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March 24, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Whether it’s Colorado versus Detroit, Ric Flair versus Randy Savage, or LCS Hockey versus Ross McKeon, I love a good blood feud. Rivalry is the spice of life. So when Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke waged their personal war of words, I ate it up. That’s quality entertainment right there.
But every war has its casualties. And even though I stood firmly in the Lowe camp, I couldn’t condone the Edmonton GM’s decision to drag young Bobby Ryan into the fray. In a cruel attempt to point out Burke’s failures, Lowe branded Ryan, the second player chosen in the 2005 Draft behind Sidney Crosby, as a “questionable pick.”
Lowe uttered those regrettable words back in July. Burke is now out in Anaheim, taking his one-man sideshow to Toronto, and the 21-year-old Ryan is thriving with the Ducks, earning NHL Rookie of the Month honors for his 11 goals and 16 points in 14 January games. On the season, Ryan has 17 goals and 34 points in 35 games.
Questionable pick? It appears Lowe was misinformed.
Ryan notched five goals and 10 points in 23 games last year for the Ducks and another 21 goals and 49 points in 48 contests for the Iowa Chops of the AHL. The 6-1, 213-pound power forward expected to start the 2008-09 campaign with the big club, but Burke’s salary cap mismanagement left no room on the roster for Ryan, so it was back down to the minors.
“It's tough. Obviously it was emotional,” said Ryan of his early-season demotion. “The conversation was you're good enough to play this level, you've kind of made the team but our hands are tied. So it was certainly tough. I didn't know whether I was coming back into this organization or going to be moved. They told me they would move me if it came down to that.”
Ryan did his best to ignore the trade rumors and focus on hockey. He returned to Iowa with a positive attitude and went to work.
“I think there's two ways you can look at the situation when it happens,” said Ryan. “And obviously it would have been easy to sulk and complain or maybe not even report. But at the same time I was -- I had friends on that team, so I was happy to -- not happy. I was fine going down and putting in the time and the work.
“I had a relationship with the coaches previously as well. So I knew they would help me by doing everything in their power to get me back to the National Hockey League, and I kept my word, and they kept theirs. And it was healthy the whole time.”
In 14 games with the Chops, Ryan put up nine goals and 19 points. Then two things happened. First, Burke bolted for Toronto. Second, injuries hit the big club. The combination paved Ryan’s path back to the Ducks. He wasted little time in making an impact, burying two goals in his second game. Unfortunately, a seven-game goal skid followed, and the whispers started anew. Maybe he still wasn’t ready? But Ryan squelched all that noise with four goals and 12 points over his next 10 games, setting the stage for his January explosion.
“I think obviously I needed to kind of make a statement in some sense of the word,” said Ryan. “And for the month of January to go the way it did was maybe a little extra sweet because of the way I had to start the year. And, like I said, before it's something that I hope to continue into February and through March and April.”
Ryan’s signature performance came January 8 in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The big winger recorded his first career hat trick, capping it off with a spectacular spin-o-rama move around Peter Harrold and Jon Quick. Ryan had arrived.
Despite being blanked his past two outings, Ryan has lit the lamp in nine of the last 14 games. And he’s doing it with modest ice time. He’s averaging 14:44 per night and has only been over 19 minutes twice, including his hat trick when he played a career-high 23:46. Those minutes could start to climb.
“He's starting to gain a little trust in me,” said Ryan of head coach Randy Carlyle. “And obviously with some guys being out he looked to me to fill the void a little bit. I've certainly enjoyed learning from him.
“And I realize he's a knowledgeable coach, having played the game as well. I've enjoyed it. And I was able to click with a bunch of different guys, I played a little bit with Getzlaf, that went well. And he makes it easy on people around him. I was the beneficiary of some good plays.”
Getzlaf has definitely stepped up this season, barging his way into the NHL scoring race with 18 goals and 61 points. Ryan, who skated last game with Teemu Selanne and Andrew Ebbett, has feasted alongside Getzlaf on the power play, ringing up eight goals and 15 points on the man-advantage.
“I filled in on the power play and with Teemu out as well I was the guy they were looking forward to get the shot to,” said Ryan. “When those guys, not just Getzlaf, but Scottie and Pronger, pushing the puck out there, it's easy to get open and finish off one-timers, that's for sure. They make it easy on all of you.
“But it's been nice. Obviously those guys are back. Somewhat the role changes a little bit. But I'm excited about the rest of the way in.”
Ryan banged up his knee a bit against Buffalo, but he hopes to be in the lineup tonight when the Water Fowl visit the Wild. He’s determined to help the Ducks build on their two-game win streak, and he also has his eye on the rookie scoring race. His 17 goals lead all first-year skaters, and his 34 points rank him second, four behind Chicago’s Kris Versteeg. Make no mistake; Ryan wants the title.
“Yeah, absolutely. It would be nice to be the top at the end of the year. Obviously, like you said, when I was called up mid-November it was certainly something that hadn't crossed my mind. But, still, there's plenty of other things on my radar outside of that.
“But, like I said, it would be nice, and I’m certainly going to try to make a push for it.”
Take that, Kevin Lowe.