Montreal Canadiens Send Down Ryan O'Byrne—2009 Now Looks Brighter

Matt EichelSenior Writer IDecember 31, 2008

It should come to you as no surprise that I'm not the biggest fan of Ryan O'Byrne, even if I have defended him in the past.

Now he's on his way down to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs to get some ice time and keep his play sharp after being a healthy scratch for the Canadiens the past two weeks.  He won't go alone as rookie Ben Maxwell is also trading a CH for a Bulldog symbol on his jersey.

Through 22 games this season, most of which I was squirming in my chair as I watched him try and pass the puck up the ice, O'Byrne has had mental lapses which may account for his -5 rating and only three assists this season.  Through 33 games last season, O'Byrne picked up a goal and six assists with a +7 rating and played more sound defense.

But now Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey may be making a move here that he should of made a long time ago.

Hopefully Gainey's New Years resolution was to improve the blueline.  It seems like he started his resolution before the clock started ticking down to 2009.

Call me harsh, call me a typical Habs fan who is hard on the players, but watch one game with O'Byrne on defense and you will begin to understand why I squirm in my seat when he has the puck.

His mental errors have cost the Canadiens points in the standings and thankfully he was scratched in time or else more damage could have been wrought.  With O'Byrne, it may be a matter of time before a change of scenery is in order.

With big name defensive prospects such as PK Subban, Ryan McDonagh, David Fischer, and Yannick Weber knocking on the Canadiens door in the next few years, O'Byrne's play through the first 55 games of his young NHL career may indicate a move may be imminent.

Then again, Gainey re-signed O'Byrne in the summer on a good performance last season and a decent playoff performance for a rookie defenseman.  Gainey could shop O'Byrne to teams looking to add depth with a fifth or sixth defender.

But in Montreal, O'Byrne's case to stay is not looking good.

Move aside Ryan O'Byrne, instead of your hulking figure on the blueline, it will eventually be replaced by puck-rushing defenseman PK Subban.  Your point presence will eventually be replaced by Yannick Weber's booming slapshot.  Your defensive zone hits on incoming players (if you don't miss them, as he does on occasion) will eventually be replaced by Ryan McDonagh's defensive zone play.

Is it just me or do the Canadiens have better prospects to replace O'Byrne with?

If I was calling the shots—O'Byrne would be on his way to a team that could use him.