Hello, Ryan. You were here last season as a free agent, and at the time we weren't positive if you would be returning. You did, of course, signing a deal close to the league minimum to fill in a depth role that would be heavy on the penalty killing. We had hoped that you would be a small part of this team taking the next step.
That didn't happen. The team did worse, and this was a bit of a tough season for you. That's probably as much on us as anyone. I think it's definitely fair to say that you were a bit of a victim of our loss in depth, going from playing with Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine to Jarret Stoll and Chris Porter. All due respect, there's a noticeable drop-off in skill, and we didn't have the option of bringing in depth from the minors or via trade.
We could go through the possession numbers (they were pretty bad) at length, but it might've been inevitable. The blueline wasn't quite as good at moving the puck and we started you more in the defensive zone than ever before. I think that if we could've fixed those issues around you, things would've looked a lot better than they did.
Perhaps more disappointing was your showing on the penalty kill. After years of being one of the very best penalty killers in the league on the defensive side of the puck, your game slipped just a bit.. We were counting on you to fill that role when we had you return over Kyle Brodziak, and that didn't work out as well as it could've.
But one thing we really like about you is that you seemed to bring more offense to the table than Porter or Stoll. Not a ton, but we've seen a few times that when you get to the net, you can be aggressive and make a few things happen. The Stadium Series game really sticks out in my mind as you at your best. It's a nice bonus we'll take a look at when we're making our decisions this offseason.
Expectations for Next Season
Again, we're not sure if you will be back in Minnesota. We've just undergone a change at coach, and we'll be in communication with Bruce Boudreau as well as the rest of the front office as to how we want to proceed in shaking this team up. We'll also be monitoring the development of our older prospects, such as Tyler Graovac, Zach Mitchell, and Grayson Downing. It's possible they'll be ready for a fourth-line role with this team.
Should you return, we suspect that it'll be in a similar capacity to where you're at now: a 12th/13th forward who can slot into the lineup, contribute a little bit on the score sheet, defend, and man the penalty kill. It's not a super glamorous role, but it's one that you filled very well in 2014-15 for us. If you can get back to that, we'd love what you bring.
1. Faceoffs- We really want versatility in our lower lines, so being able to play center as well as the wing will make you a more attractive candidate to return to the club.
2. Keep in touch with the youth- We're trying to change the dynamics of the room to create more unity. I think Bruce is someone who can do that, but that doesn't mean that we can't lay the foundation for that this summer. We'll want the players we bring back to be willing to take a greater mentorship role, especially as guys like Alex Tuch and Mario Lucia enter the league. Remember- you don't have to wear a letter to do that.