Just over four months ago, I joined Blackout Dallas and my first article was a critical look at Michael Ryder’s underwhelming performance throughout the first 11 games of the year. The “problem” that I described was Ryder’s inconsistency, an issue that plagued him throughout his time playing with the Boston Bruins, where he scored just 18 goals two years straight, a far cry from his two 30-goal seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. As a natural goal scorer, inconsistency can be a death sentence, but there’s a reason he signed with the Dallas Stars. He was lost in the depth of the Boston Bruins, and it was likely the reason for his lack of goal scoring and the root of the inconsistency. After posting that article, Michael Ryder has slowly but surely worked to find his place on the Dallas Stars, bouncing around the top six with the constant line juggling that injuries necessitated.
But since the All-Star break, Michael Ryder has found his scoring touch, and he is playing some of the best hockey Stars fans have seen this year.
Ryder sits behind Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, and Mike Ribeiro with 51 points on the year, but leads the team with 28 goals. His career high is 30 goals, a feat he accomplished twice with the Canadiens, and he is on pace to coast past that total and have himself a career high in goals, assists, and points. The most telling statistic of Ryder’s renewed consistency is that he has not gone more than two games without a goal since the break, putting up 19 points in 19 games. He has put together a seven-game point streak and before that he had a six-game point streak. Ryder was brought to Dallas to be a top scoring winger, and he has turned into just that. The top line of Ryder, Eriksson, and Ribeiro has led the team through the recent Western Canadian road trip (12 points between the three of them) as well as through this remarkable stretch that has the team sitting on top of the Pacific Division and the #3 seed in the Western Conference.
This Michael Ryder problem I described months ago has vanished. It’s inevitable that he’s going to cool down eventually, all scorers do, but Ryder has put together a remarkable streak proving how valuable he has become for this team. When GM Joe Nieuwendyk inked Ryder to a two year contract last summer, many critics and detractors claimed that Ryder could in no way make up for the point production of lost center Brad Richards. Well, Ryder isn’t expected to reach the 77 points put up by Richards last year, but he has already tied the amount of goals Richards produced, and is far exceeding him this year (Richards sits third on the Rangers with 18 goals and 45 points). Combine this with the career year from budding star Jamie Benn and Stars fans aren’t missing Brad Richards at all.
The Stars are going to try and continue this impressive stretch and they will look to players like Michael Ryder to lead the way. His value and importance on this team is more than anyone dared to hope for before the year. He’s answered every critic, every detractor, every doubtful fan, and that includes me. I was among one of the most doubtful, and he proved me dead wrong and I could not be happier for it. Should the Dallas Stars make it back to the promised land, it will be because of players like Michael Ryder, who succeed and produce with a renewed sense of vigor and desire to prove themselves.