Throughout his entire pro career, Senators’ centre Ryan Shannon has been seen as little more than a depth player. Shannon will be a UFA this summer, news that makes most people shrug their shoulders and go,”whatever.” I used to share that feeling. Everyone knows he has world class speed but his critics suggest he doesn’t have enough size or finish around the net.
His hope has always been to become a top 6 forward in the NHL. Could Shannon actually pull that off? The Senators currently think so. In fact, they’re giving him first line minutes right now. Shannon posted 19:38 last night, 2nd among forwards behind only Jason Spezza.
He’s been shockingly different since his move to centre, bearing no resemblance to the Ryan Shannon we’ve come to know and ignore. In his natural position, he gets better and looks more comfortable with each game. Shannon has 11 points in the last 14 games: another assist last night in a 4-3 loss in Carolina. He’s fun to watch; he hustles every shift, makes consistently great passes, and always seems to be in a good position defensively.
Shannon is also showing some goal scoring touch, burying a breakaway beauty against Tampa Saturday night. He fell to the ice after the goal, lying on his back, the building going crazy. A smile crossed his face as if to say, “I can’t believe it. I’m finally having some success in this freaking league.”
On the air today, my co-host, JR, summed up the feeling many people have about Shannon. “Ryan Shannon is who he is,” he said. The sentiment being, Shannon won’t get any better than this. He’s completely disposable. Certainly that may well turn out to be true.
But look at the forwards they moved at the deadline: Chris Kelly, Mike Fisher, Jarkko Ruutu, Alexei Kovalev. Those are guys who weren’t going to show us anything else. In fact, in all cases, their games are likely to start declining. With Shannon, it feels like there’s something more there: like it’s only now starting to shine through. Sure, these may be nothing games to Ottawa, but they’re facing desperate teams, all still in the hunt and yet, since the purge, Shannon has still been one of their better players every night.
I don’t want to make the same mistake that J.R.’s Calgary Flames made with Martin St Louis. They simply released St. Louis without compensation in 2000. I know, I know. You’re chuckling right now, "Get this. Warne is about to compare Shannon to a Hart Trophy winner. What a joke.”
On the contrary. I’m comparing Shannon, who turned 28 this month, to when St Louis was 28. St. Louis was about to turn that same age the season he finished off a 70 point season, his first NHL season of over 40 points. Up until then, his career looked a lot like Shannon’s. Both were undrafted NCAA players, checking in at 5 foot 8, 170 pounds (drenched). Both yo-yo’ed between the AHL first line and NHL fourth line, before someone took a chance on them.
In Tampa, St. Louis only emerged as a star because John Tortorella overlooked the size issue and saw something in him others didn’t. And so he gave him ice time. Important ice time. Cory Clouston is doing the same thing right now and Shannon is responding.
I’m not saying we have a future Hart trophy winner here. I am saying Shannon is easily the Sens' 2nd best centre right now and contributing big in all situations. So there’s more than enough potential there to re-sign the guy. What's it going to cost? 'Peter Regin' money?