Monday, March 2, 2009

O'Byrne deserves a fair shot

Ryan O'Byrne was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs and practiced with his new/old teammates Monday morning in Brossard.

O'Byrne layed five games with Hamilton since his last demotion following the acquisition of Mathieu Schneider and was a plus-2 with one assist, six shots on goal and eight penalty minutes. He was on the receiving end of a big hit in Hamilton's 7-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Saturday night and reportedly suffered a concussion, but that appeared to be premature seeing as he's on the ice Monday.

I would hope the Canadiens will give O'Byrne a chance to play, which means giving him a chance to make a few mistakes as he goes along. Back in the days when the defence was solid, O'Byrne's mistakes were so blaring they were impossible to ignore. But these days, with defensive errors becoming the norm and no longer the exception on the Canadiens, O'Byrne should be given enough of a leash where he's allowed to make a few without being nailed to the bench.

Bob Gainey, speaking with Ron MacLean during the HNIC pre-game show on Saturday mentioned O'Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn as well as Alex Tanguay and Guillaume Latendresse as guys that will help the team in the near future, and he said that the team he has now is essentially the one he'll be entering the playoffs with.

Gainey is generally a pretty straight shooter, so if he says he's not looking at a major shakeup he has to be taken at his word. But when he also says that he's willing to listen to offers, maybe he left the door open slightly to grab another defenceman, because I'm not sure O'Byrne is the answer.

I've felt that O'Byrne has bee given a rough ride this season because of a few huge mistakes - most notably putting the puck into his own net - that snowballed into a pattern of unsure play. His confidence was shot, everyone in the city was mocking him and the resulting insecurity translated onto the ice.

Give him a chance - a real chance - and let's see what he can do. Seeing as Gainey is trying to unload Mathieu Dandenault because Guy Carbonneau absolutely refuses to give him a shot on defence, it would appear that O'Byrne is the only potential solution on the back end. Unless you believe Doug Janik is that guy.

Meanwhile, the younger Kostitsyn scored his first goal since being sent down to Hamilton on Saturday night in that blowout by the Marlies. He played on a line that night with Ben Maxwell and Ryan White, so he has some decent linemates to work with, but it looks as though he's taking his demotion the wrong way. Rather than seizing the opportunity to dominate at a lower level, Kostitsyn is simply playing down to that level.

It's too bad, because a rejuvenated Kostitsyn along with a rested Tanguay and Latendresse would create a lot of competition among the Canadiens forwards and could spark someone like Christopher Higgins, who has not really been setting the world on fire of late.

Another player Kostitsyn could help is his older brother Andrei, who hasn't hitched a ride on the hot streaks of his linemates Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev. While his linemates are flourishing, the elder Kostitsyn has no points over his last four games with only four shots on goal. He has obviously played his best hockey of the season with his brother on the opposite wing, though having Robert Lang at centre was also a big help.

Is it time to give Max Pacioretty a shot at playing wih Kovalev and Plekanec?


Yves said...

Pacioretty with Kovalev and Plekanec... sounds good.

TK said...

I think Pacioretty deserves that, he seems to be working hard out there. And he can win the battles that Kostitsyn is unwilling to fight.

Arp, why don't they ever try calling up Shawn Belle? who they got in a trade for Corey Locke last summer. I have watched a few Bulldog games and have been impressed. He's a smooth skater, 6'2, and a former first rounder. He played on Team Canada about five years ago. What's the knock on this guy?

TK said...

By Team Canada I mean the juniors

Yves said...

I would agree with TK on Shawn Belle.... I've wondered why he hasn't gotten a shot.

He's +15 this year in 51 games....

With the defensive woes... I'd give him a look... or at least, I would have before this point of the season.

Arpon Basu said...

I honestly have no idea. I remember watching Belle on that junior team and thinking what an outstanding prospect he was. That smooth skating style was in place back then and he had the size to go with it. The only thing I can imagine is that Belle has beewn identified as a depth guy and nothing more, only to be used in an emergency. As bad as the defence looks right now, it's not an emergency and O'Byrne is still ahead of Belle on the team's priority list.