Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner aims high for future

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Ryan Spooner
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Ryan Spooner /

Not every player develops at the rapid rate of Charlie McAvoy. Ryan Spooner has traveled a winding path toward his peak.  But after a long uphill battle, the summit is within sight for the Boston Bruins center.

Ryan Spooner was a coveted prospect drafted 45th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2010. Since then, his trajectory has been volatile. The Bruins expected Spooner to be further along in his development at the end of last season and frustrations grew when he still hadn’t transitioned from a promising prospect to a core contributor. He occasionally showed glimpses of the player the Bruins projected, but struggled to make a consistent impact at even strength.

Spooner’s respectable numbers and work on the powerplay made him virtually more valuable on paper than the Bruins were willing to pay this past summer. Spooner nearly went to arbitration with the Bs, but it was avoided when the Bruins offered a one year contract worth a value of $2,825,000.

The one year deal indicated a last resort for Spoons to prove he can sustain a high level of play at five on five while producing on the man advantage. The Bruins won’t lock down a powerplay specialist with a multi-year deal, especially at this price tag.

Spooner’s future with the Bruins hinges on his ability to play the wing. Spooner is a natural center, but the Bs are too deep down the middle. He seemed very reluctant to move over in the past, but he may be warming up to the wing at just the right time to save his Black and Gold life.

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So Far This Season

The start to the season was far from ideal for Spooner as he went down with a groin tear that kept him out for 20 games. However, he bounced back strong submitting respectable numbers again with 13 points in 20 games, 4 goals and 9 assists. These numbers aren’t jaw dropping, but he also stands at +6 on the season.

You can argue how much weight should be put into the plus/minus statistic, but this is significant in Spooner’s case because he finished the last two seasons at -8 and -9. I’m hesitant to say this stat will endure the entire season. However, it’s encouraging as Spooner’s defensive play is the area of his game that has drawn the most criticism.

Spooner has been one of the keys to the Bruins’ remarkable run since his return on November 22. The second line specifically is hitting it’s stride with a healthy David Krejci flanked by Spooner and Jake Debrusk who have complemented each other well.

Spooner has shown more swagger by asserting himself physically in all three zones without diminishing any of his existing attributes. Therefore, the improved plus/minus may very well be a result of his more complete game. His season so far can be summed up by his first of two goals in a recent game against Ottawa.

Where is this inspired play coming from?

Spooner didn’t let his early season injury derail his off-season work and dedication to playing a more physical game. Since returning to the lineup, he has played with more purpose and urgency. This is undoubtedly due to his contract situation, but his success should also be credited to the coaching change.

Bruce Cassidy is instilling confidence in the baby Bs while holding them accountable for their mistakes, which has yielded arguably the best results possible given all the early season injuries to key players. This approach is in contrast to Claude Julien’s who relied heavily on the veterans to carry the workload and installed a rotating door in the lineup to hurry the baby Bs out everytime he heard a hiccup. Ryan Spooner did not respond well to Claude’s unforgiving system, but appears to be more comfortable with Cassidy’s loosened leash.

Keep or Trade?

It is nearing decision time for Bruins’ management. If they aren’t going to offer Spooner another deal and want to get something for him, they must trade him prior to the deadline at the end of next month, February 26. I admittedly thought it was a long shot that Spooner would earn a multi-year deal with the Bruins. However, he is finally finding consistency and beginning to live up to expectations. If nothing else, he is increasing his trade value.

The Bruins aren’t perfect, but unless they begin falling apart when they come back from break, they should not make any changes to the formula that has yielded the best results in years. Yes, YEARS. This includes moving Spooner. Although Spooner was hesitant to ride shotgun, there is a huge benefit to having two guys on the ice that can win draws with the crackdown on face-off infractions. This may be an afterthought, but may be a big advantage these days, especially in the postseason.

Next: Bruins three stars at midway point

All things considered, Ryan Spooner is playing like he wants to stay in Boston.  The feeling should be mutual on Bruins end as he is silencing haters and working his way into fans’ favor. Perhaps all he needed was the confidence of the coach and management to succeed. Giving him a sense of security with a multi-year contract can only enhance the sentiment.