The Ottawa Senators have only played two games and all the rage yesterday in the newspapers was the story or non-story of what kind of shape Bobby Ryan was in. Now I’m not really sure what has provoked all of this fitness questioning. In the Ottawa Sun, Bruce Garrioch mentioned some negative comments during HNIC.
Unless I missed something more scathing, I believe the following exchange is what Garrioch was alluding to:
Glenn Healy: Well, sometimes the reason a goal gets scored it’s 200 feet from your net or from the other team’s net. Here’s the play behind the net with Ryan and Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson does a real good job just to hold on a little bit, ‘Okay, there Bobby Ryan,’ now good luck getting back in the play. And we’ll have another look at the Methot pinch but Bobby Ryan doesn’t get back in the play because of what happened 200 feet away.
Jim Hughson: But he had a pretty good view of the goal.
Healy: And you know, you think about it. The shift before, what happened 200 feet away from Ottawa’s net? An enormous save by Jonathan Bernier.
Pretty tame stuff.
For the Globe and Mail, Roy MacGregor wrote:
“There is panic in the air – not to mention in that largely anonymous Nervous Nellie creation called the Twitterverse: What’s wrong with Bobby Ryan?”
Even Wayne Scanlan touched upon the negativity in a recent piece for SenatorsExtra.
I haven’t seen much, if any, negative feedback on Twitter. Mind you, I try and follow smart, witty, and funny fans. Nevertheless, I’m sure it was out there. Having endured hours of listening to post-game show calls whenever I’d attend a game when I was younger, I know how thick some Sens fans can be.
So I browsed Twitter and found… nothing.
And I'm not sure a podcast tease making light of oneself counts:
In latest SN podcast we express concern about bottom 6 & I have an unreasonable panic attack about Bobby Ryan. http://t.co/Jeb18lZJgf
— SensNation (@SensNation) October 7, 2013
So if the fans aren’t saying it, and the bad men at HNIC weren’t saying it, where the hell is it coming from?
To me, it seems like a media fabrication, a narrative designed to reaffirm how calm people should be.
Fortunately, judging by his appearance on The Drive yesterday, there’s one member of the Ottawa media who is pushing back on this silliness.
Check out the following exchange, or better yet, listen:
Ian Mendes: Brent, when you look at the number one story that seemed to come out of today, or at least the largest media scrum…
Brent Wallace: *snicker*
Mendes: Was around Bobby Ryan.
Mendes: And hey, look, he has played two games and hasn’t scored a goal…
Shawn Simpson: Brent has been stirring that up since the kid arrived in town.
Wallace: (sarcastically) Yeah, well I’m gone. I think he is no good.
Simpson: Your boy Turris is good though.
Wallace: Hahaha. Oh yeah, here we go. I don’t understand the Bobby Ryan situation. It’s been two games. Why are we all worked up about two games? We can say all we want about how he didn’t get back on the play and how Glenn Healy likes to find fault with every guy who skates in any jersey that isn’t blue and white. It’s two games. The guy has got seven shots. If he had one goal, we would not have one peep. If he had one glorious scoring chance, we probably would not be saying a word. Can we just hang on a sec? His centerman can’t really skate because he’s got a bum groin, like let’s just wait a sec.
Simpson: Wally, it has nothing to do with the stats. I’ve watched the guy for ten years and optically, he’s not the same player and there’s no reason not to…
Wallace: WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S NOT THE SAME (PLAYER)?!?! IT’S BEEN TWO GAMES!
Simpson: Because I’ve watched him for ten years and I’ve watched him through training camp…
Wallace: So you’ve watched every game that he’s played for ten years?
Simpson: No, but I’ve watched the pattern and I’ve watched where he’s at as a player…
Wallace: Well what’s the pattern? The guy scores 30 goals…
Simpson: Well he didn’t score them last year…
Wallace: Did we ever say anything when Dany Heatley was in Ottawa going, ‘Geez, I wish he played a lot more defence while he’s scoring 50 goals.’ I don’t remember doing those stories.
Simpson: But it has nothing to do with a panic. It’s making an observation, and when you make an observation and all of a sudden people grab a hold of it and then the panic comes from the other side.
Wallace: I don’t know what the panic is and I don’t know what the observation is.
I don’t know what the panic is either Brent.
As much as I think Ryan’s skating or play away from the puck may be a bit of a rude awakening for people in Ottawa who haven't seen much Anaheim these past few years, I don’t think there’s any panic or the need for concern over his fitness. (Although, admittedly, when he compared his skating to Spezza's in preseason while praising Michalek's wheels, I thought he was just being humble.)
Any concern is simply a by-product that plagues all renowned goal scorers when they don’t score – it’s a tendency to overanalyze and dwell on what players aren’t instead of focusing on what they are.
Throughout his career, he’s been a productive NHLer and by all means, barring an injury, he’s going to get his points. And as long as he continues to do so, there’s no immediate issue here.
As lukewarm as I was at the time of the trade and being mindful of how mediocre Ryan's possession numbers were in Anaheim, I sincerely believe they will be less of an issue so long as he keeps playing as part of that Spezza/Karlsson 5-man unit. But if Spezza’s groin or back continues to flare up and he starts to slip in his ability to drive the play, I’ll be concerned then or at least until the organization decides on whether to open up extension talks with Ryan next season. Assuming of course that he wants to remain in a city where people question his fitness levels and game after two regular season games.
More Brent Wallace Going Hard On This Fitness Thing
“No, I disagree. I knew that earlier on so I was waiting to do a piece on it. So once the main scrum broke up, I pulled him aside and said, ‘Listen, I’ve got to ask you on camera about this fitness level testing,’ and he said, ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want me to print it out and fax it to you? My results from camp were very good. I was third in skating amongst the entire team.’ He said, ‘I’ve had one issue: when I was 20-years old and Randy Carlyle came in and put the results in front of me on the desk and said ‘You need to change,’ and I did. I haven’t had a problem with conditioning or fitness in seven years.’ And so, I don’t and it’s never been brought up. You saw Paul MacLean. He knows that Bobby Ryan is not the most fleet of foot player, but I think we should all know that by now and just know that he’s out there to score goals. I don’t see the issue. I think his conditioning is fine. If he’s not skating at 110 miles an hour, does that mean he’s the slowest player in the world?”
Background On The Trade
Although he devoted one thought to Karlsson’s use of #lalala, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman did have one larger blurb to the Bobby Ryan trade, writing:
"19. How many serious offers did Anaheim get for Bobby Ryan? The word is four, although that was over a length of time. Why did Ottawa win the race? Sounds like there were two reasons. First, the Ducks didn't want to take on salary and the Senators didn't need to shed money. Second, Anaheim apparently wanted a first-rounder and Bryan Murray finally agreed."
Which tends to confirm what we already knew, the Senators offered the first after Alfie was out the door.