Thursday, February 28, 2013
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Alas, Poor Michael Ryder, We Hardly Knew Ye
Time to blow the lid off this trade.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we scientifically broke down the Dallas Stars' five biggest rivalries. This week, rather than trying to photoshop Glen Gulutzan's head on a kid playing wack-a-mole, we're going to delve deep inside the Michael Ryder-and-a-3rd-for-Erik-Cole Trade. With so much information, disinformation and consternation surrounding the move, it was time to peel back the layers of duplicity and get down to the nitty gritty.
FACT!: Both Ryder and Cole scored 35 goals last season.
The Lie: They are then pretty much the exact same guy.
Tha TRUF: Michael Ryder and Erik Cole are not only pretty much the exact same guy, they are nowhere near the same guy. Ryder is a classic sniper in the mold of Brett Hull or that irritating camper on Unreal Tournament; he picks his spot, stays there until a hapless puck wanders in front of his scope, and fires. Ryder is a finisher, a goal scorer, a sharpshooter. What he is not is a guy who creates his own offense. Without Eriksson or Eakin or Goligoski to dish him the puck, Ryder may as well be sitting on the bench, smirking silently at the assistant coach that dares tell him to backcheck in the defensive zone. And that's where Cole comes in: he's a larger, more rugged two-way player that crashes the crease to make points for himself like a ravenous libertarian beast. The results --career highs of 35 goals, either 26 or 27 assists, and nearly-identical penalty minutes-- were the same, but the methods employed to get to those numbers are as different as habaneros and macaroni.
FACT!: Ryder has 14 points in 19 games, co-leading the team.
The Lie: Ryder's goal-scoring ability will be missed.
Tha TRUF: It's true that snipers and playmakers have a symbiotic relationship that is ultimately necessary for the survival of both. But with so many veteran additions to the top six in Jagr, Whitney and Roy --all of whom have scored 30+ goals in the not-too-distant past-- and the rise of young pure goal scorers like Matt Fraser (who led the AHL in goal scoring over the last two seasons despite being an undrafted nobody) and Reilly Smith (30 goals last year in college, three in limited minutes this season already), a one-dimensional sniper like Ryder suddenly becomes far less of a guy you want hogging top-six minutes. In his last game in Dallas, he was bumped to the third line (a scoring line, but still). He responded with three assists in a demoralizing overtime loss, but the die was cast: even before Whitney returns to the lineup, there simply isn't a spot for Ryder anymore.
FACT!: Cole has a reputation for outstanding leadership.
The Lie: The Stars are bringing him in for a playoff run, where a guy like Cole would be a huge asset.
Tha TRUF: Cole's leadership is a far more valuable asset in another direction: babysitting Newy's kids. Barring another trade, Cole is signed for another two years. Within that time frame, the Stars will call up not one, not two, but three large-bodied power forwards from the minor leagues. Brett Ritchie, Matej Stransky and Alex Chiasson are all tearing up their respective leagues right now, and it won't be long before all three see time at the NHL level. Ritchie's put up 33 goals and 31 assists in 46 games in the OHL; Stransky's put up 37 goals and 39 assists in 62 games in the WHL; Chiasson's scored 12 times and added 19 assists in 47 games for the AHL's #1 team. What sort of leader do you want these guys emulating when they finally do nail down an NHL spot? Big, fast goal scorers often flame out at the pro level because they take the easy way out. Having someone like Cole show 'em the ropes is no different from paying Jagr to mentor Jamie Benn and perhaps three times as important to the long-term health of the franchise.
FACT!: Cole has just 6 points in 19 games.
The Lie: He may replace Ryder on the hybrid 2nd line alongside Eriksson and Roy, but when Whitney returns from injury he'll be bumped down to the checking line.
Tha TRUF: Another trade is obviously in the works, and all signs point to one man/victim: El Capitan. A net-crashing power forward is precisely what the Benn-Jagr top line desperately needs, and Morrow has occasionally been there to cash in on the roughly 15 times a game Benn/Jagr sends a pass through the crease. Unfortunately for Morrow, his days as an effective top line forward are likely over. He can't skate, he can't pivot, he can't stickhandle, and he can't pass. His biggest asset right now is his ability to take abuse in front of the goalie, and he rarely gets a chance to do even that anymore considering that he is virtually 98% guaranteed to turn the puck over if he tries to work for it in the corner. That said, he did score 33 goals two seasons ago, has a long history of toughness, and played a crucial part in sparking the 2010 Canadian Olympic team to man up and start winning games. Toss each of those ingredients into a witch's brew of maple syrup and flappity heads, and you have Brenden Morrow wearing a garish blue jersey by the Ides of March. Cole, a net-crashing sunuvabeesh who can still actually skate and create his own turnovers, will slide naturally into that vacant spot on the top line.