OTTAWA -- Alfie had flown the coop.
Hours after Daniel Alfredsson shocked this small, Canadian capital by signing with Detroit, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray, knowing he needed to divert attention from an avalanche of hysterics, made a deal.
A big deal. He traded two top prospects and a draft pick to Anaheim for South Jersey’s own, Bobby Ryan.
As the song goes, there’s a new kid in town, and this gunslinger was a confirmed 30-goal scorer. Ryan has enormous skates to fill here in Ottawa.
“It all happened on the same day, so you could not expect it to happen,” Ryan said. “For me it wasn’t Alfie driven, it was trade driven.
“You want to reward the team that made a big move for you and put a lot of faith in you and to a certain level, you want to say to the other team, ‘You made a mistake.’ That was my biggest motivational tool coming in.”
For the longest time this summer, Ryan was convinced he was headed to the Flyers. First, the team had been in a prolonged downturn, had missed the playoffs, was about to buy out Danny Briere, and had made it known it was seeking a scoring forward, preferably a winger.
Ryan had been the darling from South Jersey, a kid whose father worked at Bob Clarke’s gym and whose family was close with many in the Flyers’ organization. It just made sense. Too much sense.
Which is why a trade never happened, though the Flyers had discussions with Anaheim last June even before GM Bob Murray made a deal with Ottawa.
That’s because the Ducks were in the process of re-signing both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to long-term deals worth in excess of $8 million a season.
“Yeah, it did cross my mind,” Ryan said about coming home. “The writing was on the wall there for a while, especially when Getz and Perry signed. I knew I would be moving somewhere. You hear rumors and try to separate it as much as you can. I knew [the Flyers] were one of the teams in the conversation.”
In the end, the Flyers did as they always do -- they went for a big, veteran, older centerman in Vinny Lecavalier.
Ryan retreated to his summer home in Idaho -- not Laguna or Newport Beach where most of the Ducks lived.
“I wanted to be off the grid, to be honest with you,” Ryan said of his Idaho hideaway near Jackson, Wyo. “Have as little to do with hockey as possible and have a place to clear my head.”
It was there that Ryan decided one thing had to change when he would show up with the Senators -- his start. A notorious slow starter, Ryan believed that the hype of coming to Ottawa in the wake of Alfie’s departure meant far more to the good citizens of the city than to him, and he couldn’t disappoint.
One of the first things he did was produce a video in which he posed as a street reporter asking fans if they ever heard of Bobby Ryan or would even recognize him on the street.
Incredibly, only one person actually knew who he was and outed him immediately. Again, this was August.
By the end of October, well, it had all changed. Even now, as the Senators' leading scorer, everyone in Ottawa, Kanata, Hull, etc., knows who Bobby Ryan is.
“It’s changed a little bit,” he laughed. “I don’t know how much.”
Ryan says the culture adjustment of coming from a non-hockey market to one that bleeds Sens red has been amazing.
“From an organizational and team standpoint, you can’t ask for a better place,” he said. “Everybody has been very welcoming.
“It’s quite a difference. The passion for the game is elevated here. You are front and center here every day. In Anaheim, I don’t want to say you're taking the back seat, but you’re playing behind MLB, the NBA and then the college sports.
“It’s a little different. It’s nice to be held accountable every day and have to answer questions when you are not performing and riding the good waves and what not. It’s really cool to watch fans engage with you outside the rink and tell you what they would be doing with the team.”
Hard to believe a kid from South Jersey, who grew up near the Flyers, goes west, then north to Canada and fits like a glove.
“Clarke [MacArthur], my linemate, played in Toronto,” Ryan said. “He said what a difference this is for him and coming from opposite ends of the spectrum with him dealing with the Toronto side of it.
“Me coming from Anaheim and we can’t even compare the two [cities]. Coming to this market has been great for me. I’ve been able to get my feet wet. I had a small taste of it once when I played in Owen Sound. Nothing quite to this scale. You fly under the radar in those big market teams, but that’s OK with me.”
He’s not flying under the radar right now, even after the Flyers destroyed his team, 5-0, earlier this week.
“Anytime you play against your home town, you have more going there,” he said. “I got a lot of friends on the other side of that hallway that I have known a long time. They look liked they have found their game.”
Ryan never lost his game -- just saw it transferred to another part of North America.
Bobby Ryan of Cherry Hill, N.J., on playing for the Senators: "From an organizational and team standpoint, you can’t ask for a better place." (USA Today Images)
OTTAWA -- Alfie had flown the coop.