Bobby Ryan feels strain of tryout's 'shorter leash,' but focuses on making Red Wings
Traverse City — Bobby Ryan never has been in this position before, and admits it's different.
Weird. Unsettling, even.
Here's Ryan, one of the best goal-scorers and exciting players in the NHL since being drafted second overall in 2005, is in Red Wings' training camp on a professional tryout.
No guarantees, no contract; just the hope maybe something can be worked out between the two sides if an opening on the roster develops.
"You feel like you’re on a shorter leash," Ryan said Monday during a Zoom call with media. "I can say with absolute certainty you feel tighter and a little more restrictive. I am fortunate that I’ve been here and I know the coaching staff. I have a good rapport with everyone in the room.”
Ryan, 34, was an unrestricted free agent over the summer after scoring seven goals with seven assists for the Wings last season.
After getting a few nibbles from interested teams, but nothing concrete and not hearing from the Wings, Ryan decided to be patient and wait.
While watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers last Monday night, Ryan got a call from the Wings about the chance to come to camp on a tryout. He took it.
“There were a very select few places I was holding out that I hoped would call, and this was No. 1," Ryan said. " I’m happy it did work out, even if it was short notice. They realize how much I wanted to be here and loved being here last year. No place has felt this comfortable for me throughout my career.
"I hope it leads to good things going forward. I just have to take care of the on-ice stuff and go from there.”
Increasingly, it appears the Wings will be without Jakub Vrana (shoulder) to begin the season, so the need for a right-hand shot is there. Coach Jeff Blashill has said there's a path for Ryan to make the final roster.
“He played pretty good hockey for us last year,” Blashill said. “We have the potential of starting the year without (Jakub) Vrana, and if that's the case, we’re going to need some guys with that offensive talent. Through exhibition season we’ll give Bobby a good look and we’ll go from there.”
If Ryan were to make the team, he understands his role could be different from earlier in his career.
“When I look at the lineup here, and I’m realistic, the top-six is pretty well spoken for, as well it should be," Ryan said. "Those guys have earned that opportunity. I came in with the expectations that I would be a bottom-six player or maybe even the 13th forward, so I don’t think I can change anything.
“I would like to broaden my game, be a little more physical, a little more demanding of the puck below the circles and holding it and dragging it instead of taking opportunities to create. I just need to be a little more patient in those areas for me because your leash isn’t the same as a top-six player right now — and I’m OK with that.
"My patience level with the puck has to be a little better and I have to err on the side of caution at times. That’s part of the process as you get older and start to play different roles within the team.”
The Wings were impressed with Ryan's leadership and ability to mentor younger forwards last season, and Ryan would enjoy fulfilling that role again.
“My body of work speaks for itself, however limited it might have been last year, and a couple of injuries that kind of derailed the season,” Ryan said. “They look at what I brought to the room and there is an experience level that not a lot of the guys have right now, myself, Stallsie (Marc Staal) and Gags (Gagner) may be at the upper echelon of games played.
"Guys can rely on that, bounce ideas off of that. We talked about the mentor role, but I think there’s still a place in the game for guys to bridge that gap between coach and player. All those little things I hope would add in.”
Vrana was scheduled to meet with a specialist Monday, and Blashill is likely to have more information within a day or two.
Blashill did say Vrana's injury wasn't something that necessarily occurred during Saturday's practice, but something that flared up.
Blashill acknowledged there's a chance the Wings might have to begin the regular season without Vrana in the lineup.
Forward Tyler Bertuzzi wasn't on the ice Monday, but it was a planned day off.
Blashill termed it a "maintenance day," giving Bertuzzi a day off the ice as he works his way back into the lineup.
Bertuzzi had back surgery last spring, and gradually has been working himself back into hockey shape this summer.
Bertuzzi had been participating in every practice this camp, and played in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage.
Happy to be back
Forward Sam Gagner was more than pleased to return to the Wings, not even testing the free-agent market.
Gagner, 32, signed a one-year contract worth $850,000, and was excited to return to the Wings.
"My focus was always on remaining a Detroit Red Wing," Gagner said. "We had some growth last year, and I felt I was part of that and it's exciting, you want to continue to grow into your role. I've bounced around a little bit over the last number of years and to get a chance for some stability with one organization, and with everything that goes into being a Red Wings, is great.
"My family loves living in Michigan, and it was an easy decision."
Gagner was another veteran who has been a major influence in the locker room.
"I've always considered that part of my responsibility, and I'll just continue to be myself," Gagner said. "I've been around a while now, and seen a lot of different things in terms of experience and what I've gathered. If there's any way I can help our young group, I'll do it.
"But it's mainly about leading by example and doing the right things and that's what I try to do and will continue to try to do."