Habs Claim Paul Byron From Flames

Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of a busy day for the Montreal Canadiens, the team announced they have claimed 26-year-old Paul Byron from the Calgary Flames. He will wear #41.

Ostensibly to replace the gap left by Zack Kassian, the club added this forward who had been placed on waivers by the Flames just a day ago. According to J.F. Chaumont, Byron will earn $900,000 this season, and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July of 2016.

So, who is Paul Byron?

First of all, let’s get the obvious out of the way: he’s 5’7″ tall, and his latest stats put him at 153lbs. I know, this elicits groans from many who thought the Habs were past the “short players” phase.

But now, let’s get to know Byron and look deeper into his assets.

According to the Canadiens, he registered 19 points, 6 of them goals, last season with the Flames. In 138 NHL career games, his total is 48 points, 17 of them goals. He’s also credited with 101 hits.

The Habs weren’t looking to do much more than fill the gaps right now, and Byron came at a good price with very little risk.

A statistical snapshot:

Courtesy Dominic Galamini

Courtesy Dominic Galamini

But statistics are one side of the story. According to Flames writer Ari Yanover, Byron was a steal for the Habs. In Yanover’s words:

Byron is the ideal bottom six player: one who makes his linemates better, can handle difficult circumstances, and occasionally, chip in with a goal here or there. He doesn’t cost much, because he’s depth, but he’s everything you could have asked for in a depth player. He hit a fair amount as well; size had nothing on him.

This bodes well for the Habs, who continue to add depth whenever they draft, trade, claim or sign.

Many who have watched Byron play have cautioned fans not to let his size be the only thing about him; he’s productive, he’s gritty, he’s got the speed, and he’s solid.

For me, proof is always in the pudding. This clip, from 2012, shows Byron taking a penalty shot against then-Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie, Jonas Gustavsson. This particular clip speaks well for him too: Gustavsson’s nickname, The Monster, describes his 6’4″ height and how he fills the net. Yet Byron makes it look effortless.

Let’s go back to what Marc Bergevin said in Monday’s press conference: he is a firm believer in character. He always looks for character players, and let’s face it: when a player is significantly smaller in stature from his teammates, and from the average in the league, there is something beyond hockey that takes him to where he ends up.

Byron, well reputed among teams and teammates – as well as analysts – seems to possess that character we’ve seen from other players who lack height. Some examples: Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher, and the ever-surprising David Desharnais. If that list doesn’t scream “character”, what does?

And this just in:

Not surprising, either; acquiring Byron easily led to this move.

Looking to add depth, perhaps looking to detract from a difficult PR issue, Marc Bergevin turned the Habs into positive talk with this claim, and that speaks to the professionalism of this GM as with everything he does.

So, don’t bemoan the height; celebrate the depth, and the distance from Monday’s news to Tuesday’s acquisition.

In Other News

Both Dustin Tokarski and Mark Barberio, placed on waivers Monday, have cleared and are on the way to the St. John’s Ice Caps to play in the AHL.

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