November 23, 2010

Wild’s Waiver Claim of O’Sullivan Hardly Oh-My-God Material

It’s not often you get a do-over, but, even so, the Minnesota Wild must surely be looking at its re-acquisition of Patrick O’Sullivan on Monday as nothing more than a “meh” on its indifference scale.

Who really cares that once upon a time he got traded away (along with a first-round pick) for Pavol Demitra to try and get Marian Gaborik to stay with the franchise well into the twilight of his career? Gaborik probably never intended on staying no matter what the team did, however much money the team threw his way.

Who really cares that the Wild have basically just gotten back a human suitcase more well-travelled than the worn body of a 40-year-old prostitute on the verge of retirement? All that matters is the here and the now.

Who really cares, all due respect to O’Sullivan and the publicized personal trials and tribulations he’s had to endure, about what has transpired in his past? It is just a business after all.

And who really cares that the 10-7-2 Wild are actually surpassing expectations early this season? No one should be, especially no one affiliated in any shape or form with the Wild, because to care would be to become content with what is still by and large a mediocre record. That’s why the rationale behind this move is so confusing, because the team has in essence turned to the one player who has been complacency personified over the course of his career.

O’Sullivan first got drafted by the Wild in the second round of the incredibly strong 2003 draft. While the first round saw such gems as Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, and Zach Parise get drafted, even in the second round, names such as Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, and Jimmy Howard were still available to be had. Many thought O’Sullivan belonged in that special group of talent-laden players, especially after his 53-point season in 2007-2008 with the Los Angeles Kings. And yet his career took a different turn when he staged a mini-hold-out to start the following season, failing to show up for training camp and signing a three-year, $8.775-million contract four days before the team’s season opener. I mean, as far as salaries go, a $2.925-million-per-year average isn’t too crazy, but let’s just say everyone’s lucky Mike Richards didn’t captain the Kings then or we all would have been told to death just how bigger than his britches O’Sullivan was acting.

After getting the contract he wanted with the Kings that year, his production and development didn’t so much regress as it did just stall. And then came the kiss-of-death trade to the Edmonton Oilers, a three-way deal that saw Justin Williams go to L.A., Erik Cole go to the Carolina Hurricanes, and O’Sullivan to what would become the graveyard of his career in Edmonton, where he posted a league-worst +/- -35 last season en route to being placed on waivers this past off-season before eventually signing a two-way contract with Carolina.

"So, let me get this straight: I shouldn't be letting pucks go in my net?"
If you’re getting the impression that O’Sullivan is just an oversized human hot potato no one really wants to hang to for too long, you’re not alone. I mean, no one even took a chance on him when Edmonton placed him on waivers, leading to the Oilers trading him for defenseman Jim Vandermeer, his consequential buy-out by the Phoenix Coyotes (because the Coyotes are so adept at goal scoring, didn’t you know?), and his short-lived stint as a Hurricane.

Really, the only reason Minnesota is taking a chance on him now is because injuries are starting to pile up at forward with the none-too-bright James Sheppard still trying to figure out where he went wrong riding an ATV in the off-season, Chuck Kobasew nursing his lower body, Pierre-Marc Bouchard still out with a concussion, and Guillaume Latendresse conveniently requiring surgery to repair both a torn labrum and a bilateral sports hernia and taking his sweet time to return, lest he be discovered for the third-liner he really is who just got insanely lucky 20 times over last season.

As such, O’Sullivan should get plenty of opportunity to prove to the Wild (and to the Hurricanes, and to the Oilers, and to the Kings, and to the Coyotes) that the team made a mistake getting rid of him initially.

Hopefully the presumed chip on his shoulder isn’t made of potato like the rest of him and lasts at least the remainder of this year so he can resurrect what’s left of his career. And if it doesn't help the Wild right off the bat, so be it. It's not the end of the world. Because it is a move made to at least try and improve the team, because judgment should only be reserved for a few weeks in anyway, and, finally, because the only thing Wild should ever really live to regret is investing all that time and money in Gaborik.

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