“But I’ll learn from the playoffs, the things that I did a little different, maybe try to do a little more in the regular season, like getting prepared and stuff like that. It’s a lot easier to get motivated for games in the playoffs than the regular season sometimes.”
The above words were spoken by Bruins winger Michael Ryder on break-up day 2010, after Boston completed its historic collapse against Philadelphia in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
When a player who’s expected to put 20 to 25 goals on the score sheet falls short and talks about tough luck, hitting posts and getting robbed by goaltenders, you can be confident that a little more hard work will pay off in another season. But when a player admits he finds it difficult to get motivated 82 times out of 365 days in the year, that’s a problem that might not be fixable.
Michael Ryder’s fresh start officially begins tonight, as he is scheduled to skate for the Bruins in a preseason game against Florida in Rochester, N.Y. If Ryder found it hard to pump himself up for the regular season, it’s hard to imagine what he’ll be like in an exhibition contest, especially when you consider he hasn’t really changed his tune about what he was doing right and wrong last season, as his goal total dropped from 27 to 18. When asked about how he would change his approach to this season compared to last, or alter his preparation on game days, Ryder told TheBruinsBlog.net he won’t alter anything. And then he fell back on his usual personal philosophy of success.
“For me, I know I’ve got to shoot the puck and not think a lot,” he said earlier this week. “That’s when everything falls together. I’ve got to work hard and try to compete and the goals will come.”
Trying to compete won’t cut it, not after he became the Bruins’ poster child for offensive ineptitude and lackadaisical play. He has to compete in order to not only score goals but contribute when the puck just isn’t bouncing his way. And it wouldn’t hurt to maybe think a little bit about how he’s going to meet the expectations that are thrust on him by the fact that he’s a $4 million forward on a team starving for offense.
I hate to judge how hard a player is working by what I see from nine levels above the ice or even 50 yards from a practice rink. Head coach Claude Julien earlier this week, in response to a fan’s question at the State of the Bruins town hall, assured the crowd that Ryder has always worked his hardest and should be able to turn his luck around this year with an improved supporting cast and continued determination. Julien has always been in Ryder’s corner while coaching the winger at every level and with two NHL clubs. It does him no good to bad mouth such a key player this early in a new season, especially a player whose confidence seems to go with the tides.
However, it must make Julien a little worried to hear little regret from Ryder. You can’t change things without doing things different. Maybe Ryder just doesn’t want to reveal his secrets, but he probably owes it to everyone around the organization to make assurances that at least 82 times he’s going to compete this year since he admitted that wasn’t the case last winter.
Even with the emergence of some of the Bruins’ youth this camp, it seems that the team is committed to Michael Ryder as an integral part of its offense. For Ryder to reward the Bruins’ loyalty, he has to make the changes he says he doesn’t have to make and bury some goals at a pace that won’t hold back their championship aspirations.