I think this will sound familiar to Kings fans:
“Get him out of there right now!” Milbury calls for O’Sullivan’s benching.
I thought hockey fans could be tough and nasty in their player critiques on the Oilogosphere, but CBC announcers Mike Milbury and Kelly Hrudey just got as harsh as any anonymous Internet hater. The two CBC announcers thrashed and trashed Oilers forward Patrick O’Sullivan after the first period of the Oilers-Hawks game on Saturday night, bashing him for not going hard after a puck along the boards, evidently so he could avoid body contact with Hawks defender Duncan Keith.
At least that’s how it looked to me, and that’s certainly how it looked to both Hrudey and Milbury. Hrudey started off the hammering, then tagged off and Milbury utterly put the boots to the young Oilers forward.
Said Hrudey, as the replay aired, “Watch the puck battle, or the non-existent puck battle. He doesn’t even want it right here. You have to want that puck and get it on your stick and do something.”
Said Milbury: “This is what really keeps people out of the league. Patrick O’Sullivan, tremendously talented. This is a bail out. Let’s call it what is is. A bail out. I don’t want to pay the price to win the hockey game. They’re seeing that on the bench. Pat Quinn sees that on the bench. His teammates see that on the bench.”
“Would you bench him?” Hrudey asked Milbury.
“Get him out of there now!” Milbury said. “Right now! Give me Pat’s phone number. I’ll let him know.”
It should be noted that O’Sullivan wasn’t benched.
But Milbury was right. O’Sullivan deserved to be.
It was a terrible moment for this young player, his lack of fight for that puck, but it’s a symptom of the game he has been playing, a not very aggressive, not very intense outside game. He hardly ever takes the puck to the net, something he did more regularly when he first came to the Oilers last spring in a trade for Erik Cole.
O’Sullivan, 24, has just four goals in 23 games this year, with a shooting percentage of 5.8 per cent, which might be viewed as bad luck which he will soon snap out of except for the fact that he’s a career 7.0 per cent shooter in the NHL.
Maybe he’s not generating enough close in, high percentage shots, the type that come from charging the net and/or screening. I can’t recall him screening the goalie much at all this year. According to Behind the Net, he does shoot the puck from a greater distance, on average, than most other Oilers forwards. For instance, Andrew Cogliano, who does go to the net, has an average shot distance of 26.3 feet, while O’Sullivan’s is 31.4 feet.
If O’Sullivan was sent to the minors for a wake-up call, I’d say the move was deserved, not that I expect that to happen, not at his salary, and not with what new Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has invested in this player.
Some folks really liked the trade that brought in O’Sullivan, partly because Erik Cole was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, but mainly because they put a lot of stock in two stats, the fact that O’Sullivan took a lot of shots and the fact that he was part of a Kings unit that outshot the opposition. It’s not clear now how significant either of those two things were, but we’ve seen enough of O’Sullivan now to know that whatever good was happening on the ice when he was with the Kings, he certainly wasn’t leading the charge.
Other observers, who didn’t rely on the stats so much but could go by what they had seen of the player, were more circumspect about O’Sullivan. Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times said: “He’s not aggressive or very physical, but he will work the boards and go into the corners.”
O’Sullivan has one more year after this season on a deal that pays him $2.9 million a year, a huge chunk of the Oilers’ salary cap.
Like so many of the young Oilers forwards, he does appear to have some skill, but he must raise the level of fight and intensity in his game or he will not be in the NHL past his current contract.
I suggest he be given several hours of videotape from last season’s Stanley Cup finals so he can watch the play of Dan Cleary, a player much like O’Sullivan who has transformed himself into a tough, cagey battler, doing most of his work right in front of the goalie and becoming a valuable member of a great team.
via Cult of Hockey