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Op. Ed. on Bobby Ryan's Recent Comments

By now, I'm sure everyone has at least taken the time to generate an opinion on what Bobby Ryan said to Eric Stephens in an interview. I am, of course, no different. However, as I read the comment section on the original thread, I couldn't help but feel that everyone was missing the point. Yes, I have issues with the message that Bobby delivered to the press. More importantly, I have an issue with Bobby going to the press. If Bobby Ryan has concerns about his role on the team, he needs to discuss them with Bruce Boudreau and Bob Murray, not Eric Stephens. That's not a knock against Stephens; he's a journalist doing his job. Bobby should know better than to make a play like this. Let's be honest with ourselves. If this happened with another big name star in a more serious hockey market, it would be huge news. However, there seem to be Ducks fans lining up to defend Bobby for what is an egregious error.

I've heard Robby opine that Bobby is good at dealing with the press. Situations like this make me wonder if the press is actually better at dealing with Bobby. In other words, maybe the press talks to Bobby because they know he'll let something slip. As I mentioned earlier, I don't have too many major issues with what Bobby said. I believe it was mentioned several times in the comments that this isn't anything we haven't discussed here. My main concern is that Bobby took it to the press. This isn't the first time he's done this. Having a player in the room who is willing to take his concerns, complaint, etc. to the press is always a dangerous situation. I have three problems with the developing situation surrounding Bobby Ryan and his comments and I'll order them from least to most important.

The Imperative of the Immediate (Least Important): There are certainly those who will see Bobby's comments as a little arrogant. He spends a lot of time talking about the future of his career. There are also those who will defend him, by saying he was simply answering the question that was put to him. However, I offer this counter example from Corey Perry when asked about his recent career milestone of 200 goals.

"It’s exciting," Perry said. "A little personal thing. It’s nice to get there and keep going. But I’m not really focused on that. I’m more worried about the schedule and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish."

That's how you deflect a question that's asked about your career. Bobby didn't do this. He fell into the trap and started talking about himself. It is a little egotistical. I'm not blaming him for the assessment, yet. But, when you look at the length of the two responses, it's difficult not to think that Bobby was a little too focused on next year and not the rest of the schedule. Bobby needs some PR help and bad.

Here's an example of how that question should be answered: "I try not to think about my future too much during the season. Obviously, this season didn't go the way any of us had hoped, and I'd certainly like to have a better season next year, but right now I think it's more important on making a push for the playoffs." See that? It answers the question without getting too complicated. The focus for anyone right now needs to be the task at hand, any small pretense of a distraction isn't a good move. If Bobby wants to offer me 50K a year and season seats, I can help make sure these problems don't happen. Otherwise, he should just watch this.

Bobby Is Hiding Criticism of the Organization in Comments about His Career: When I read that block quotation from the original post, I can't help but notice something: Bobby doesn't see himself as the problem. Earlier in that article, he acknowledges that this hasn't been a good year for him. Then, in the quotation, he takes this a step further by claiming he believes he can score 35-40 goals. He then alludes to his success away from the twins. When I teach persuasion to my students, I teach them a simple format: Problem-Cause-Solution. First, there must be an agreed upon problem. Bobby sets that out for us; he believes he can perform better than he has. So, what's the cause? What's the barrier to solving the problem? Bobby doesn't say it's him. Earlier in the article, when he discusses his troubles this year, he only says that it hasn't been as good as last year, and that he "Took some time to get out of a funk."

However, he offers a rationale in the first sentence of that quotation,"My next step obviously would be to break away from Getz and Pears." I won't say Bobby thinks Getz and Perry have been holding him back, but he does seem to think that he must leave them in order to advance. He wants to avoid being that "secondary guy." He never mentions getting back together with the twins in order to reform what, as recently as the beginning of this season, was called the most dominant line in hockey. He clearly has no interest in reforming that line. He is making it known to management how he envisions his role in the future.

After that, he says he can "step into Teemu's role." Again, I don't think Bobby thinks that Teemu is holding him back, but I do think that Bobby is insinuating that he simply can't be as productive if he isn't the number one option. You can call it ego, or you can call it ambition. Ultimately, it's Bobby's way of telling all of us his inability to be the top option has hindered his ability to get results. If it's not his fault he isn't the top option on a line, who's fault is it? Well, the people who make the lines of course. Bobby never directly says it,but he doesn't offer any other rationales. To say otherwise is to provide an answer to which Bobby never alludes; it is to fill in the blank for him, even though he actually offers an answer. To me, this is no different than what Jake Newton did. Bobby is letting his opinions of how the organization has handled a particular player, himself, known. It's not necessarily a complaint, but I do think Bobby is doing something he's done before: using the media to voice his opinions about management. That's a much more pressing issue.

Bobby is Using the Media to Make a Power Play (Most Important): This isn't the first time Bobby has done something like this, and that's why it's so important that we not so easily dismiss it. When Bobby was negotiating for a new contract, he was the one who broke media silence during negotiations. You can see a summary of the battle here. When following the dates, you'll notice that Bobby's camp is the only one talking to the media from around April to July, when Murray finally breaks silence in response to Bobby. You can read Bobby's initial worries about contract negotiations here. Those comments remind me of the ones he just made yesterday. He isn't really giving the team ultimatums, but he is letting them know there's a plan of action that would make him happy, anchoring the second line, and a plan of action that would make him unhappy, being forced to be a secondary thought with the twins.

This is a bad precedent. It's becoming clear that Bobby doesn't have a problem feeding information to the press. Bobby is starting to look like the guy who eventually tells the press that Ryan Getzlaf didn't sign up for Dry Island. He's the guy who can't be trusted because he's more than willing to talk to the media about the inner workings of the organization. Again, I don't have a problem with Bobby thinking these things. I do have a problem with him telling them to the OC Register. This is something you tell Boudreau, or Murray. If he's done that, then there's no need to talk about it anymore, because it opens the door to these types of inquiries. In a small market like this, maybe it's not as huge of a deal. However, I can't imagine that an NHL locker room is too different no matter where it is. If Bobby keeps telling the media things that should be kept in house, I doubt he'll find the locker room to be such a friendly place.

He can't keep using the media as his voice for what he thinks needs to be done. He's really only trying to back Bob Murray into a corner by gaining fan support. When he first came out about contract negotiations, that's what happened. It eventually backfired, but, in a way, it might already be working. Of course, that creates a larger problem. If/When Bobby gets his chance to anchor the second line, will it be because he earned it, or because Murray thought he'd have an unhappy Bobby if he didn't get the opportunity. A better question: is this how it works now? Can Bobby simply voice his concerns to the media and the organization makes it happen? That's a very dangerous precedent. Bobby shouldn't even give the illusion that something like that could happen. I should never have to write a story like this.

It's not so much the content of the message as it is that the message ended up in the media. I believe Bobby is making a clear attempt to influence the organization. He has done something like this before, and I believe he is getting a message out at a time when the organization is approaching a potential crossroads. Is the sentiment bad? Not necessarily. I suppose it is good that he's hungry. However, to put his hunger ahead of harmony in the locker room is a mistake. One that should not go unnoticed, considering it isn't the first time it's happened.