Michael Ryder was fresh off of a Stanley Cup winning season with the Boston Bruins when he decided to take his talents to the Dallas Stars in the summer of 2011, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs for three straight seasons and stood on shaky financial ground without an owner. Furthermore, the right winger took a $500,000 pay cut per year, accepting a two-year $7 million contract. The attraction to an otherwise underwhelming hockey market in Dallas was the opportunity to play top minutes that he likely wouldn’t get elsewhere. Ryder had been a 30 goal scorer twice before in his career, hitting the mark with the Montreal Canadiens, but couldn’t replicate the success with the Boston Bruins, where he scored just 18 goals in each of his final two years with the team. The Stars were desperate for top six talent and scoring and the gamble made sense for the team, especially with the discounted price. Ryder was a question mark for the 2011-2012 season but sitting here over a year later, it’s safe to say that Michael Ryder lived up to every expectation and surpassed most of them.
Some of the more notable free agent signings in Dallas Stars history, like Brett Hull and Bill Guerin, can’t say they had the type of season in their first year with the organization that Michael Ryder had. His 35 goals were first on the team (and the most scored by a Dallas Stars since 2008-2009) and his 62 points were good for fourth. His shooting percentage of 16.6% was an absurd number unmatched by any other Stars player. It’s no surprise that his most consistent linemates, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro, were the team’s top two scorers. The line was the most successful the Stars had last season; when they were hot, the team was winning. Unfortunately, on a team as short on depth as the Dallas Stars were, whenever they struggled, the team followed suit and suffered greatly. There’s only so much Jamie Benn can do.
One of the most important questions for the 2012-2013 season (assuming there is one) is if Ryder can strike gold two years in a row. It’s unlikely Ryder is going to match that 16.6% shooting percentage and as such, it’s unlikely he’ll hit 35 goals again, but can he reach 30? His most likely linemates will be Ray Whitney and Derek Roy, two excellent playmakers who could provide Ryder with the chance to be the team’s leading goal scorer once again. The signing was one of the biggest HITS of the season, but whether or not Ryder can make it one of the best Dallas Stars signings in recent memory remains to be seen. Joe Nieuwendyk has given Ryder better players to surround himself with while expecting him to remain a staple in the top six. Success is his for the taking and we’re all anxious to see if he can step up to the challenge.
Enjoy some Michael Ryder highlights:
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