Back in 1998, the Montreal Canadiens drafted Bonavista, Newfoundland’s own Michael Ryder in the eighth round of the NHL draft. He came up through the Habs’ farm system, in the ECHL and AHL, before debuting with the big club in 2003-04. Following the 2004-05 lockout, when he played in Sweden, he came back and played three more years with Montreal. He had two fantastic seasons–55 points in 2005-06 and then 58 the following season–but his production slumped hard in 2007-08 and the Habs decided not to renew his contract.
That’s how he found himself on the other side of a classic NHL rivalry, trading le Tricolor for the Black and Gold with the Boston Bruins. Actually, part of that swap is due to familiarity. Bruins coach Claude Julien knew Ryder well thanks to time he spent coaching him in junior, the AHL and even with the Canadiens. As someone who had also made the switch from one side of Bruins-Canadiens to the other, Julien knew Ryder well and that may have contributed to his decision to sign a three-year deal.
In his first season as a Bruin, Ryder put up 53 points and faced the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, where Boston swept them out and he scored as many goals as there were games in the series. His production declined in his second Boston campaign, but then ticked back up again in 2010-11. Also in 2010-11, he added eight goals and nine assists in the Bruins’ long playoff run en route to the Stanley Cup–which he then dropped on his day with the Cup over the summer. Well, sort of. It was just on a table where the fold-out legs weren’t totally secured and Lord Stanley was fine in the end.
But then he became part of the Dallas Stars on a two-year deal, scoring a team-leading 35 goals and standing fourth overall for the Stars in terms of points. This season, he’d already put up six goals and eight assists and was leading the team in scoring before the surprising trade made on what looked like “what’s old is new again” day in the NHL because there were two big trades of guys back to their old teams. It was time for a reunion for Ryder: back to the home of the Habs, where the torch is thrown from failing hands on to new generations and all.
Ryder has played one game so far with his new-old team and is getting ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening, but it’s really going to get interesting tomorrow night. That’s when he will play his old team the Bruins–in his old home barn. See, when the Bruins and Stars played last season, it was just once and it was in Texas. They wouldn’t have played at all this season had Ryder remained with Dallas.
So in this past week, Ryder has returned to the team that drafted him, perhaps while wearing the diamond-encrusted Stanley Cup champion ring given to him by their biggest rival (or perhaps not) and now he is going to face the other side of the rivalry, his other former team, in just a day’s time.
Michael Ryder truly has gone there and back again–and it will be interesting to see what happens when he revisits the Bruins again.