MONTREAL - Take one look at the Canadiens' record with and without Paul Byron in the lineup, and that should tell you everything you need to know about what he means to this team.
Byron played 56 games this season, missing action on three separate occasions because of injury and also sitting out three games for a suspension. (He was also scratched for the final game of the season as a preventative measure.)
With the flashy forward in the lineup, the Canadiens posted a 33-19-4 record - good for a .589 winning percentage - and earned 70 of a possible 112 points, giving them a .625 points percentage. In the 26 games without Byron's services, the Habs went 11-11-4 (.423) and earned 26 of 52 points (.500).
Video: MTL@PIT: Byron tucks shot past Murray while falling
Those numbers are especially worth looking at in a season interrupted by injury. That's because Byron, who had hit the 20-goal mark in each of his previous two seasons, may not have flexed his offensive muscle as much in 2018-19 but still had a meaningful impact on his team's 96-point result.
The 56 games Byron played represent 68.3% of the season's 82 total contests. In those 56 games, the Canadiens scored 171 of their 249 goals for this season, or 68.7% of their total output. Byron was out of the lineup for 31.7% of the Habs' calendar and they scored 31.3% of their goals in those games.
Video: MTL@BOS: Byron fakes shot, backhands home SHG
If Byron's presence led to a slightly higher team-wide offensive output than when he wasn't playing, the difference is even more tangible on the defensive side of things: the Habs allowed 61% of their goals against with him in the lineup and 39% when he was sidelined. Of course, in a team sport one player most likely wouldn't be the sole factor behind a shift in offensive and defensive effectiveness, but it's worth noting nonetheless that, proportionally speaking, the Habs were much more defensively sound with him than without him, and slightly more offensively too.
Given what we know about Byron's versatility, it's not a stretch to suggest a correlation there. The argument becomes meatier when you throw in the fact that Byron's per-game average of 1:23 of shorthanded action was third among the team's wingers (who we'll rank separately from all forwards given that they're being deployed for their defensive game and not their ability to win faceoffs as a center would).
Video: Victor Mete and Paul Byron tell dad jokes
That being said, it's clear that both Byron and the Canadiens would've preferred for him to be in the lineup 100% of the time.
"When Paul Byron is in our lineup, it makes a huge difference," praised head coach Claude Julien after Byron returned from a wrist injury to score in his 400th career game in February against Columbus. "He's a good skater who puts defensemen on their heels all night long, whether it's on the forecheck or recovering pucks or skating to receive a pass. Players like that make other teams' defensemen nervous. That's what Paul brings to our team every night he plays."
Video: CBJ@MTL: Byron puts home carom off end boards
For his part, the nine-year veteran - who tied a career-high six-game points streak that started in that 400th NHL game - took his injury woes in stride, and used them as motivation to make sure he was at the top of his game whenever he was on the ice.
Video: Paul Byron on the positive strides taken this season
"I think I got a little bit unlucky with injuries [this season]. But the last couple of years I've been pretty healthy. And in this sport, it's kind of what happens: there's so much wear and tear, a lot of travel, and we're out there battling hard every day in practice; it's hard on the body," shared Byron, who scored 15 goals and 31 points and finished with a plus-16 differential. "But I always knew that regardless of injury, when I came back in the lineup I wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to help the team win. These guys were out there without me battling and winning hockey games, and you wanted to make sure you weren't the weak link."