Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Ottawa Senators began this season slowly and never really picked up the pace.
For Bobby Ryan, it was the opposite.
The Senators' prized offseason acquisition started 2013-14 doing the things he's most known for: scoring goals and being an overall menace in the offensive zone. But Ryan has been mired in a prolonged slump in recent months and now it seems we know why.
On Thursday, Ottawa revealed Ryan needs season-ending surgery to repair a sports hernia, eliminating some of the mystery surrounding the 27-year-old forward's lack of production in the second half of the season. It's a problem that has been dogging him for months, but while it answers some questions about Ryan, it doesn't entirely explain his team's profoundly disappointing campaign.
After all, while Ryan was busy amassing 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) over his first 25 games in Ottawa, the team only managed a 10-11-4 record. So, even when Ryan was doing what was expected of him, it was fairly obvious he wasn't the missing piece the Senators spent so much to obtain last offseason.
It seems July 5, 2013 is destined to be a day Ottawa fans will remember. That morning longtime Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson spurned an offer from Ottawa to sign a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Shortly after that earth-shattering moment for the franchise, the Sens announced they had acquired Ryan in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks.
After nearly two decades with Alfredsson as the face of the organization, it all seemed to change in an instant.
To land Ryan, Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray gave up a pair of promising young forwards -- Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen -- as well as a first- round pick in the 2014 draft.
At the time, Ottawa seemed a pretty safe bet to make the playoffs for the upcoming 2013-14 season, so conventional wisdom had us believe the draft pick wouldn't be an early selection. Of course, now that we know the Senators need a miracle to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2011, the pick comes at a higher price.
Considering Anaheim is in the running for the Pacific Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference, the Ducks aren't missing Ryan all that much. Now Anaheim has a pair of prospects and a higher-than-expected first- round pick to add to its talent pool, a selection the Senators obviously need more.
The good news for Ottawa is Ryan is under contract through next season and the four-time 30-goal scorer expects to come back as good as new in 2014-15. The bad news is it's fairly clear now that the Sens are not as close to a championship as they previously believed.
When Murray offered up part of his club's future to obtain Ryan, it was moving toward making a possible run at a Stanley Cup title. Seen in that light, the 2013-14 season has been a monumental disappointment for Ottawa.
In the previous two seasons under head coach Paul MacLean, Ottawa became the dangerous club nobody wanted to face in the playoffs (better known on Twitter as the #PeskySens). It was believed that adding an offensive weapon of Ryan's caliber could be the missing component, but it's plain to see now it's going to take more than one proven sniper for the Sens to break into the league's elite class.
It could take an impact free-agent signing, another big trade or the development of some prospects for Ottawa to get to the upper echelon of the NHL, but returning to the playoffs next season is a reasonable goal. In fact, all it may take to get back to the tournament is a full season from goaltender Craig Anderson, who keeps missing chunks of seasons due to various injuries.
The Sens acquired Ryan with two years left on his deal and it's safe to say the experiment is not looking good for Ottawa at the midway point. Then again, there is always next year.