Reuniting Sens' Bobby Ryan, Jason Spezza could end struggles

The Ottawa Senators are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt despite the sudden fall-off of their new star winger, Bobby Ryan. It's time to end Ryan's struggles and put him with the man he was supposed to play with when the season started.

New Ottawa Senators star Ryan has floundered since USA hockey snub

Ottawa Senators' Bobby Ryan, left, and Jason Spezza, arrived in training camp expecting to be linemates, but they never developed chemistry. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Bobby Ryan was supposed to be Jason Spezza’s new wingman.

After little time to click, the pair was broken up and Ryan was shifted to a line with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur.

Fans saw the soon-to-be 27-year-old light it up with 36 points in his first 41 games, but his season has taken a downward spiral.

Ottawa Senators' Bobby Ryan got off to a hot start this season but has cooled off considerably in the new year. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
On Jan. 1, the US Olympic hockey team was announced with Ryan’s name suspiciously absent. To make matters worse, two American sports writers published harsh criticism on Ryan made by hockey executives who were part of the decision.

His response on the ice has left a lot to be desired.

In 17 games since the decision, Ryan has just six points and he’s no longer on pace to score 30 goals. In the last four games, he has no points with a minus-five rating.

Time for a Spezza reunion

Ryan’s struggles can’t solely be blamed on the Olympic snub. The chemistry with his linemates has fizzled and to make matters worse, Turris and MacArthur actually heated up in January while Ryan floundered.

But there could be a logical solution to change things up: reunite Spezza and Ryan.

It’s another cost-effective internal answer that could end Senators’ general manager Bryan Murray’s search for a new wingman for Spezza. In other words, it’s a budget win.

Remember when Murray sought a puck-moving defenceman? Cody Ceci was the internal answer that also saved Eugene Melnyk some dough.

Bobby Ryan’s 2013-14 stats

This season 2013 2014
Games 4117
Goals 182
Assists 184
Points 366
+/- +10-1

Spezza still seeking chemistry

Putting Ryan’s struggles aside, Spezza has had a down year and he has not produced what the team hoped when they named him captain.

He’s shown flashes of offensive brilliance lately, though, which includes setting up Milan Michalek's two goals on Thursday against Buffalo.

Even then, Spezza and Michalek have rarely had the puck on their stick this year and both sit among the league’s worst with respective minus-20 ratings.

Ryan is a finisher, Spezza is a playmaker. The natural fit can't be denied any longer.

In the last two games, Jason Spezza, left, and Milan Michalek have looked like they did a couple of years ago. Spezza has five points in that span and Michalek has three goals. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Spezza and Ryan have high skill levels, but understandably they can also cause high levels of stress in the defensive zone. On the surface, together they could cause one big headache for the Senators.

But players like them need the puck and right now neither has it enough.

The Olympic break might be the time to change things up for the final stretch and nail down the team’s consistently juggled line combinations.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.