Over the next month, Defending Big D will be counting down the most important "impact" players for the upcoming season for the Dallas Stars. Starting from the player we believe will have the smallest influence on this season to the player with the most, we'll countdown from #23 all the way to the top as we get ready for what we hope will be a very promising season.
Michael Ryder comes to Dallas as a hockey player with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. While his chip might not be as large as that belonging to Sheldon Souray, there's no doubt that Ryder will be a man on a mission this season to prove that he is still one of the better playmaking forwards in the NHL. Ryder is coming off of three seasons in with the Boston Bruins, the last of which saw him face some personal disappointments including reduced playing time and criticisms due to a perceived underachievement in production.
During a five season span from 2003 to 2009, Ryder was a prolific right wing who hit the 50-point mark in four out of five years -- including 53 points in his first of three seasons with Boston. After scoring 27 goals in 2008-09, Ryder faced raised expectations coupled with a reduction in playing time. Last season, he saw his time on the power play diminish and the past two seasons he scored just 74 points in 161 games. This led to some frustration from both player and team, along with the fans as well, and Ryder left for free agency and found the Dallas Stars calling his number with a two-year contract worth $3.5 million per year.
In Dallas, Ryder will immediately find not only more playing time but a much more significant role as well. After being relegated to the third line in Boston, there's a good chance that Ryder will team up on the right wing with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow on what we are -- right now -- calling the top line for the Stars. He'll also be given a significant role on the power play and be tasked with adding firepower to a unit that was woefully ineffective last season.
It all adds up to the potential for Michael Ryder to have a significant impact on this team, which is exactly why he was signed in the first place.
Ryder is perhaps the most important free agent signing of the summer, arguably right in line with Vernon Fiddler. His ability to create scoring chances from the right wing as well as actually finish from the wing is something the Stars haven't had from a right-handed player since the days of Jere Lehtinen.
It's well known that Ribeiro operates best with a right-handed shot on his wing, especially one with the ability to finish on the plays he's creating. Last season, Ribeiro had 71 points with a revolving door on his wing. It was felt that Adam Burish might fulfill that role early in the season, but he found a niche on the third line and Jamie Benn worked some with Ribeiro.
Now, with Ribeiro stepping into that top center role, Michael Ryder comes to Dallas in order to help the Stars replace the lost production that went the way of Brad Richards. It's hopeful that Ryder will provide a dynamic from that wing that Ribeiro has yet to have during his time in Dallas and there's a good chance that both players approach career numbers if they start to click -- not to mention having Brenden Morrow on the line provides yet another dynamic to what could be an incredibly versatile line.
While we can talk about the impact that Ryder might have, leave no doubt that the Dallas Stars must have a significant contribution from Ryder this season to find success. Unlike Souray, who can do anything positive at all and it will be counted as a significant addition to the team, the Stars signed Ryder to be one of the best players on this team. He's a key component to what the Stars will be doing this season and will be instrumental in providing the offense this team is going to need in order to get over this postseason hump hanging over the Stars for three years now.
Ryder is going to be asked to not only provide offense on that top line with Ribeiro, but to get it done as well on the power play. The extra man unit has struggled significantly for a few years now and the Stars must find a way to not only avoid taking a step backwards without Richards, but to actually improve and get better on the power play. Ryder's ability to quickly generate points while on the power play is one of his best assets as a forward and is one of the prime reasons he came to Dallas.
Finally, Ryder is going to bring a needed level of leadership and postseason experience to the locker room. Coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Bruins, Ryder was instrumental in the Cup victory with eight goals and 17 points during the 25-game run. He's appeared in the postseason in every season since 2007 and has shown a knack for scoring big goals whenever his team does get to that fabled second season.
The hope is that, along with what players like Robidas, Morrow, Ribeiro, Ott and others bring to the locker room, Ryder adds another level of experience and hunger. He's been there, and he's been there recently, but he was far from the playing time many felt he deserved. That's the exact sort of hunger the Stars need.