leading to goals at an impressive rate. But that was the preseason, and we all know how misleading that can be. Ryder was held pointless through the first four games of the regular season. Brenden Morrow and Ribeiro weren’t much better, with only 3 points between the two of them. We finally saw some progress against a dilapidated and desperate Blue Jackets, with Ryder netting two goals and one assist in the home and home series. Just the early season jitters, right? Now they’re going to get going, we thought. Not quite.
Ryder went pointless for the next three games, before netting a goal against the Kings last Thursday. To recap, through 11 games, Ryder has produced 3 goals and 1 assist. Now no one is expecting him to produce like Phil Kessel or James Neal has, but we know that Ryder needs to do better. It isn’t just the statistics. Watching this line is frustrating, it seems like Ryder is a step behind, and like that flair of chemistry we saw in the preseason just wasn’t sparking, and overall his play has been, in a word, inconsistent. There it is again, that problem of inconsistency. Glen Gulutzan’s decision to throw Adam Burish on a line with Morrow and Ribeiro in lieu of Ryder during the final minute of play in the Phoenix thriller on October 25th, where Burish would score the tying goal, might shed a little light on how apparent Ryder’s struggles really are.
Fortunately for Michael Ryder a slow start isn’t an end all scenario, but he has to get better. The Stars cannot afford to have one of their top two lines to be struggling throughout the season if they want to be a successful team and a playoff contender. He does not need to be a point a game player, but he does need to make his presence on the ice noticeable every shift. The little mistakes and ineffective play should fade while adjusting to this new system. He’s been given an opportunity to be one of the Stars’ top forwards and he knows this team needs him. It’s up to Ryder to decide if he is ready to solve that problem, and to accept that challenge.