Montreal Canadiens' Ryan O'Byrne Isn't All That Bad

Matt EichelSenior Writer INovember 29, 2008

It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Ryan O' Byrne.  And it's not because of his own goal against the New York Islanders or getting deked out of his shorts by Detroit Red Wing Johan Franzen.  It's simply because it's taken the hockey world and many Montreal Canadiens fans this long to figure out he's not the 5th or 6th defenseman we need to be successful.

When O'Byrne was first called up last season around Christmas time, I was optimistic.  He was big (6'7), he was fast and quick, and possessed a decent pass and shot.  He netted a point in his first NHL game during the Canadiens southern Florida holiday trip.

But that honeymoon has been over for a while and as a Habs fan; I'm finally fully fed up with O'Byrne's play.  It seemed once he switched the called over to 2008, his play became inconsistent and he's never really gotten out of this funk he's been in.

It's inexperience that is making his mistakes, not his talent.  

His heart's there, but is his mind?

And after the own goal against the Islanders, I felt bad for the guy.  I saw him get burned in the Detroit game and again I felt bad.  But there's a distinct line between feeling bad for a player, always hoping he can get better and the player hurting your chances to win games with costly mistakes.

Or maybe I'm just an adamant fan that wants perfection.  Granted, I know that no one in the NHL can bring such perfection, yet there's a level of play that every player has to live up to.  I only thank Bob Gainey that O' Byrne isn't making over $1 million a season or then there would be even louder grumblings.

A kid has got to learn at this level and learn from his mistakes.  But in hockey mad Montreal, it makes people feel bad for him that the fans are so harsh.  And it's a sad reality.  But with such a storied history, Canadiens fans have come to expect the best from their team wearing the bleu, blanc, et rogue.  

And if you're not up to snuff, you'll get called out.

But is it such a negative?  Think about Patrice Brisebois, who got literally booed out of Montreal during the end of his first tenure with the Habs.  Opening night last season, he got a rousing ovation from the Bell Centre faithful upon his return.  It's not that we hate the player or want him to take a hike.  It's simply we know what the players are capable of and if they're not playing up to that level, just as a coach will get on a players case, we let them know we're not happy.

So call it what you will.  Personally, I still like Ryan O' Byrne.  He's got many upsides that contrast his flaws as a defender.  He's got alot of growing to do.  If he gets that time to grow and improve, then he will be just like Steve Smith.

Redemption is sweet.  Let's hope O' Byrne can taste it someday.