Numbers game: Bobby Ryan not like Heatley

Two games into the season, Ryan has yet to score a goal, and it would be a stretch to suggest he had any Grade-A scoring chances in those road contests at Buffalo and Toronto

Bobby Ryan is confident his offensive game will thrive. (Chris Mikula/Ottawa Citizen)

The comparisons to Dany Heatley are obvious for Bobby Ryan.

For the first time since Heatley demanded a trade from Ottawa in the summer of 2009, Jason Spezza has a legitimate sniper on his wing.

Ryan has eclipsed the 30-goal plateau in each of the last four full National Hockey League seasons, and there is optimism in this town that he could elevate his game and replace the offence that has been missing since Heatley’s departure. If everything falls into place, Ryan could join Heatley as the only 50-goal scorers in franchise history.

At least, that’s how the perfect script plays out for Bryan Murray and Paul MacLean.

However, two games into the season, Ryan has yet to score a goal, and it would be a stretch to suggest he had any Grade-A scoring chances in those road contests at Buffalo and Toronto. If the comparisons to Heatley are inevitable, then Senators fans will be fretting because, when Heatley joined the team in the fall of 2005, he found instant chemistry with Spezza.

Heatley’s first October with the Senators was memorable, as he collected a point in all 10 games in which he played. He immediately endeared himself to Ottawa fans by racking up eight points in the three games he played against the Maple Leafs that month, including a four-goal performance at the Air Canada Centre.

The start was almost record-setting as Heatley collected at least a point in each of his first 22 games with the Senators. That fell just one game shy of tying the mark set by Wayne Gretzky with the Los Angeles Kings for the longest consecutive point streak to start with a new team. You could not have scripted a better start for Heatley in his new surroundings.

Those are big skates to fill for Ryan, but, if his personal history is any indication, he will take a while to find his groove. Ryan may have tweeted out “Ottawa … I’m coming in hot…” when the trade was made in July, but his track record suggests he is a player who comes to a slow boil instead.

During his four 30-goal seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan never got off to a fast start in October. His best start was in 2011-12, when he came out of the gates with two goals in his first eight games, which would be classified as tepid, but certainly not hot. In those 30-goal campaigns, he never entered the month of November with more than four goals.

In his career, Ryan has scored just 12 goals in 39 games in October, which marks his lowest output for any single month. In the season’s first month, Ryan has averaged just 0.30 goals a game, which would translate to a modest total of 25 if you pro-rated it over an entire 82-game schedule. It would also certainly be a safe bet that, if Ryan ended this season with only 25 goals, it would be seen as a major disappointment for the Senators.

By contrast, Ryan has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in the month of January during his career. He has scored 30 goals in 59 games in that month, or 0.51 goals per game. If you project those numbers over an entire schedule, it would make Ryan a 42-goal scorer, and, if he ended this season with 42 goals, it would be widely viewed as a major success story in this market.

Ryan’s two linemates have the polar opposite reputation when it comes to their starts in the month of October. Milan Michalek is known for his fast starts to the season, which he usually has a hard time sustaining because of injuries. The Czech winger has 35 goals in 84 career games in the month of October, his most productive month on the calendar.

Spezza usually comes out of the gate with fast starts as well. In his career, the centre has averaged 1.14 points-per-game in the month of October, with 95 points in 83 games. Those numbers are in stark contrast to Spezza’s numbers in January, when he produces 0.88 points per game, with 65 points in 74 games.

So Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek’s best month (October) just happens to be Bobby Ryan’s worst; and Spezza’s worst month (January) is actually Ryan’s best. It certainly makes them an intriguing line to watch as they try and form some chemistry.

The truth is that Ryan has been somewhere in between that 25-goal scorer from October and the 42-goal man in January, which is why he has averaged 33 goals in each of the last four full seasons. As long as he finds his groove at some point during this season, Senators fans will probably be willing to live with another slow start from their new sniper.

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