If I was to describe a player to you the following way, who would you immediately think of?
1. Played D for the Montreal Canadiens early in his career.
2. Was regularly paired with Andrei Markov while with the Habs.
3. Has led his team in hits and blocked shots.
You'd probably think I was talking about Mike Komisarek - well - ALMOST! I'm actually referring to Colorado Avalanche Defender Ryan O'Byrne... your newest turnstile operator for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs dealt a 2014 4th round draft pick to the Avs for O'Byrne, in what is an underwhelming trade to say the least. They wanted a defensive stopper to play in the top 4 but unfortunately they've added a defensive black hole to play in the top 4.
Ryan O'Byrne is bad defensively. Not a little bit bad. Very bad. How bad? Well let's review some comments from other sources - closer to his recent home with the Colorado Avalanche. The following are courtesy Jibble Scribbits - author of jibblescribbits.com - and one of my favourite follows on Twitter.
If the Maple Leafs keep their ice colder than COL I bet O'Byrne skates freeze to it.— jibble scribbits (@Jibblescribbits) April 3, 2013
The avs best six healthy defensemen right now are, in order: Barrie, Hejda, Hunwick, O'Brien, Elliot, O'Byrne, Zanon. That's depressing— jibble scribbits (@Jibblescribbits) February 27, 2013
@rockshockeyryan is sharp, he noticed how bad O'Byrne is. ROB isn't even taking the tough shifts like he did last year— jibble scribbits (@Jibblescribbits) February 27, 2013
"Brunner finds that soft little area" ... Olczyk forgetting "right next to Ryan O'Byrne"— jibble scribbits (@Jibblescribbits) April 2, 2013
Also we have:
Ryan O'Byrne twisting awkwardly, skates glued into the ice, watching helplessly as another puck slides in the net, is my sports fan avatar— Anthrax Jones (@AnthraxJones) April 2, 2013
why Ryan O'Byrne is allowed to stay in this line up is beyond me. #SaccoLogic— BBKevin (@BrgBrigadeKevin) March 29, 2013
Ok so O'Byrne isn't very good - Avs fans want him gone... and apparently he was a healthy scratch on one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL.
He looked passable on a shut down pairing with Jan Hejda last year but this year with Greg Zanon has been abysmal. Unfortunately the reality is Hejda carried that pair and that makes sense as Hejda is one of the top shut down D men of the past decade in the NHL. Zanon was too, until he got really old... he can't carry O'Byrne anymore, and O'Byrne's (and Zanon's!) numbers reflect that fact.
Here are some basic fancy stats (courtesy behindthenet.ca) for some of you guys to consider about O'Byrne in comparison to the Leafs current crop of D men:
|SEASON||NAME||GP||TOI/60||Corsi Rel QoC||Corsi Rel QoT||Corsi QoT||Corsi On|
|2009-2010 Season||Carl Gunnarsson||43||15.93||0.38||-0.274||5.289||-2.98|
|2010-2011 Season||Carl Gunnarsson||68||13.86||0.19||0.187||-5.779||-4.78|
|2011-2012 Season||Carl Gunnarsson||76||17.17||1.145||0.73||-1.838||-3.17|
|2012-2013 Season||Carl Gunnarsson||24||17.63||0.918||0.046||-11.356||-8.93|
|2009-2010 Season||Cody Franson||61||11.95||-1.047||0.046||3.295||12.76|
|2010-2011 Season||Cody Franson||80||12.84||-0.673||-0.87||-2.305||2.45|
|2011-2012 Season||Cody Franson||57||14.26||-0.698||0.389||-2.173||2.8|
|2012-2013 Season||Cody Franson||29||13.76||-1.107||3.264||-9.414||-3.61|
|2009-2010 Season||Dion Phaneuf||81||17.47||0.817||0.153||4.165||6.36|
|2010-2011 Season||Dion Phaneuf||66||18.62||0.724||0.01||-6.021||-6.2|
|2011-2012 Season||Dion Phaneuf||82||18.55||1.399||-0.043||-2.559||-0.36|
|2012-2013 Season||Dion Phaneuf||32||18.7||1.972||-2.123||-12.86||-19.35|
|2009-2010 Season||John-Michael Liles||59||14.25||-0.668||0.338||-10.091||-10.57|
|2010-2011 Season||John-Michael Liles||76||16.93||0.484||0.361||-4.163||-1.49|
|2011-2012 Season||John-Michael Liles||66||16.99||-0.192||0.212||-2.35||-0.86|
|2012-2013 Season||John-Michael Liles||20||15.74||-0.043||1.14||-10.978||-7.24|
|2012-2013 Season||John-Michael Liles||22||15.58||1.527||-2.31||-12.916||-27.49|
|2009-2010 Season||Mark Fraser||61||12.14||-0.724||0.198||1.574||-0.73|
|2010-2011 Season||Mark Fraser||26||12.57||-0.753||-0.56||3.565||5.69|
|2012-2013 Season||Mark Fraser||29||13.56||-1.089||4.137||-8.736||-7.33|
|2009-2010 Season||Mike Komisarek||34||16.92||0.273||2.572||8.054||12|
|2010-2011 Season||Mike Komisarek||75||11.89||0.05||0.43||-5.323||-9.68|
|2011-2012 Season||Mike Komisarek||45||14.68||0.046||0.682||-1.876||-7.72|
|2012-2013 Season||Mike Kostka||27||17.46||1.057||-0.884||-12.07||-6.24|
|2009-2010 Season||Ryan O'Byrne||55||13.71||-0.304||0.25||-6.646||-12.89|
|2010-2011 Season||Ryan O'Byrne||67||16.96||0.888||1.309||-3.667||-8.13|
|2011-2012 Season||Ryan O'Byrne||74||15.74||0.523||-2.179||1.569||-9.32|
|2012-2013 Season||Ryan O'Byrne||29||15.99||0.524||0.593||-3.697||-11.52|
So what's the takeaway from that chart? Well O'Byrne obviously has consistently had some of the worst Corsi results of any of those players. He's actually on average the worst defensive player by possession metrics now on the Leafs blue line. How bad is he? Well to compare D men defensively we can make use of my SDI system to compare their defensive results based on their situational difficulty. If we use his average SDI score to compare him to his new peers on the Leafs we see the following:
|NAME||SDI Sit||SDI Res||SDI Exp||SDI Resid||SDI Sit AVG||SDI Resid AVG|
Again - he's the second worst defender on the team, even in comparison to the older Komisarek, and having played with some much superior defenders. The SDI Resid column shows their SDI Score from the most recent season I have data for - and you'll notice that the only Defenders with worse scores this year so far are Holzer and Fraser, so in essence we've added a 5th D man - that's been playing top 4 minutes.
There is really no logical way to defend adding O'Byrne beyond saying "depth" and "toughness" - but I'll basically summarize him as follows: More Of The Same. Hopefully he doesn't actually keep Jake Gardiner out of the lineup.
This is becoming a Garbage In = Garbage Out sort of system. We keep playing crappy D men and expecting solid defensive results. We're still spending a pittance on our blue line, and this move won't improve it significantly. Expect the Leafs to continue to be horribly out-shot and out-chanced defensively, and hope that Gardiner gets more of a shot at the blue line over time. Look forward to reading your comments.