November 11, 2010

Avalanche’s Woes Pile on with Acquisition of Problem Child O’Byrne

"Dude, I'm sorry! You can have your purse back!!!"

With Ryan O’Byrne getting traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the phrase “we hardly knew ye” must ring strangely true for Montreal Canadiens fans, despite his having played four seasons with the team.

That’s because the now-departed blue-liner only appeared in a total of 128 games in the NHL and three this season, having generally played below expectations and fallen below supposed-minor-league-signing Alex Picard on the team’s depth chart. This of course occurred, oh, I don’t know, about three seconds into the season when, prompted by first seeing Picard play in person, head coach Jacques Martin asked the closest person in his general vicinity: “You mean, it’s legal to have a seventh defenseman that can actually play???”

So underwhelming an experience has watching O’Byrne been that it seems strangely fitting that the song “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” (from which the above saying is taken) shares a tune with “The Ants Go Marching One by One”, and thus would serve as an appropriate bid adieu to be played on his way to the airport, onto the plane, and out of town.

Of course, add in the fact that the song is Irish in origin just like O’Byrne and anti-war in nature just like O’Byrne is anti-competitive and one has to wonder how it never caught on as a theme song of sorts for when he skated onto the ice during warm-ups, you know, for those rare occasions he actually made it into the line-up.

For those unfamiliar with him due to his lack of ice time, O’Byrne is best known as the guy who, once upon a time along with then-teammate Tom Kostopoulos, got arrested for stealing a purse, apparently utilizing his underplayed psychic abilities to successfully predict the financial turn for the worse his career would inevitably take just a few years down the road. He also utilized his underplayed scoring abilities to score on his own net on a delayed penalty once, thereby achieving the same folk-hero status as notorious own-goal scorers Steve Smith, Chris Phillips, and Uwe Krupp.

O’Byrne joins a team, whose website currently shows 10 other defensemen listed on the roster (no joke). Granted some of those are AHLers called up due to injury like Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk, but the point is the Avalanche, in practice and not necessarily on paper, are more deep on D than the Habs, which, granted again, is like saying the Quebec Nordiques got the better end of the Patrick Roy trade. There’s a definite case to be made to the contrary, but you will mainly get dirty looks in exchange.

Now, this trade doesn’t approach one-hundredth of the significance of the Roy deal, with only current QMJHLer Leaguer Michael Bournival coming back the other way. However, the Habs do trim almost $1 million off their salary-cap payroll, meaning the Habs might come out ahead if they’re able to do something productive with that space. Meanwhile, Bournival is projected to be a fringe second-liner or above-average third-liner, meaning the Habs are getting something tangible back in return, but they will have to wait a few years to reap those benefits, with Bournival just getting drafted this past summer. 

As for the Avalanche, they had better get ready to melt in the standings from what can only be described as a “Slow”Byrne... if he somehow hasn’t become a press-box regular one month from now.

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