33Derek Ryan
Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Derek Ryan

In what felt like a package deal with Bill Peters being hired and the Carolina – Calgary blockbuster trade at the draft, Derek Ryan was the fourth and final piece to come over in the Raleigh Invasion. The cap hit and term were questioned immediately after, but only a few weeks into the 2018-19 season, fans turned in a positive way to embrace the well-traveled veteran center.

2018-19 season summary

The first month of the season wasn’t forgiving for Ryan. Struggling to produce and just hovering around 50% at 5v5 in shot share, the Flames’ bottom six at times felt disjointed and out of sync. Through the month of November, Ryan turned it on to another level leading the Flames’ forwards in shot-share (60.77% for November 2018) and somehow becoming a secondary power play mainstay which was a completely unexpected phenomenon.

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81 13 25 38 13:48 54.60% +1.04 47.74% 1.026

That momentum that started in November helped turn a corner both on-ice impact and fan perception. Ryan and linemate Garnet Hathaway spent the bulk of the season together forming somewhat of a grind line, but an effective one at that. The two, with Ryan at center helped insulate a variety of the youth and rotating cast of linemates while giving the Flames a somewhat of a backup shutdown line behind the 3M / Mikael Backlund’s line.

Despite the fact that he saw scant usage on the penalty kill in Carolina, under Peters and Ryan Huska, Ryan saw an increase from 29:37 PK minutes in 17-18 to an incredible 155:16. His prominence at 4v5 gave the Flames the ability to stagger and balance three different PK units to varying levels of success.

Ryan’s first season in Calgary was really everything you expected to be. Peters threw him into much more difficult starts than expected and he still managed to be a net-positive in driving play. In a lot of ways he’s an unsung hero of this season.

Compared to last season

In his second full-time season with the Hurricanes, Ryan saw a bit more usage than one would expect. This was a cautioned tale by many Hurricanes fans when the news broke that Ryan would sign in Calgary. Under Peters and the rest of the Hurricanes staff in 17-18, Ryan produced at a higher-end ‘3C’ while seeing two minutes on average a game on the Canes’ power play.

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Unsuspectingly enough, Ryan was a valuable part of the team – regards of the criticism of his usage at times – providing a 9.4 GAR (goals above replacement) and attributing to 1.7 WAR (wins above replacement) for the Hurricanes last season. The fact that a then 31 year old forward provided this value was and is an inkling of the type of player he is: a player that likely deserved some sort of a NHL shot years ago.

Unfortunately hindsight is 20/20 and even if the Canes struggled to make the post-season last year, the success Ryan had in his tenure in Raleigh did lead to some optimism that a fair contract for what he offers would likely bring quantifiable value to an organization who signed the journeyman.

What about next season?

Hopefully Peters gives him an incremental boost in ice-time; not a huge boost but just enough to give him a more of a ‘3C’ role. Ryan after he adjusted to his role within the Flames this season was everything the Flames have needed in a ‘3C’, but was never given the title. That of course went to Mark Jankowski.

Ryan shown that he can be a capable secondary option when Backlund isn’t on ice, specifically that he isn’t going to hurt you by keeping him on the ice. The big question is whether or not this fountain of youth that has maintained his brief, but honestly impressive – relative to his role on a team – NHL career continues.

Ryan will turn 33 this December and his remaining $6.25M in salary ($3.125M cap hit) isn’t something many (or any) teams would take on if his 2019-20 season starts off rough or goes through a prolonged period of mediocrity. The caveat (and a positive, for now at least) is he doesn’t struggle in a ‘4C’ role either. Factor in some brief, but controlled special teams usage and the Flames have a chance at extracting more value out of a player that has one of the more remarkable career arcs in modern hockey.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #8 Juuso Valimaki

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    • cjc

      The point is that he was MORE productive than Jankowski, saw tougher matchups when he was out there, and did a better job at pushing play the right direction. That’s largely why he saw about a minute more per game than Janko, but you could argue Ryan deserved more at 5v5.

    • Baalzamon

      He faced tougher deployments than Jankowski with worse linemates (at least in theory). So… no, not really.

      Ryan isn’t a second liner, but everyone knows that. He is definitely a solid third line forward though.

  • Jobu

    Started the season as a phantom. Ended the season as our best scoring center. Started the playoffs as a phantom (but then again, everyone did).

    Jobu wouldn’t mind seeing Ryan in an increased role, but also knows he and Mangiapane are developing some good chemistry.

  • withachance

    Keep him as the 4th C, moving him up the lineup would only dilute the lineup. He’s one of the best 4th Cs in the league in my opinion and gets solid minutes on the PK and PP. Led the league in FO%, his role this season is perfect for him and the team.

  • Off the wall

    For a player who had the most D zone starts as a forward, you have to appreciate what Ryan accomplished.

    He’s tied for 1st in the NHL with a 58.2% win at the face off dot.
    He was 7th among the Flames in points with 38 points. Quite amazing when you consider his ice time was lower than James Neal.

    He was 6th on the team with a + 21. Better than Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk. He plays a smart game, seldom gets caught taking chances and had a very solid season. He’s a keeper!

  • ComeOn

    With only a few games left in the regular season there was a stat that Ryan hadn’t been on the ice for a goal against after the all-star break. I’m not sure how long that carried on, but WOW.

  • Skylardog

    Carolina seems awfully good without hanifin, Ryan, Lindholm and peters. Me thinks we need to take a closer look at what is really going on. Brindy looking like a big upgrade

      • Skylardog

        Carolina was the third best team in the NHL after Jan 1 2019, behind just St Louis and Tampa. How is that “Having no business being there?”

        They were also 4th best after Feb 1.

        So different from what the Flames did. This was one of the best teams in the NHL in the last half of the season.

    • Luter 1

      Brindamour is the main reason methinks. This guy was a character/tough SOB as a player and he has these guys playing that way. Jury still out on Peters- mainly, least hits (softest team stat wise) in the league and that’s coaching and team make-up.

      • withachance

        Brindamour seems like a character coach – great man manager due to being a captain for so long. How good will he be tactically after a whole season of other team’s scouting? Who knows but bet its not a conference winning caliber

    • Kevin R

      Dont think Ferland is contributing to this run & Hamilton has been ok but not dominating. I dont see Fox in their future either. Dont think Hanifin or Lindholm versus Carolina playoff run can be correlated with each other. Carolina has been getting some excellent goaltending though.

    • Luter 1

      Yeah not excited about a 31 year old that didn’t really show any veteran leadership in the playoffs and is too small to make a difference. Over 3 mill is not chump change, if it wasn’t for his faceoff ability I wouldn’t be hurt if we traded for someone bigger.

  • CowboyBob

    Really liked him the last 40 games of the season, looked to be a solid 4C, good at killing penalties. I can’t remember, did he play in the playoffs – don’t remember seeing him? (Along with the other 8 forwards who mailed it in)

    • Em Durp Em Hrudey

      IMO he was not used enough in the playoffs. This man is quick of foot, great at faceoffs, and can be used more as a shut down center then he was. Faster, stronger, smarter then Backlund (aka monkey piss) at a lot better price tag.

      • Skylardog

        The 4th line got absolutely decimated in the playoffs, especially when they git caught out against MacKinnons line. Ryan had a 35.63% CF% an a 28.85% SF%. That is getting schooled

        Against MacKinnon he was just 29.17% CF% and 13.33 SF%.

        Explain how you put out players any more than they did when it is just a tire fire when they are out?

          • Skylardog

            Ryan was the worst in terms of CF% and SF%, with the exception of Czar’s CF% and he played just 1 game.

            Ryan was 3rd worst in CF% of all Flames against Mac, with Hath and Janko being worse (Czar had a 0% CF% in his lone game). Ryan was the worst in terms of SF% of all Flames. Ryan was outshot 13-2 when playing against Mac in just 13:18 of icetime head to head.

            Everyone got torched, but nothing like Mac and the rest of the Avs torched Ryan. But it really didn’t matter who Ryan was up against.

          • Skylardog

            Backs was 3rd best in terms of CF% against Mac, behind Tkachuk and Benny.

            Backs was also 3rd best of the forwards against Mac in terms of SF%. He was over 50% in both SF% and CF%. Damn good against a line that kicked our butt all over the rink.

            In terms of overall CF% and SF%, the Monahan line was better, but got easier minutes. Backs was just under 50% in both categories.

            The Backs line couldn’t score, despite getting chances (my beef with using Backs as a 2C for the last 3 years). He got outscored 0-4, but out chanced and out HDCF the opposition. Matty was on for a GF at 5v5.

            I have never questioned Backs ability to play defense. He is elite in that category. But when you ask him to score, things go south real fast.

  • Flamesforever

    Can someone explain to me how a guy who’s 170lbs is one of the elite faceoff guys in the league? Ryan definitely earned my respect throughout the season, he deserves the 3c slot IMO.