Ryan O’Byrne Seems Like A Fine Fellow

Ryan O’Byrne’s days with the Montreal Canadiens may or may not be numbered, and it seems it’s leaning quickly towards “may be.” There’s just no room for the big, strapping, 26 year old defenceman.

Alexandre Picard has come in and done the job that O’Byrne needed to do every night. Picard has a more natural ability in handling the puck and is a physical presence on the ice. O’Byrne has mostly been unsure with the puck, getting rid of it quickly, and as big as he is (6’5, 234 lbs), he has never really cast a menacing shadow on the ice. I’ve whined often on these pages that this big fellow would be a lot more effective both for himself and his team if he played in a much nastier mood.

But this angry style just doesn’t seem to fit O’Byrne’s likeable demeanor.

And of course, although very little is expected of O’Byrne in the offence department, he’s only scored two goals since his arrival in the league in 2007 and a few more here and there would have helped his cause greatly.

It hasn’t been been smooth sailing for O’Byrne as a Hab. There’s been a couple of things, one in Tampa a few years back, and a goal he scored on his own net, that have been very unfortunate and something I’m not going to dwell on. In the Tampa incident in particular, I believe O’Byrne was a victim of misunderstanding for all concerned, and it’s very unfortunate.

I think O’Byrne is a fine man, a gentleman, well-spoken, and comes from good upbringing in Victoria which, if you’ve never been, is a lovely city.

And whether or not it was his or the team’s decision for O’Byrne to pull off his number 3 jersey and hand it to Emile Bouchard, it was still a noble and emotional gesture and I was very proud of him that night.

Whatever jersey O’Byrne dons in the future, I hope he does well and enjoys a long NHL career. I think he’s one of the good guys.

14 thoughts on “Ryan O’Byrne Seems Like A Fine Fellow”

  1. I agree with you Dennis because his size could be like a secret weapon. Just send him out on the third or fourth line now and then and take a few opponents into the boards. That’s one part of the game we don’t compare with to any other team in my opinion. It’s such a drag to see our guys get crunched and no cops around on the ice to get the revenge. He could also be Price’s bodyguard.

  2. I really like OB. He is perhaps another player rushed into things a little to quickly and should have gotten a longer stint in Hamilton. During a large part of last year and early this year his confidence has been his biggest problem. When Martin was hired as coach I heard how well he worked with younger players but its not something I’ve yet seen other than with PK and there he may have some direction from above. Being afraid of making a mistake for fear of getting benched doesn’t help the younger players. Anyways I still believe OB will be a reliable defenceman in the league but he needs to rediscover his mojo and that isn’t going to happen sitting in the press box or on the end of the bench. The best coach for him would have been Boucher and that may yet be.

  3. It is too bad that he never lived up to what we wanted him to be (and not unreasonably, given his size), but he clearly is more of a gentle giant. If he was smaller, we’d probably be harping on about his lack of two-way play instead, but at least he could be a good responsible defensive defenceman. Instead, the size that surely was an asset as he rose through the midget, bantam and junior ranks has become a weight of unreasonable expectations. You can’t project nasty onto someone who just isn’t, and artifically forced bruisers never pan out (except maybe the Bash Brothers in the Mighty Ducks!). He never could find the niche that suited his skills, and now I agree there may not be room for him. Probably the worst thing that could have happened to him was the emergence of Josh Gorges. I could see him potentially maturing to fill a role like that (albeit with less puckhandling skill) – dependable, D-first, non-bruising shutdown D. However Gorges did blossom, and to the team’s benefit as I don’t think Obyrne would ever have the ceiling Gorges has.

    I agree completely on the classiness of the Bouchard jersey – that was arguably my favourite moment from all of the centennial festivities (either that or seeing Dryden take to the ice, – putting pads on for the first time since 1979! – for the warmup that night).

  4. I always wanted O’Byrne to do well. When he would spend time in Hamilton he always seemed to come back with renewed confidence in his game but would always lose it when he messed up and got benched. I think I wanted him to be the next Larry Robinson at least in the physicality department. I know he won’t be but I’d settle for being a little like Big Bird. I am not impressed with the way Martin has handled him and Carbo was not much better. The poor guy gets glued to the bench for any mistake but other players are not held to the same standard. Also I don’t know if this is accurate or not but I read somewhere that the bar incident was about a team mate being recorded on a cell phone doing something inappropriate and O’B was looking out for his team mate. I really hope we don’t lose him. Sorry about he length.

  5. I too like Ryan, but it became too long of a wait. I wonder if he was playing in a market where it wasn’t life and death to make the playoffs every year if he’d have succeeded. The team gave him plenty of games (way more than they’ve given other ‘marginal’ prospects coming up), but he was always under constant threat of banishment despite this fact. He never whined publicly or anything.

    The fact is, how the Habs handled him was actually pretty justifiable: they used him when he was needed to help them win important games, but when he struggled they couldn’t afford to deal with the pains of it and would move him out of the lineup and down the depth chart. It’s possible this stunted his development, but it kept the Habs in a playoff spot. If he had been on a team that was out of a playoff spot, they would have been more willingness to work through the issues. If there was suddenly a spot available on a contender, they would have protected him more.

  6. I think you’re right , Don. Being afraid of making a mistake has been a terrible thing for him. I suppose he needs a clean slate somewhere else.

  7. That’s a great point Danny about how O’Byrne’s size made him a huge asset as he rode throught the ranks. For me, one of his biggest problems was his handling of the puck. He didn’t seem relaxed with it and often he made poor decisions such as throwing it up the middle when he shouldn’t. If only he could have played in more of a sour mood. A guy with size like that could absolutely be a formidable force and with all the small guys on this team up front, a big nasty policeman on the blueline is what the doctor ordered.

  8. Dishonest John, if only he could play with the physical authority of Robinson then he would have a solid place on the team. If a guy isn’t great with the puck, at least take advantage of the size. And I think you’re very close in your description of what went on in Tampa. O’Byrne was helping a teammate who made a poor choice and he took the heat. That’s why Gainey and Carbo didn’t freak out on him.

  9. Good points, Bruce. I’m sure the team has been patient because he’s 6’5 which is an incredible asset. He’s been a good team player, a good teammate, and like you say, he’s never whined. But they’re trying to win and are going with who’s playing the best. There comes a time when patience comes to an end. I just think he’s a good guy and I feel bad but we want a winner too and if he has to go, so be it.

  10. I like OB like everyone else. When we were a small team, it was great to have him on our side. I think he can be a physical presence as he has laid the body on like not many else can do. I think he is tentative and not full of confidence. JM hasn’t handled him well. We would get little for him if traded. It may be a little too late for ROB as the defensive corps is filling out and and he’s on the outside looking in. He’ll have to dig deep and try his best. I think there is still a chance. His attitude of not complaining will help. Good luck Ryan.

  11. Dennis, last year was a tough one for Ryan. He lost his mother to cancer and a devastating loss like that had to be a major setback.

    His mother, Lorelei was only 56 when she succumbed to breast cancer, which she had been fighting since diagnosed in 2001.

    Hockey is a tough sport. You’re remembered mostly by your last mistake more than all the good stuff you may have contributed.

    I also think he has tons of potential and it would be a shame to see him go only to flourish on another team.

    He’s 26, so he’s no young buck anymore but some of the greatest players took more than two or three years in the NHL before they started to make their mark.

    I sure hope he can get it together, gain confidence and play to his full potential.


    The following is from an excellent article by Cleve Dheensaw for The Victoria Times Colonist. It was written during training camp this year:

    Victoria’s Ryan O’Byrne of the Montreal Canadiens says that of all the hockey advice and wisdom given him over the years, what always stuck in his mind is what Nate Forster once told him: “You can go from prospect to suspect to reject very quickly.”

    Forster played defence at the Racquet Club of Victoria before O’Byrne and was a Washington Capitals-drafted junior out of the WHL who ended his pro career in Italy after two seasons with the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings.

    Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/Byrne+eyes+breakthrough+season/3559589/story.html#ixzz14939AKRE

    What I get out of that great article is that Ryan O’Byrne is a really fine gentleman and a very thoughtful and sensitive soul.

    I hope he can remain a Hab. Either way, I wish Rhino all the best.

  12. Good comments, Danno. Losing his mom wouldn’t help for sure and I’m with you, I hope he gets it together and enjoys a long career.

  13. Mayo, if only he would hit and hurt everyone coming his way. That’s the ticket. That’s what will see him in the lineup.

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