2011 Cap Hit: $1,100,000
2012 Status: UFA
Shane O'Brien was a somewhat unexpected signing by the Avalanche, coming almost two weeks after the Avs had acquired Jan Hejda, Semyon Varlamov and Chuck Kobasew. Also unexpected? SOB's play on the blueline. Traditionally known more as an enforcer, O'Brien was one of only four Colorado defensemen to crack 20 points last season, finishing just 6 behind Erik Johnson. Originally thought to be more of a depth signing, only Jan Hejda had more even strength ice time than O'Brien (17:03) and only Hejda and Erik Johnson had more total ice time (19:13).
O'Brien's game isn't terrifically complex. Standing at 6'3" and weighing in at 230, SOB ranked in the top 5 on the team in hits (138), blocked shots (86) and he was never hesitant to come to the defense of a teammate (although, surprisingly, just 3 major penalties all year). All that fire did have a cost: O'Brien also was top 5 in giveaways. He also was a penalty machine - his 35 minor penalties was tops on the team. That's no shock; O'Brien has led his team in minor penalties in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Overall, though, the hard-nosed play, the reportedly solid locker room presence and the occasional offensive pop usually outweighed the occasional defensive miscues, the penalties and the distracting good looks.
2012 Outlook: O'Brien took a $500,000 pay cut last summer in his first foray into unrestricted free agency. The presumption is that O'Brien didn't find the deal he was looking for and signed a 1-year deal with Colorado in hopes of having a solid year. That should pay off for O'Brien, as he will likely fair better than the $1.1 million deal he signed last July. And I think there's a solid chance that SOB will return to the Avs' blueline next year. He's not someone you'd build around, but he's a great addition for the supporting cast - an excellent 5th or 6th d-man.
DDC's Take: The Avalanche need more fiery guys like O'Brien, but maybe they should remove his favorite aromatherapy candles from the penalty box? Just an idea. I'd give O'Brien a solid B - an SOB, if you will.
Cheryl's Take: Oh, Shane. You truly were a tale of two cities. When O'Brien was on his game—tough, aggressive in the corners, talking smack and protecting the blue line—he was fantastic. It was when he decided he was the next coming of Bobby Orr that things went south. He'd put his clown shoes on and forget that he isn't a particularly good or fast skater, he wasn't that great of a stickhandler, and he didn't have too lethal of a shot. When he played HIS game, he was fantastic. I'd love to have him back if he can do that more often than the clown shoes. Given how much the organization likes what he brings off the ice and the good things he brings on it, I expect we'll see him back next season with a multi-year deal.
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