Ryan insists Carlyle feud overblown

Sure, it’s only an exhibition game Thursday, but Bobby Ryan is anxious to get rolling at home, to finally show himself off to fans at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Ryan insists Carlyle feud overblown
Bobby Ryan. (Chris Mikula / Ottawa Citizen)

Sure, it’s only an exhibition game Thursday, but Bobby Ryan is anxious to get rolling at home, to finally show himself off to fans at the Canadian Tire Centre.

The fact that Ryan will also be receiving his initial taste of the Battle of Ontario rivalry against the Toronto Maple Leafs in his home debut for the Ottawa Senators also adds a little spice to the whole deal.

Now, if Ryan can play as well as he talked Wednesday — an open book in discussing his excitement about playing at Canadian Tire Centre and his often strained relationship with former Anaheim Ducks and current Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle — he should give fans something to take home with them.

“It feels like it has been a long time coming,” Ryan said following Wednesday’s workout and scrimmage. “Even though it has only been a couple of months (since being traded to the Senators from Anaheim), the excitement factor in the city has been there and it has certainly been there for me for a while now. Truthfully, to get it out of the way and to move forward is going to be great, but I’m looking forward to hitting the ice, that’s for sure.”

The line of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ryan had a strong start together last Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, and Ryan scored on a pretty shot that caught a piece of the crossbar on its way in. Ryan cautions, however, that everything in the preseason is a work in progress, all about fine-tuning for the games that matter.

“It feels good to get back into a game situation, and to score in that situation feels good, but I think both games on the road (the Senators also played Calgary in Saskatoon on Monday), were a little sloppy, so I think as time goes on and you get a little bit further through camp, the game will pick up and get a little better,” he said. “As you do more and more game-like situations, things start to slow down. I’m starting to feel better with Spezza and Michalek and starting to see a lot of (defenceman Erik Karlsson) on the ice and his reads and things.”

Ryan’s history in the building is limited to a single game, but he appears to have total recall. Back on Jan. 18, 2011, Anaheim defeated the Senators 2-1, in a shootout. Ryan scored the only goal of the shootout and also assisted on Corey Perry’s goal in the first period.

“The building was pretty loud that night,” Ryan said. “We were in a pretty good place at that time, trying to make a playoff push with Anaheim and we came through on that Eastern Canada trip. It was tough, flying cross-country to play that game, but I remember it was a heck of a building, a great atmosphere.”

That was part of his good times with Anaheim. He also had his share of bumpy days, including routinely butting heads with Randy Carlyle, the former Anaheim coach who now stands behind the Maple Leafs bench.

Ryan acknowledges he won’t go out of his way to say hello to Carlyle Thursday, but claims the feud is overblown and that “it certainly won’t be something where I’m aiming a puck at the bench.”

When Ryan looks back at the relationship, he says he could have handled situations better.

“It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t a great one,” he said. “That’s all it was. He was a tough coach and I still really do owe him quite a bit for becoming the player I am. That isn’t lost on me one bit.”

Carlyle’s style can be harsh and gruff, but Ryan now understands his end goal was to make him a better player.

“He’s extremely demanding and he’s tough, but he’s also very fair … he can be a player’s coach,” said Ryan. “Sometimes I felt he was a little hard on me, but that was just being young and not taking things the right way. I wish I hadn’t taken things so personally. It’s part of growing as a player and a person, too. I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years. I can take things and separate them now, whereas I always felt I was a scapegoat for him.”

Carlyle also chose to take the high road in his relationship with Ryan.

“I think Bobby was a young kid that had a different body make-up from what he is now,” Carlyle told Toronto reporters. “He put [in] a lot of time and effort, and it’s a tribute to him to get himself in the type of condition that he is now versus where he came out of junior.”

Carlyle called him a “very talented young player.”

“He’s a player that’s dangerous as soon as he steps over the blue-line in the offensive zone. He can score from all areas, and he’s got a tremendous amount of reach and skill. He’s an offensive weapon that we’ll have to deal with, and Bobby’s growing into a pretty mature hockey player both on and off the ice.”

It’s early yet, but so far Ryan has impressed Senators coach Paul MacLean with the early chemistry that he has developed with Spezza and Michalek.

“So far, so good,” said MacLean, suggesting the trio over-passed the puck a little too much in Winnipeg.

“It’s just about getting used to one another, where they’re going to be at the right time and where they like to have the puck when you pass it to them in certain situations. That’s just a matter of practicing and playing together. Right now, it appears the more they play together or practice together, the better they’re going to be.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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