Bobby Ryan ‘absolutely loves’ being a Detroit Red Wing, understands if Yzerman trades him

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Being traded doesn’t weigh on Bobby Ryan. Helping the Detroit Red Wings be more competitive does.

The veteran forward has proven to be a savvy signing by general manager Steve Yzerman, adding production and veteran leadership. Ryan is one of multiple players on expiring contracts who Yzerman could flip at the trade deadline for assets to help the rebuild, but for now, Ryan is focused on how he can help the current team.

“I think in our last eight or nine games, our brand of hockey has been a lot better,” Ryan said. “We’ve gotten a way from it a few, but that’s a team that’s growing. We are starting to put some things in place that can help us be way more competitive. We are starting to stay the course a little bit better.”

Yzerman signed Ryan, who turns 34 in March, to a one-year, $1 million deal in October. Ryan had four goals his first three games, then went through a stretch where he was creating scoring chances but not getting results. In Thursday’s home win over the Nashville Predators, his joy over helping fellow veteran Sam Gagner score his first two goals of the season matched the smile on Gagner’s face.

“I think because we are here a couple hours a day, people don’t realize it weighs on us all the time,” Ryan said. “It’s something we go home and think about and how can we do this and how can we do that. For him being out a few games and having that response, now you hope the confidence for him goes through the roof.”

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Ryan’s two assists put him at 11 points after 21 games. He’s certain to garner interest from Stanley Cup contenders as the April 12 deadline approaches; others who could pique interest, to varying degrees, include Gagner, Marc Staal, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Jonathan Bernier. There hasn’t been any conversation between Ryan and Yzerman yet, but it’s a scenario in which both sides could benefit.

“When I signed, I knew that was going to be a possibility,” Ryan said. “If I came in and played well, it would be a win-win situation. Possibly for me it’d be an opportunity to go somewhere and be in a playoff race, and for the team to get an asset. I understand the business side of that thing.

“The only conversation I had with Steve way when was we would have a conversation about that as the time came. I’ve heard the whispers. You take it with a grain of salt until Steve or your agent comes you and tells you exactly what’s happening.”

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It’s unusual for players to talk about the trade deadline 20-odd games into a season, but that’s the reality of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Ryan put it, “it’s such weird year.” But though he hasn’t been around the Wings for that long — he moved here in November with his wife, Danielle, their daughter, Riley and son, Chase — the family has relished the experience.

“We have loved every single moment of it,” Ryan said. “feel fortunate I’ve gotten to play here, wear the Winged Wheel. I love the group, love the coaching. Everything about it has been an incredible experience, so if there is an opportunity for me to come back in the summer, it will be a conversation that Steve will have with me. And I don’t know what his plans are, but it will be very, very high on my list. I absolutely love it here.”

It’s been a nice change for Ryan after a turbulent last season that included treatment for substance abuse. He handles travel restrictions — players are pretty much supposed to stay in their hotel rooms other than going for walks — by reading. He’s working his way through the Art of Manliness’ 100 books every man should read (he’s already read Plato’s “Republic,” “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck and “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy), though he’s taking a break to dive into Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” (“That’s not on that list, but everything I’ve read about it it seems like it’s going to be a great read,” Ryan said.)

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The Wings have gone through their own ups and downs this season, starting 2-2, losing five guys to the pandemic, enduring an eight-game winless skid. The hope was they wouldn’t be as bad as last season, and while the record doesn’t show it, they have played better defensively and with more structure. From what Ryan has seen, the guys who are key to the rebuild, a group that is headlined by Dylan Larkin, understands it’s going to take time before the Wings will be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers.

“I would say there’s a very quiet resolve within the guys that know they are going to be here for a while, that they are building something, that the results aren’t immediate,” Ryan said. “They are not getting down every day. They come back to work. That starts with Larks. I think he has guys all pulling on the same rope in the same direction, and that speaks a lot to him. He’s not a rah-rah guy, he just comes in and leads by example, his work ethic, the way he is around the room, the way he handles himself. Guys follow that.

“They are committed to the process of getting better every day and that they are going to be here for the turnaround. I am excited for them, I really am. It’s just a great group of young guys in that room.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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