Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill likes to talk about how one player’s misfortune is another player’s opportunity. That next man up philosophy tends to permeate through all NHL dressing rooms.
Bobby Ryan could be that next man up for the Wings.
Blashill offered an update Monday on the status of forward Jakub Vrana. While in the super secretive world of the NHL it’s always hard to get a straight answer regarding the status of injured players, reading between the lines, Blashill’s prognosis for Vrana didn’t sound promising.
“I would say that Jakub has had an issue that kind of flared up in practice,” Blashill said. “That’s all I really want to talk about it.”
He did have more to say, though.
“We have the potential of starting the year without Vrana,” Blashill admitted.
Ryan An Option
If Vrana is going to miss the beginning of the season, Ryan is certainly one of the guys who could be asked to step into that void. He does show a resume of offensive productivity. Granted, at the age of 34, those pages are beginning to yellow and the ink is fading. Nonetheless, when it comes to putting the puck in the net at the NHL level, Ryan is the one extra body in Wings camp who has been there and done that.
Ryan recorded four successive 30-goal seasons for the Anaheim Ducks. He was a two-time 20-goal scorer for the Ottawa Senators. He scored seven times in 33 games for the Wings last season. That translates into an 18-goal campaign over a full 82 games.
“I think my body of work speaks for itself,” Ryan said.
— Jenn (@JDReed18) September 27, 2021
In camp on a pro tryout, Ryan’s chances of earning a spot with the Wings were appearing to be slim.
“When I look at the lineup here, I’m realistic,” Ryan said. “The top-six is pretty well spoken for, as well it should be. Those guys have earned that opportunity.”
That was before Vrana was injured and Tyler Bertuzzi revealed his aversion to vaccines.
If Vrana is out to begin the season, Ryan would slot comfortably into that role. There was also an interesting development at practice on Monday. Bertuzzi was granted a maintenance day. Ryan skated in his spot on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina.
Some Red Wings fans will be dismayed that it isn’t 2020 first round pick Lucas Raymond who is stepping into these slots. In order for Raymond to gain such a spot, he’ll need to be brilliant in the preseason, much like Larkin was in 2015 when he forced the Wings to keep him.
Raymond will get his chance during preseason play but won’t be gifted anything over a proven commodity.
“It helps the fact that I thought he played pretty good hockey for us last year,” Blashill said of Ryan. “I know him as a person. Let’s make sure we’re giving Bobby a good look.
“Through exhibition season, we’ll give Bobby a good look and we’ll go from there.”
Ready To Fill Any Role
Beggars can’t be choosers. Long-term Ryan recognizes his opportunity in Detroit is likely to be in a more limited role than in his previous NHL stints. And if that means changing his game to stay in the game, he’s all in.
“I would like to broaden my game,” Ryan explained. “To be a little more physical, to be a little more demanding of the puck below the circles and holding it and ragging it instead of taking opportunities to create. I won’t change much but my patience level with the puck and things like that have to be a little better and I have to err on the side of caution at times.
“Just be a little more patient in those areas for me, because your leash isn’t the same as a top-six player.
“I’m OK with that. That’s part of the process as you get older and start to play different roles within the organization or the team.”
If he finds a role with Detroit, it could very well be as the extra forward. Ryan could be someone who serves as a veteran safety valve to fill for injuries and to step in for Bertuzzi when he can’t play in Canada.
“I came in with the expectations that I would be a bottom-six player or maybe even the 13th forward,” Ryan said.
With the developments so far through a week of training camp, that role could be coming Ryan’s way.