You're all wrong. All of you.
Up until game #23, Michael Ryder was playing his usual role as Saku Koivu's finishing sidekick. In the three previous seasons with this gig he scored 25, 30, and 30 goals. Nothing spectacular, but reasonably good production considering his pedigree.
In the first 23 games this season, Ryder was on the ice for 303 shots directed at the net by Montreal and 242 against in 5-on-5 play (see behindthenet). That's a differential of +2.7 per game, or +7.1 per 60 minutes - the best on the team in both cases.
Ryder's been on for 9 GF and 8 GA. Not exactly Crosbyesque numbers, but try to find another Habs forward in the black. The huge thing here is the 8 GA. That is superb. It's a vast improvement over last year's performance by the first line. Unlike last year, they've frequently been doing it against the opposition's top lines. Well done, Mike. Kudos to the entire top line, up to game #23.
In 5-on-5 hockey, Ryder's been on for 17 penalties committed by Montreal and 35 committed by the opposition. Overall, Ryder has committed 4 and drawn 10 himself (see ontheforecheck).
Up to game #23, Ryder had 70 shots. He was on pace for 250, which would have been a career high.
Overall, Ryder was on pace for a typical Ryder season with one big exception. Um, make that two big exceptions. He's been much better defensively, and his shooting percentage was only 4.3% rather than his career norm of 12%.
Ryder's catastrophically rotten performance? Nothing more than a run of bad luck shooting. On March 10 Sidney Crosby had a shot% of 3.8% over his previous 20 games. If I recall correctly, very few fans called for Crosby to be waived and replaced with an AHL call-up. NHL shooters, like any string of coin tosses, will have cold streaks. It happens.
Unfortunately when it happens in Montreal the entire fan base and sports media join forces to proclaim that the player is bringing shame to the CH by playing so poorly. After all, they're The Most Knowledgeable Fans In The World (tm). Just ask them. Then something really screwed up happens: the coach starts to believe them and then acts on these idiotic assertions. Now we have Mark Streit on the 1st line. I hope you're all happy.
On the flip side, Mathieu Dandenault has escaped the fury of the fan base and media. Clearly because he's big presence, a fast skater and a stand-up guy. It sure as hell can't be due to a good performance.
His Corsi number (a measure of shots directed at the net for/against) is -21.1. That's the worst in the league if you exclude anyone under 10 games played and Eric Boulton. The next worst regular forward in Montreal is the rookie Kyle Chipchura at -9.7. Dandenault has been shuffled from line to line and he's been poison on every one of them, hemorrhaging shots against. He's committed 6 non-coincidental penalties and drawn 2. He's been on the ice for 8 GF and 15 GA, 5-on-5.
There are two mitigating factors for Dandenault: he's been facing tough opposition, and he's a defenseman playing forward. Both of these lay the blame squarely on Carbo. Dandenault should not have his current role.
Same goes for the Ryder debacle. It may sound like I'm blaming the vocal fans and media, but obviously the coach has a responsibility to look a little deeper at a player's performance. If the coach of this team falls for the same foolishness as the raving lunatics on TV and on the message boards, we're in deep trouble.