Ryan White at one time had the makings of being a fan favourite in Montreal. Not to the point of P.K. Subban of course, but a fourth liner who lays it all on the line every game to benefit his team. Yet now he's considered a detriment to the Canadiens by basically every fan.
White has always been a player that plays on the edge. His skill set is that of a fourth liner, and in order to stay in the lineup, he often feels like he has to protect his teammates.
Sometimes that results in something awesome happening, like that time he beat the shit out of Johnny Boychuk for trying to take Subban's knees out.
And sometimes it results in White overreacting to a dirty play and taking bad penalties. But it's been far more of the latter this season.
This season Ryan White is drawing an incredibly 2 penalties from the other team every 60 minutes of ice time, but he's taking a ghastly 3.1 penalties per 60 minutes himself. A lot of fans look at this season and think that he's always been like this, but it's actually not true.
In 2011-12 Ryan White drew 1.5 penalties per 60 minutes, while taking just 1 penalty per 60 minutes.
In 2010-11 Ryan White drew 1.5 penalties per 60 minutes, while taking just 0.8 penalties per 60 minutes.
Over those two years, White was more disciplined than Tomas Plekanec, and a penalty drawing machine. He still draws a ton of penalties, but the amount of penalties he takes has skyrocketed out of control.
Of players who have played more than 20 games this season, only Colton Orr takes penalties with greater frequency than White.
What has changed in the young man who stood up for his teammates at all costs to turn him into a player that takes selfish penalties constantly?
White is not a poor hockey player. He's not a top six forward, but he's also not without talent. He is a credible fourth liner on nearly any team in the league. For the role he plays with the team, I graded him an 8/10 over the season's first 24 games.
He's a solid defensive presence who can move the puck up the ice, so I ask again, what's changed?
I have a hypothesis. Ryan White hasn't been allowed to just be a hockey player this season. It was well known coming in that Therrien wanted him to play on the edge, but as soon as he stepped over it, he was benched. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, especially when he repeated his actions once drawing back into the lineup.
The problem is, when White drew back into the lineup a second time, he played well, but he didn't skirt that line as closely. Then he was benched again. It seems to me that White's margin for error to stay in the lineup is so razor thin, that he's become a perpetual line stepper. He can't just play hockey and be successful, even though he's actually outplayed Travis Moen in hockey terms most of the year.
I don't condone White's actions last night in any way, but I can see the choices from both him and the coaching staff that lead to this hit occurring. White was trying to spark his team, who were playing like crap. It didn't work, and the way he chose to do so was wrong, but can you really blame him for trying?
Ryan White may have played his final game in a Canadiens jersey, but personally I don't think he's solely to blame for it.