Michael Ryder back to the Habs

So the Habs traded Eric Cole for Michael Ryder and a third round pick yesterday.

Michael Ryder is on his way back to Montreal.

This was a brilliant move. The Habs cleared up cap space, got rid of a guy who simply did not have the effort this season and had a no-trade clause, and ended up with an extra pick in a deep draft.

During the game against the Senators on Monday night, I thought Cole was a healthy scratch until he rang a shot off the crossbar late in the second period. I had no idea he was even playing until that point.

Cole didn’t want to be in Montreal, so he’s gone.

But I’m especially excited Ryder is coming back to the Habs. He’s always been one of my favourite players. He’s a Newfie playing on my favourite team. How could he not be?

I have a few fond memories of Ryder in Montreal his first go around. One was a game that made it to the top 10 all-time Habs games DVD. On Feb. 19, 2008, the Habs were down 5-0 to the New York Rangers. when the came back to win 6-5 in a shootout. Ask most Habs fans what they remember about that game, and most of them will mention Saku Koivu’s shootout winner.

What’s often forgotten is who sparked the comeback. Michael Ryder scored two goals before the second period was over to make it 5-2. And in the third, with the score 5-3, he took a shot that bounced off Mark Streit’s leg to bring the game to a 5-4. He was the first star of the game, as he finished with two goals and an assist and was a +2 (second highest on the team that night). That comeback doesn’t happen without Ryder.

Another big game of his occurred on April 7, 2007. The Habs needed a win to make the playoffs, and they were playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ryder had a hat trick and an assist in the second period. In total, he took seven shots. The rest of the team didn’t fare so well. Chris Higgins was the only other goal scorer as the Habs lost 6-5, and missed the playoffs. The Habs chased the Leafs starting goalie out of the game, and then proceeded to take only six shots on the backup Jean-Sebastion Aubin in 30 minutes of action. Ryder and Higgins showed up to play. The rest of the team didn’t, and it cost them a playoff spot.

Sure, sure, you say. I’m only remembering specific games. He wasn’t that great, you may think.

But the stats tell another story. Remember how excited Habs fans were last year when Max Pacioretty scored 30 goals? Ryder did that twice, and had another season of 25 goals. He averaged 15 powerplay goals a season with the Habs. Yet he only played about 16 minutes a game.

Most Habs fans remember his final season with the team, when he scored 14 goals and 31 points in a full season. But then coach Guy Carbonneau wasn’t a fan of Ryder, and cut his ice time (three minutes less per game), and had him playing on the third and fourth line, with players such as Bryan Smolinski.

I think he was unfairly criticized in Montreal, especially in his last season.

Ryder is a goal scorer. He needs to play, and he needs quality linemates. He’s not the greatest defensive player, although he’s unfairly maligned for his play in his own zone.

But he hustles, and he shoots. That was what I liked about him the most. During a period when the Habs would cycle the puck and not shoot very often, Ryder understood the only way to score was to put the puck on the net. In his first three years with the Habs, he was one of the top two shooters on the team every season.

Ryder is older now. But he can still score (35 goals last year) and still likes to put pucks at the net (averaging 2.5 shots a game last season).

The Canadiens don’t need him to be a saviour. But as long as he’s a little better than what Cole was, then it’s a win for the Habs. And based on his track record, I think he’ll do just fine in Montreal.

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