Montreal Canadiens: What's with Ryan O'Byrne, Anyway?

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer INovember 24, 2008

Am I the only one who can't sit still whenever Ryan O'Byrne touches the puck?

Am I the only one who asks every shift O'Bryne is on the ice of why he is still in Montreal?  While the likes of Shawn Belle and Mathieu Carle down in Hamilton, I hope you're wondering the same thing.

O'Byrne's play as of late hasn't been top notch.  Then again, it's never been quite top notch. O'Byrne reminds me of a slimmer, slightly faster version of Derian Hatcher plugging down the ice at mammoth light speed (*grunt* *grunt*).

O'Byrne's latest goof may cost him though. In my mind, it's about time!

With under five minutes to go against the lowly New York Islanders, O'Byrne accidentally slipped the puck into the yawning Canadiens' cage as Carey Price had gone to the bench for the extra attacker.

A game that should never have gone to overtime, never mind a shootout, and the Canadiens let two easy points dwindle down to one measly point.

Already a minus two, with only three assists in 16 games this season, O'Byrne has become more than a liability on the Canadiens' blueline; he's become a hindrance.  Sure, he had a decent rookie campaign—33 games, one goal, six assists, and a plus seven rating.

But, he isn't the same defenseman after last year's playoffs.  Then again, he hasn't been the same defenseman he was when the Hamilton Bulldogs went all the way to a Calder Cup championship in 2006-07, in which O'Byrne nettted two goals and five helpers in 22 playoff games.  O'Byrne was one of the solid backend players that helped anchor the amazing playoff run.

O'Byrne's play in the AHL was that of using his size and speed to outwork opposing forwards in his own end.  This season, O'Byrne has played way too soft for the NHL level, letting forwards skate in the opposing zone, grab the puck, and set up shop while he could have hit them, got the puck, and turned the play up ice.

With great young defensemen in the system, such as Yannick Weber (two goals, five assists, and plus four in 19 games in Hamilton), Mathieu Carle (two goals, five assists, and minus four in 12 games in Hamilton), and Shawn Belle (one goal, one assist, and +15 in 19 games in Hamilton), why is Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau wasting their time with Ryan O'Byrne?

And for that matter, where did Mathieu Dandenault disappear to?  Didn't he win two Stanley Cups in Detroit as one of the pillars of the Red Wing defensive core?  Why is he still being subbed in here and there as a fourth line winger?

No wonder the Canadiens are in close games with the likes of St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders.

Here's a solution: Send O'Byrne down to develop more because he's not ready for the big game yet and may never be in Montreal.  Either use Dandenault properly, or you'll be sorry you let him go, or bring up Belle, Weber, or Carle.

Hopefully, they get this situation found out soon because if O'Byrne is a regular in the lineup due to a long-term Mike Komisarek injury, the Canadiens' back end may be in danger of more oncoming goals from opposing forwards.