Today’s post is brought to you by the number 259. That’s the number of shots Patrick O’Sullivan posted this past season in the National Hockey League. That’s 74 more shots than Ales Hemsky managed (Hemsky’s total led team forwards); the last time the Oilers had a forward with more shots it was 1998-99 and Billy Guerin was scoring 30 goals on 261 shots.
Because Patrick O’Sullivan was acquired at the deadline and because he did not perform especially well during a 19 game audition (2-4-6 -7) I think it’s easy to dismiss the importance of his acquisition.
O’Sullivan didn’t have a strong season in Los Angeles or Edmonton but there are plenty of good indicators for the future. He is 24-years old, has played in 207 regular season NHL games and I believe he’s landed the chance of a lifetime.
- Boxcars: 81gp, 16-27-43 28pims
- Shots: 259
- Plus Minus: -6
- Corsi: +7.2
- GF/GA ON: 46-48
- 5×5/60: 1.93 (LAK) 1.69 (overall)
- 5×4/60: 2.48 (LAK) 2.05 (overall)
- Quality of Competition: soft parade
- Quality of Teammates: 3rd level
- FO %: 41.4% in 99 sorties
- 09-10 Cap Hit: $2.925M (capgeek)
- What do these numbers tell us? Players get traded for a reason and O’Sullivan was off the pace of his previous season. In 07-08 he was especially effective at even strength (16 EV goals and and 2.05 5×5/60) but faded a little this past season. Interesting to note the Kings never really have given him a lot of PP time (2:28 per game two years ago and 3:07 this past season) and he hasn’t done much with it. He had a solid Corsi but that number ranks in a 3rd place tie this season among Kings forwards and based on his linemates in LA it’s safe to say he wasn’t driving the bus. These are the numbers of a top 6 forward but it’s a stretch to suggest he’s a no-brainer option for the top offensive line and he’s unlikely to be an impact scorer unless surrounded by players better than him.
- How could the numbers be better? He’s certainly shooting enough and I think the Kings lack of an established group of forwards probably hurt him (their top 6 was a moving target throughout his time there). Rudy Kelly at BOC said this about his season pre-trade: Patrick O’Sullivan had regressed this season. I don’t think anyone will argue that point. Despite the fact that O’Sullivan had played mostly with Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll this season, he still couldn’t outscore himself from last year when he played with Michal Handzus. I don’t know what is was, maybe he didn’t like playing for Terry Murray as much as he liked playing under Marc Crawford, maybe the time off at the beginning of the season was bad for him, or maybe he just got unlucky. He wasn’t as dynamic offensively, wasn’t as efficient defensively, and looked somewhat disinterested all year. Whatever the reason, he was not the player we expected him to be.
- What about Penner? I think O’Sullivan and Penner are in competition with each other for both time on the 1line and 5×4 play. Penner has had a two season audition with Horcoff and Hemsky and that could mean O’Sullivan gets the early look this fall. He has speed and can aggressively forecheck, he can beat a man in a race and although he is young and needs work away from the puck it’s also true O’Sullivan won some trust on a line with Michal Handzus early in his LA career (he became known for a time as a quality PK man, the way Keon used to do it: forecheck like a demon and create chances on turnovers) so there’s a foundation there.
- What about Quinn/Renney? When you have two players fighting for one spot in the batting order it’s always best to spend your money on the player with the widest range of skills. I believe O’Sullivan’s speed, shooting ability and creativity will impress the coaches more than Penner’s size and hands. It also helps that one drove the previous coach crazy. Both are inconsistent but have a huge advantage in that other candidates also have issues (Nilsson) or are terribly young (Eberle).
- Will Quinn play him against tougher opposition? It’s a tough question. Should O’Sullivan end up with Horcoff and Hemsky and the coaching staff decide to match as hard as the other NW staffs then the answer is yes. However, I don’t think it has much to do with O’Sullivan’s talents and it would have to be considered a coincidence as opposed to any faith the Oilers are placing in the player.
- What Else? We don’t know Steve Tambellini well enough to mention this beyond a possibility because it does exist in humanity, but O’Sullivan is a player acquired by this management group and that carries weight in some circles. How much? No idea. Also, Dustin Penner was involved in a trade this summer in which the men in power for this organization signed off on, so that’s kind of a tell too. It should be mentioned there may be a short window here as the Daryl Katz ownership group will likely make another trip to Jurassic Park soon.
- What Else else? I’m not going to delve too deeply into the subject but for a very specific reason most of us are pulling for this guy.
- How Important is O’Sullivan to this team? Not especially outside of the money. Should O’Sullivan fail this season the Oilers can shuffle him off to the next town and his next contract will be in jeopardy. They should have a motivated player because of it.
By The Numbers
- 07-08 5×5 per 60m: 2.05
- 08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.69
- 07-08 5×4 per 60m: 3.07
- 08-09 5×4 per 60m: 2.05
Patrick O’Sullivan isn’t the ideal solution to 1line L for the Edmonton Oilers, but he’s likely the best since Ryan Smyth left town. The projected number represents a healthy increase in offense, but I think based on the job he might earn (1line L with Horcoff and Hemsky plus PP time) and his age this should be a good season for Patrick O’Sullivan.
Prediction for 2009-10: 78gp, 28-28-56 (.717 per game)