One of the biggest reasons for the middling state of the Montreal Canadiens is the fact so few of their young players have developed into what the team envisioned them to be.
Maxim Lapierre looked ready to assume a more prominent role on the team, especially after scoring 15 goals in 2008-09 and establishing himself as a world-class pest. But his production has absolutely plummeted, leaving him with just three goals through 56 games.
Sergei Kostitsyn continues to spin his wheels, failing to get the most from his ample offensive capabilities. Max Pacioretty’s play was so unimpressive he was recently sent to the American League, where, until Sunday, you could have found Matt D’Agostini, who hasn’t scored enough to be a top-six forward in Montreal and hasn’t been good enough in other areas of the game to play on the third or fourth line.
And of course, not a day goes by that we’re not reminded of the stagnant state of Carey Price’s development.
If there’s one vibrant exception to the rule, it’s the steps taken by 24-year-old Jaroslav Halak, who’s demonstrated he deserves at least a chance to be a starting goalie somewhere, be it with the Canadiens or some other squad.
Another guy who seems to at least partially be moving in the right direction is Ryan O’Byrne. The 25-year-old defenseman is obviously capable of big strides given his 6-foot-5, 228-pound frame, but the Habs must be satisfied with the baby steps O’Byrne has taken after enduring a miserable sophomore season last year, one that included him infamously shooting the puck into his own open net from just inside the blueline.
But after being the butt of a few jokes following that play – and a couple other pylon moments – O’Byrne has shown he can hold his own as a stay-at-home NHL defender.
What’s more, he’s demonstrated an active desire to improve and help fill the toughness void created when Mike Komisarek left as a free agent last summer.
Essentially, there’s no reason O’Byrne can’t supply what Komisarek did. Neither has any offensive upside, but both bring aggression and a willingness to stick up for teammates.
As long as O’Byrne continues to display those assets while meeting the minimum standard defensively, he’ll be the rare young Hab whose career is headed the right way.
This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.
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