When the Montreal Canadiens first added on Paul Byron off waivers from the Calgary Flames organization, nobody knew what exactly they were in for as the 28-year-old centreman had been severely struggling in every sense of the game.
From his game time on the ice to his goals, points and assists, not a single individual could have possibly pictured the performance he has going on now in Montreal.
Further more, three years into his tenure with the Habs, Byron is now doing the inevitable with his second 20-goal season now under his belt as of Tuesday night against the Jets at the Bell Centre.
It was announced on Monday that the native of Ottawa alongside alternate captain Brendan Gallagher were named the recipients of the 2017-18 Jacques Beauchamp Trophy with thanks to their leadership and continuous production on the ice.
For Byron, this is his second consecutive season scoring twenty goals or more while for Gallagher, he hit a milestone as well, reaching the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
Both men grind it out each and everyday, whether that is during practice in Brossard or in-game which most of the time is when one word respectively is used and on a regular basis.
That word is clutch. While it is evident that the Canadiens have struggled for a majority of the season, Byron, formerly a 6th round pick (179th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Byron has been and continues to get looked at by not only his teammates but his coaches and the fans as the foundation that keeps the Habs in check when times get hard.
Because of the lack of production from an offensive standpoint, Byron, who has experienced a change and for the better, has made himself the guy to call on when trailing late in the game with his smooth ability to transfer the puck from his stick and doing so while pushing himself through strides skating each way.
Gallagher, on the other hand, provides another front-end forward who has the ability to score and produce points on a night-to-night basis. Once he is full blown in momentum, you will very rarely see the 28-year-old native of slow himself down, making it impossible to walk away when there is still help to be offered.
When looking at what exactly it is that the Beauchamp-Molson Trophy stands for, it is awarded annually to the member of the team who played a dominant role during the regular season without earning any particular honour.
Voted by members of the Montreal media, Byron adds to his collection for his second consecutive season, making himself the only Canadien to do so in the past two years.
When asked about the meaning and impact this has on him, Byron said before Tuesday’s affair, “The biggest thing for me is knowing and believing that I’m not just a fourth-line player anymore. I always felt like I needed to prove myself as a fourth-line guy … I had to go out there and hit and penalty-kill, and that was going to be my role. But I can bring more than that. I’ve been an offensive guy, I’m able to play really good, stout defence. I can kill penalties. Being able to do a little bit of everything is really what’s got me here and I’m grateful for every opportunity I got here in Montreal.”
As for Gallagher, it was the first time he has been awarded with this trophy and when he was asked about it as well as his breakout season, he said, “I don’t know. It’s hard to say that. You just try and be a consistent player every game and it was no different this year and, obviously, we have three games left here to continue it. But I was just trying to be myself every game. Try to be consistent, do whatever you can do to contribute.”
In continuation, he said, “It’s not always scoring goals … this year I was pretty fortunate, a lot of pucks went in. But it can also go the other way and I’ve been through slumps in my career as well where sometimes you’re doing the right things and pucks aren’t going in. So you try not to measure it by that, but certainly I’ve been pretty happy with just the consistency that I’ve been able to have this year and hopefully I can continue that for three (more) games.”
After learning that he had been named a recipient of the award, Gallagher joked that the Molson Cup Player of the Year award is really the Carey Price Cup because the goalie won it for the seventh time last season. Gallagher called the Molson Cup “a nice honour.”
Taking a look at a few key statistics to bring the season to a wrap, Gallagher finished Tuesday night’s game with 30 goals and 22 assists, adding up to a total of 52 points in 80 games played. This set career highs in both goals and points. On the other hand, Byron walks away with 20 goals and 15 assists to go alongside 35 points recorded in a total of 80 games played as well.
Gallagher, 25, is a former 5th round draft pick (147th overall) of Montreal back in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, meanwhile, Byron is a former 6th round draft pick (179th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
It is well worth noting that both Byron and Gallagher are listed at 5-foot-9, making for the smallest players currently on the active roster, however, this is not to be downsized by their impeccable performances displayed this season which are now being recognized amidst a season of struggle which has required nothing short of the grind, grit and heart shown from each individual since Opening Night.
Paul Byron was signed to a three-year contract extension back on February 23rd of 2016 which will keep him locked up with the Habs through the 2018-19 season. As it was noted by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, Byron will earn a total of $3.5 million over the lifetime of the deal.
In other news, veteran goaltender Carey Price surpassed Jacques Plante on Tuesday night by taking part in his 557th game played, a new franchise record set in Montreal Canadiens history. Price was recognized both before and during the game with a tribute video on the scoreboard while his wife and daughter were in attendance to take in the momentous achievement.