Feb 032009
 

My friends will attest that I’m a big Shane O’Brien fan. I think he’s a solid guy, considering his third-pairing role. I think he’s a tough guy that doesn’t hesitate to defend his teammates when he needs to. (Mason Raymond probably agrees with me as well.)

Today though, one night after being a healthy scratch for the first time since being acquired by the Canucks, he spoke out about his role (Hosea Cheung, Canucks 24/7):

After Monday’s practice, it was Shane O’Brien’s turn to speak out.

“I’m not asking to be first unit powerplay, 25 minutes a night,” said the big blueliner, who was scratched Saturday. “I like for them to trust me and put me on the ice and if you can’t put a guy out in the third period, then maybe he shouldn’t even be here.”

The 25-year-old was venting after being told during a player-coach meeting that he needed to drop the mitts more, something he has not done since Dec. 14.

“They asked me why I haven’t been fighting and I didn’t think that was really as big of an issue here,” he said. “I thought I was a good enough player to play and help the team win but I’ll fight when the situation is right, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I was just surprised that fighting was an issue. I thought they thought I was a player and I guess they don’t anymore, they’re confused, I don’t know what’s going on.”

Not surprisingly, Mike Gillis has a quick response (Matthew Sekeres, Globe and Mail):

Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has denied claims by defenceman Shane O’Brien that he was asked to fight more often.

Gillis, head coach Alain Vigneault and two other Canucks executives met with all of the team’s players last week to address a prolonged losing string — now eight consecutive games and nine in a row on home ice.

O’Brien, fresh off a benching during a 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild last Saturday, said that in his meeting, the GM instructed him to fight.

“In no uncertain terms was he told he had to fight,” Gillis said last night. “How he ever got that message is unbeknownst to me. He clearly misinterpreted the message that we were trying to send, that each player has to be accountable and work hard individually.”

Gillis said O’Brien was told he had to play more physically with and without the puck and not take as many minor penalties, but added “we don’t ask players to fight.”

Normally, I would consider an incident like this to be a minor one. Was it a miscommunication between GM, coach and player? Perhaps so, but in the midst of a 8-game losing streak and other extra-curricular activities, it’s become big news. In the past couple of days alone:

  • A minor altercation broke out between players in practice.
  • Pavol Demitra spoke out against Alain Vigneault’s line juggling.
  • And now this.

I realize everyone’s frustrated but it’s frightening to think that the team’s recent lack of on-ice success may have spread to off-ice problems. If setting a new club record in futility is not reason enough to make some changes, maybe a possible divide in the dressing room is.

Back to SOB for a second.

Here are some stats from the Canucks top-5 defensemen in the month of January (I left out Sami Salo on purpose because he only played in 3 games):

[Table=8]

SOB had the lowest average ice-time of the group, but also, opposing teams scored a goal every 12:35 minutes SOB was on the ice, easily the worst ratio of the group.

Now here is the breakdown of goals scored against by situation. First in even-strength situations:

[Table=9]

And while shorthanded:

[Table=10]

It would seem that SOB is decent in even-strength situations. Granted, he doesn’t face opposing teams’ first lines on most nights, but when he’s on the ice, it would seem that he’s not that much of a defensive liability. His play on the penalty-kill isn’t as good, but his 1:13 average ice-time tells me he gets sent out in a shorthanded situation only to give the other penalty-killers a breather.

Now, let’s go back to the 1st table. In January, SOB had the best plus-minus rating of the 5 defenseman. He was a +7 on a team that went 2-5-5. But think of this too (and please correct me if I’m wrong on calculating this) – if he was on the ice for 8 ES goals against, that means he was on the ice for 15 ES goals for. Considering the Canucks only scored 26 ES goals in January, that means SOB was on the ice for more than half of them.

Not bad, huh?

Now I’m not saying Vigneault wrongfully benched SOB on Saturday night. I’m just saying SOB is probably right to feel a bit frustrated. He’s not the team’s best defenseman, but he’s also not the worst. At the very least, he’s shown that he’s capable of playing defense and not just dropping his gloves.

  • http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/otf Dirk Hoag

    Don’t forget that O’Brien is also right at the bottom of the Penalty Plus/Minus standings; with the Vancouver PK struggling so mightily these days, his propensity for leaving his mates shorthanded is a big problem.

  • http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/otf Dirk Hoag

    Don’t forget that O’Brien is also right at the bottom of the Penalty Plus/Minus standings; with the Vancouver PK struggling so mightily these days, his propensity for leaving his mates shorthanded is a big problem.

  • http://www.canuckshockeyblog.com J.J. Guerrero

    Thanks Dirk.

    No doubt O’Brien has put his team in some bad situations. Like he himself said though, he’s been trying to cut back on the penalties recently. And it’s working to an extent – while he still leads the league with 36 minors, he only took 7 of them in January. That said, he’s not the type to draw a lot of penalties so I wouldn’t count on him to “move up” on your list.

  • http://www.canuckshockeyblog.com J.J. Guerrero

    Thanks Dirk.

    No doubt O’Brien has put his team in some bad situations. Like he himself said though, he’s been trying to cut back on the penalties recently. And it’s working to an extent – while he still leads the league with 36 minors, he only took 7 of them in January. That said, he’s not the type to draw a lot of penalties so I wouldn’t count on him to “move up” on your list.

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