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Ryan O'Byrne: Missing in action

May 21, 2010, 11:45 AM EDT

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obyrne.jpgWe’re not sure if you knew this, but a lot of folks in Montreal were clamoring for defenseman Ryan O’Byrne to get the call in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. O’Byrne is a big, bruising defender and more than capable of laying a hit or five. Going against an overly physical team like Philadelphia it would seem like having a physical presence of your own would make sense.

While there’s always a method to a coach’s madness, fans in Montreal have struggled with some of Jacques Martin’s choices and his decision to bench Ryan O’Byrne after playing just 1:34 of the first period is high on that list for the folks at All Habs.

Jacques Martin’s handling of Ryan O’Byrne only supports his reputation as a coach who picks favorites and destroys the confidence of younger players. With O’Byrne having been held out of the past three games, adrenaline got the better of him early in the game.

O’Byrne accidentally cleared the puck into the crowd earning him a penalty for delay of game. He rarely saw the ice after that playing only 1:34. O’Byrne’s mistake was certainly far less egregious than the dozens made by Marc-Andre Bergeron but to no avail.

It appeared to me that Martin nailed O’Byrne to the bench not for fear of another error but in case he did something right. The coach has been second-guessed and peppered with questions about not using O’Byrne in this physical series.

With O’Byrne’s penalty, and no further chance to redeem himself, Martin was able to make himself look like he was right all along. It’s a sad way to manage a team, and partly responsible for the coach’s mediocre career record.

There’s damning criticism and then there’s that scathing rundown. O’Byrne is a tough kid and he’s certainly had his ups and downs with Montreal but you have to wonder if maybe playing O’Byrne a bit more would’ve helped save Roman Hamrlik the ignominy of having to fight Scott Hartnell in a blowout game in the Eastern Conference finals. After all, isn’t that the exact specific sort of role Ryan O’Byrne fits in the first place? I know it’s tough for Habs fans to find something to get worked up about after a 5-1 win for their team, but Martin’s choice to bench O’Byrne is certainly worth questioning.

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