It doesn’t get much more disappointing for an athlete than having a chance to represent one’s country on the Olympic stage and then failing to make the cut. That’s what happened to Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators last month, and his failure was underscored by criticism by his own selection committee that reached public discourse via ESPN.
The words now wrap around him like a rope from an anchor: “I think he skates sleepy” … "He's a passive guy” … “He can't spell intense."
Ryan had a chance to cut the line after the Jan. 1 revelation of the U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team bound for Sochi. To make the naysayers look ill-informed. To flip that failure into something resoundingly positive.
Instead, he posted a putrid month of offensive hockey. He whimpered when he should have roared.
Since Jan. 1, when the U.S. team was announced following the Winter Classic, Ryan has posted 2 goals and 4 assists through Feb. 1, skating to a plus-1. He had a .057 shooting percentage for the 13-game stretch on 33 shots.
Two of those points came in a Jan. 30 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, which Ryan followed with a minus-3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What Ryan hasn’t done had been underscored by what Marty St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Team Canada’s most prominent snub, has accomplished since the team was named on Jan. 7: 8 goals and 7 assists in 12 games.
The snub of St. Louis lit a fire under the winger, resulting in a 4-goal effort against the San Jose Sharks. The snub of Ryan seems to have pushed him into an abyss.
But did it really? There’s a counterargument being made about Ryan’s output, both by the player and the media. From the Ottawa Citizen, Ryan said:
“No, I’m not getting enough chances,” he said. “The pucks just aren’t finding me in certain areas. I’ve always had a lull every year and it’s always been around this time. I’m just a little far away from the puck. I’ve got to be a little more reactive towards the puck a little bit.
“When you’re pressing like that and the stick feels like it weighs 30 pounds, you start to cheat a little bit and you start to make plays that wouldn’t normally try to make or force the issue,” he added. “You’ve got to sit back and be a little more relaxed in that regard.”
Also from the Citizen, a brief history of Ryan’s slumps:
--In 2012-13, he went nine games without a goal from April 3-22 and scored only once during a 16-game span from March 22-21;
--In 2011-12, he endured separate droughts of six games and eight games;
--In 2010-11, he was held goalless for an eight game stretch and a seven game stretch;
--In his rookie season of 2007-08, he went a dozen games between goals.
This is all true, as is the fact that January was his worst month offensively since posting 5 points in 11 games last April and 7 points in 13 games back in Nov. 2011. Slumps happen.
But you know what can bust a slump? Motivation. Drive. Defiance. Things that Ryan should have embodied when the guy who drafted him was quoted as saying his lack of competitive intensity cost him a spot on the Olympic team.
Instead, Ryan did the worst thing he could do in the wake of that decision: Prove Brian Burke right.
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- Bobby Ryan