Colorado Avalanche defenseman Shane O’Brien has been the Avs’ “pleasant surprise” of 2011-12. I like to give out that prize every year and so far, Shane O’Brien has my vote.
O’Brien signed with the Avs as a free agent in the summer and since the season has started, he has been exceeding expectations in every conceivable way.
O’Brien’s best year of his career point-wise came in 2007-08 when he recorded 4 goals and 17 assists for a total of 21 points with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season, after only 35 games played, O’Brien has recorded a goal and 10 assists for a total of 11 points, and if he continues that pace, he will set new career-highs for most points in a single season.
What’s strange is that it wasn’t O’Brien’s offensive skills that brought him to the Avalanche; a lot of O’Brien’s offseason acquisition had to do with trying to acquire bigger, tougher, meaner defensemen for the upcoming season. Shane O’Brien is listed on the Colorado Avalanche website as being 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. In addition to his size, he plays a tough style of hockey and the combination of his playing style and size is why he is wearing the burgundy and blue this season, so the offense O’Brien is giving the Avalanche has been a bit unexpected.
O’Brien brings size, toughness, and some offensive skills to the table but what he has done to help the Avalanche the most is none of the above.
Shane O’Brien’s most valuable asset is his leadership. In that respect, he is truly outstanding. He is always very supportive of his teammates, sometimes fighting opponents on the ice to stand up for a teammate, but what he really brings to the Avalanche is what left when Adam Foote retired—a strong, vocal voice in the locker room—that is what O’Brien is doing so well for the Avalanche.
Shane O’Brien is serving the Avalanche well as a motivator—a leader who has emerged and provides the Avalanche players with a strong presence in the locker room.
I remember back to a game the Avalanche played earlier this season; I can’t recall which game it was, but I remember the situation. The Avs had a two goal lead and the opposition came back to score a couple quick goals to tie the game. Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco elected to use his timeout to talk things over with his squad, but hardly got a word in. Shane O’Brien seized the moment and told his teammates very vocally that they were still in the game, and Coach Sacco didn’t have to say anything. The Avalanche went on to win that game.
Shane O’Brien deserves consideration to wear the “A” on his jersey, which he deserves—to serve the Avalanche in a new capacity as alternate captain. He has been outstanding the entire season, not only in his on-ice play, but his leadership is outstanding, and could be the missing ingredient (if the Avs have one) and exactly the type of guy the Avs need to make a playoff push and finish the 2011-12 season with success.