When you think about it, Alex Ovechkin just might have saved Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray from making one of the biggest blunders of his managerial career.
Stay with us on this one. In a Nov. 1 game against the Ducks – how’s that for irony? –then-Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau introduced Ovechkin to the pine in the dying minutes of the game, prompting a confrontation between the two men that resulted in Ovechkin referring to Boudreau as something rhyming with ‘Pat Puck.’
Now, if you subscribe to the theory that the confrontation with Ovechkin spelled the beginning of the end for Boudreau in Washington, the first domino to fall in a demise that culminated with his firing Monday, then you can start to connect the dots. (This corner, by the way, doesn’t agree with the notion there was a major rift between Ovechkin and his coach and that the Capitals were ultimately playing to have Boudreau fired, but we can appreciate there are a lot of people out there who do.)
Four weeks after that game, Murray fired Ducks coach Randy Carlyle and you’d have to think the availability of a coach of Boudreau’s pedigree had a lot to do with it. After all, it’s not often coaches get fired hours after their team wins a game. But the Ducks felt they needed a coach with a velvet glove (Boudreau) instead of a spiked club (Carlyle) because the Ducks players were in that abyss where they would no longer respond to a taskmaster. So in comes the players’ coach, who four days earlier was drummed out of Washington because his approach of treating players like responsible and accountable adults wasn’t working and needed to be replaced by the aforementioned club bearer-type coach. The mindset of the NHL millionaire never ceases to amaze.
To get his team out of its downward spiral, Murray felt he needed to either fire his coach or trade Bobby Ryan and he opted for the former, taking Ryan off the trade market just hours after making the Boudreau-for-Carlyle transaction. And that was a very good call on Murray’s part. It has nothing to do with Carlyle’s competence as a coach. But if Murray felt he had to do one or the other, choosing to keep Ryan over Carlyle was the right move.
Not sure what others think, but from this corner the prospect of dealing a talent such as Ryan away so early in his career has Cam Neely-from-Vancouver-to-Boston written all over it. In his previous three seasons in the NHL, Ryan scored exactly 100 goals (31, 35 and 34) and his point totals trended upward each season. So suddenly the Ducks were poised to trade him after one subpar quarter season?
Ryan is not the kind of player easily found. To be sure, there are players who have enjoyed more productive careers so far and were chosen well after Ryan went second overall in 2005 - most notably Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny – but players of Ryan’s ilk tend to take a little longer to develop. At 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, Ryan has the pedigree of an elite power forward. For a man of his size, he has the capacity to take you out of your seat with his 1-on-1 moves, as evidenced by this clip, or this one. He has an enormous amount of poise with the puck, is just as dangerous as a set-up man as he is a scorer and possesses a terrific shot. Sure, he has issues with skating and consistency, but so did Dave Andreychuk, and look how he turned out.
Murray actually cautioned that even though Ryan is off the market, it would not preclude him from making a deal involving Ryan or any other player if he thought it would improve the Ducks. In this corner’s humble opinion, if that deal did not include an established roster player, a promising prospect and a high draft pick, it’s not a deal worth considering. Because if you trade Ryan, you do so knowing there’s a chance he’ll play 1,000 games in the NHL and score somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 goals.
Now if the Ducks ever find themselves in a position where they have to trade Ryan because they can no longer accommodate his $5.1-million cap hit or they get an offer that is simply too good to refuse, that’s one thing. But to trade him just to shake things up on a team that has been a colossal disappointment would be shortsighted and foolhardy.
And it would have the potential to be one of those deals that people talk about for years to come - and not in a good way if you’re the Anaheim Ducks.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column.
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