The Jail Phone: When’s Bobby Ryan Gonna Get It Going (Out of Ottawa)?

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Automated voice:
You have received a collect call from an inmate at an Internet Detention Facility. This call will be recorded and blogged for cultural purposes. To accept the charges please press 4 – 2 – 0 – 6 – 9 – 6 – 9 followed by the pound sign.

Luke:
*lets out 14 second long sigh, dials 4206969#, whispers “nice” under his breath*

James:
Luke, bon système a toi, listen, I need to calmly and casually talk to you about Bobby Ryan.
Before you muted me on Twitter you may have caught me defending ol’ hickory ham Bobby from time to time in the past. I would get a rise out of pointing out that he would get slammed if he fell into a scoring slump but would never be praised when he’d get hot and in some cases even float the team offensively for games at a time. This, of course, indicated to me that he’d entered dangerous territory with many fans: The Jason Spezza Memorial You Can’t Win Zone. As the highest paid player on the team, it seemed for many fans that if he wasn’t at his best, well, in the words of whatever Joe Pesci is called in Casino, “The dollars. It’s always the fucking dollars.” My view was that if he wasn’t scoring his expected 30 goals but was at least contributing, I could deal with it.
Well, I’m here to announce today that I’m off that.

I once etched in the marble of Dave Cameron’s Head Coach Mausoleum, “He Played Mark Borowiecki As A Forward More Than Once (More Than Once).” That event was my line in the sand with him. I don’t claim to know nothin’ about no coachings. It’s insanely hard and there’s usually a lot going on behind the scenes that influences decisions that fans are not privy to BUT…how do you not put Binghamton’s best or even just most positionally sound forward in that slot over the team’s worst defenseman who admitted he hadn’t played forward since high school? Like, what is the farm system even for then? Also, fuck you.

Well, after weeks of invisibility, something happened against Dallas that I will likely be unable to forgive: Dion Phaneuf Tied Bobby Ryan In Points. Dion Phaneuf. On a shorthanded goal no less. Come on, man. This would be an unnerving experience in November and here we are past the All Star Break and approaching mid-February. Imagine if on that fateful day when Ryan was traded here that I traveled back in time to tell that guy who did a cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York would be president of the United States and also that you’d soon find Zack Smith or even Ryan Dzingel to be more valuable (or even noticeable) contributors to the team than Bobbito?

Luke:
Imagine tying those two disturbing threads together by mentioning that Bobby Ryan is also a huge fan of President Home Alone. We live in troubled times.

Like you, I also want to mention my Defending Bobby Ryan bonafides. Bobby never really had a chance of being given a fair shake and was always going to be beset by the twin narratives of “We gave up too much to get him” (false) and “We gave him too much to keep him” (Insufficient information, but my dude has to make some changes). Even though Bobbington Q. Ryan’s been a streaky guy since he got to Ottawa, but he’s also improved his production each year. He went from 100th in scoring to 75th in scoring to 60th in scoring over the past 3 years. Those are the sensible 1st line winger numbers of a first line winger. My time defending The Bobberino was always predicated on the idea that the expectations of the fanbase were ridiculous and everyone just had to chill out and realize that my guy had put up the same number of points as Logan Couture, Brad Marchand, and Patrick Hornqvist over the past 3 season.

Where are we at now? Dion Phaneuf tied with Robert Ryan in points, you say? Is Dion just having a particularly good year? Let’s see what kind of company His Bobishness is keeping this year:

bryanpoints

*takes stage at karaoke night*

What are thoooooooooose, what are thoooooooooose, what are thooooooooooooose?

Not only has Corn on the Bob had a bad year statistically, but he also looks wild disinterested on the ice. Erik Karlsson’s has given Bobara Ann (like the Beach Boys song) the business a few times for dogging it back to his own zone on defense. That’s not a good look. If Erik Karlsson so much as blocked me on Twitter, I’d delete my account. I can’t imagine how bad I’d feel if EK actually yelled at me in person for not doing my job well enough.

K. Now that the elephant in the room has now been fully illuminated from all angles by our Woodward-and-Bernsteinian investigation, (Follow up question: WHY ARE WE THE ONLY ONES TALKING ABOUT THIS???), I’d like to mention a few other things:

1) Bobby Ryan’s been through some stuff this past year.
2) Bobby Ryan still might be going through some stuff?
3) I think Bobby Ryan’s politics are terrible. I don’t really have a follow up to that, I just wanted to make it clear.

Having a kid and losing a parent are the sort of things that can happen away from work that can really drastically affect your performance. There was also the weird time earlier this season where Ryan was healthy scratched for an odd reason that neither he, nor Guy Boucher, were willing to comment on publicly. The fact that the Ottawa media is still mostly treating Ryan with kid gloves tells me that they may know something we don’t about why The Bobster is not looking or playing like himself this year. I’m not saying it’s an excuse, but there might be an explanation in there somewhere.

We agree that The Bobblet’s level of play is unacceptable this year, so let me ask you this: what do you want to do about it? Are you at the “Trade this guy for magic beans or someone else’s bad contract” stage yet? Are you willing to give him another season to turn it around? Do you think he even can turn it around? We all have feelings, but when the dust of our heart settles, what must be done?

James:
I think you bring up fair points and I too have thought of these things. It has not been a great time for Bobby personally. If I may apply a more clinical lens to the subject, I will reiterate my concern thusly: After much searching I think Boucher and The System are here to stay and if there is one forward not named Chris Neil that I do not think fits in with The System it is Bobby Ryan.

If, in layman’s terms, I could sum up the game that Boucher has brought to Ottawa: First on puck in the defensive zone, hard along the boards, defensive in the neutral zone, shoot first mentality in the offensive zone. In other words, playoff hockey.
In our most private discussions Luke, you have cited Eric Staal and Thomas Vanek as similar cases of players who had their rep enter the turlet and turned it around in their “post-prime” years. Signed through 2048 with his current stock at a career low, playing on the 3rd line, I VVVVVVV much hope for such a turn around. Where we’re at tho: Even if Ry Guy absolutely wrecked shop and went point per game for the rest of the season he’d hit last season’s point total. We know he’s not going to do that but even if he did, do you think it would take a complete revamp in his playing style to regain Boucher’s trust? Is that more inconceivable than the PPG thing? I’d like to see him succeed but when you see an unheralded 7th round pick like Ryan Dzingel who’s more or less in his rookie season come in and take on the same role and best Bobby at it kind of gets me thinking, could we just get Patrick Eaves to come in and do this shit for a million bananas? It could be wise to free up some money for a slightly better Bobby Ryan. We’ve already possibly lost MacArthur [I love you] for good can we really afford to let another top 6 forward “figure it out”?

Luke:
It’s true that hope is not lost for Calvin and Bobbs, but for every Vanek and Staal there must be a Mike Richards. I think that Ryan’s at a tipping point here. I thought he might have another season or two in him before this happened, but instead it appears that Bob’s Your Uncle has started his “Noticeable Decline” years at the age of 29. Is my guy gonna hit the gym, get some core power, work on the old man strength, and turn into a grindy grinder with good hands who is cash money in the shootout, or is he gonna check out his own CapFriendly page and figure “I’m gonna keep getting cheques for another 5 years so I’m good.”? (Holy god, 5 years? I really wasn’t prepared to have this conversation until 2019 at the EARLIEST.) I hope for the former.

With respect to how Ryan fits into The System, I agree that he has not looked like Guy Boucher’s favourite player at times. However, I think The High Priest of The System may just be starting to come around. After trailing guys like Pyatt and Pageau in icetime for most of the year, Ryan’s finally getting minutes that could be described as “Top 6”. Also Boucher was asked about Bobby Ryan last night, and had nothing but good things to say about him. It might not be too late for an Old Bob to learn a New System.

Still, things are definitively at the point where if the opportunity to move Ryan to another team presents itself, it must be considered extremely seriously. I’ve always said that Bobby Ryan would be difficult to replace via the open market, but this year’s version of Bobby Ryan looks wild easy to replace. If you could trade a Struggling Bobby Ryan + Cody Ceci for A Struggling Gabriel Landeskog, I’d pull the trigger on that faster than a nine year old with a sugar high at laser tag. While earlier this year I’d argued that the Senators should not protect Bobby Ryan during the expansion draft, I can now report that I am off that line of thought entirely, even though the idea of losing Ryan for nothing still strikes me as extremely gross. If I was Pierre Dorion trying to swing a deal, I’d be casually mentioning that all Bobby needs is a change of scenery and hoping that someone agrees. It might be true. Hell, he might only need time to work out whatever it is hangs over his game like a dark cloud. However, the consequences of keeping Ryan and being wrong are far graver than the consequences of losing Ryan and being wrong. Time to make like Better Homes and Gardens and hedge.

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