70 GP: 14 G, 17 A, 31 Pts, 30 PIM, -4, 134 Shots
Career best year – 2003-04
81 GP: 25 G, 38 A, 63 Pts, 26 PIM, +10, 215 Shots
4 GP: 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts, 2 PIM, +1, 6 Shots
Career best playoffs – 2005-06
6 GP: 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts, 0 PIM, -4, 13 Shots
Plays of the game: 7
Game pucks: 5
3 Star selections: 1 First, 1 Third
Where he started the season
Another 30-goal season for Michael Ryder and another meeting with the arbitrator. It has always been obvious that the Habs brass and Ryder himself have very differing opinions about his abilities. There was something in the back of our team's management's minds that said he wasn't as good as his statistics seemed to suggest (perhaps that was also in a a lot of the fans' minds too). Michael had just scored 85 goals in his first 3 years in the league and had only missed one game during that span, yet it always seemed that he would have to fight for his spot on our top-line and this year would be no different. He would indeed start the year alongside Higgins and Koivu on another 1-year contract as our team was again unwilling to commit to him. If he performed the team (and fans) would love him, if he didn't they would likely as soon be rid of him.
The season didn't start so well for Ryder as he was only able to score 3 goals in his first 32 games. Another problem was the elevated play of Kovalev, Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn. All of a sudden Michael's minutes were decreasing as was his usage during key (PP and late-game situations) times. Not one known for assists – the writing was certainly on the wall – "score goals, or else". A series of line changes, scratches and benchings would ensue and eventually seemed to pay off. Michael enjoyed a 20 game stretch in which he scored 9 goals including a 2-goal and 1 assist effort in our team's greatest ever comeback (0-5 down in the 2nd, won 6-5). It looked like the slump was over and we had our best natural goalscorer back. Unfortunately, Carbo wasn't convinced as his ice-time stayed around the 12 minute mark and he was not being deployed in those key situations. He was eventually a permanent 3rd-line/press-box fixture and he ended the year with only 2 goals in his last 18 games.
He featured in 4 of our first 5 playoff games, but failed to register a goal (or an assist). By this point, Carbo had seen enough and would relegate Ryder to the press-box for the balance of the playoffs in favour of 3 other prolific goalscorers – Latendresse, Lapierre and Dandenault (0 goals in a combined 29 games). It was a shame that Ryder didn't feature in the Philly series as all we needed were goals and you'd have to think that if anyone had the potential to pot one from an unlikely angle or situation as you sometimes need in a goal drought, it would have been him.
Highlights: More imagination from Ryder this season might have meant more goals. More imagination from the highlight compilers would hve left them with more choices for songs - not sure if I prefer their choice to Riders on the Storm...
Ryder by the numbers: Canadiens.com
Lions' links on Ryder:
Does Eklund need Habs fans this badly?
Ryder All Over the Place
Needs And Wants
I can make all the excuses in the world for why Ryder didn't play well – he lost ice-time, he was out of favour, he had worse linemates than in previous years – but, at the end of the day, he didn't get the job done. He did still score 14 goals which isn't the worst season I've ever seen (read: Samsonov 2006-07), but for a goalscorer who plays in 70 games, it is unacceptable. Ryder can play a good physical game, isn't a bad passer and is decent enough in his own end, ultimately though, he was in Montreal for one reason only: to finish.
Despite all this, I never thought, however, that Michael was given enough of a chance this year. When most players go through slumps the team looks for ways to get them going by making all sorts of changes. Unfortunately our team seemed more content to expose his weaknesses than nurture his talents, and his battle was really a lost cause. Never once did Ryder get to play with Kovalev, he was rarely used on the 1st PP unit, when we knew he was our most dangerous sniper, and I can't remember when we turned to him when all else had failed. This year was not only a bad year from Ryder's standpoint, but also from the way in which our all-knowing coaching staff handled the situation. In retrospect, the writing had been on the wall for some time with those one-year contracts, but it was nonetheless difficult to watch a player ostracised in this way.
Where we'd have him next season
What we know now is that Ryder will be playing against us a lot and making much more money than he ever would have in Montreal. Boston obviously still sees the potential in our sniper, but have in all likelihood overpaid. At $12M over 3 years, it's very hard to believe he'll be money well spent, much less a bargain. In fact, were it not for Cliff Fletcher's follies, it may have been the most outrageous signing of the summer. Boston has a history of signing the wrong players at the wrong time and haven't shown that they have a clue about what building a team is all about for the recent past – giving Ryder $4M / season is another plain example of this. Personally, I would have considered bringing Mike back at a reduced rate (possibly $1M-$2M / season), but would have never paid what Boston has. We will undoubtedly see a lot of Rydsies next year, let's just hope he goes Gilbert Dionne and not John Leclair on us.