Friday, November 18, 2011


The Colorado Avalanche made several big acquisitions last summer including goalies Semyon Varlamov, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and defenseman Jan Hejda.  Perhaps the most underrated of the Avs' offseason acquisitions has been the signing of defenseman Shane O'Brien.  Last year, it seemed as if Joe Sacco and Greg Sherman fell in love with undersized, puck-moving defensemen as 3 of their top 6 defensemen were John-Michael Liles, Kyle Cumiskey, and Matt Hunwick.  One look at the Avs' defensive statistics from last year and it is clear that this model did not work.  Liles and Cumiskey are now gone and Hunwick has been a healthy scratch in every game this season except one.  Ryan O'Byrne, Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, and O'Brien were the answers to making the Avs defense bigger and more physical.  Of course, the gold standard for physical, mean defensemen in an Avalanche uniform is former captain, Adam Foote, who retired after last year.  While this year's defense is certainly more physical that last year's, O'Brien may be the one player who has the mean streak of Adam Foote in him.  While O'Brien earned a reputation for taking bad penalties earlier in his career, he has not hurt the Avs by being in the box, despite being 2nd on the team in PIM.  The Avs are O'Brien's 5th NHL team and he also earned a reputation in Vancouver as being a partier and was even suspended by coach Alain Vigneault for showing up late to team meetings.  To my knowledge, there has been nothing negative about O'Brien's attitude or behavior here in Colorado and if anything has occurred, it has been completely keep out of the public eye.  If anything, he seems to be an exemplary player.

On the ice, O'Brien leads the team with a plus-2 on the season to date and has registered 6 assists.  He's shown a bit of offensive flare, making creative moves to gain the offensive zone and has been solid in his own end.  He also seems very much like a team guy.  When Gabriel Landeskog took an illegal elbow from Andy Sutton, which ended up costing Sutton 5 games, O'Brien was the guy right there to fight Sutton and defend the Avs' prized rookie.  He has also stepped up as a vocal leader on the club, rallying the troops when down by 3 against the Islanders, in an eventual 4-3 comeback overtime victory.

Like many current Avs players, O'Brien has also made himself more available to fans and the community via Twitter (@ShaneOBrien55).  He retweeted a post of mine earlier today to help spread the word for the Avs Do What You Can canned food drive tonight at Pepsi Center and also fielded a question of mine as well as several others in the latest installment of the Avs Mailbag:

What do you think about the great state of Colorado? And how have you been spending your time aside from playing hockey?Joey, Westminster, CO
It’s been great. Denver’s a pretty laid back city and there are a lot of good people here. It’s sunny everyday here and it’s nice to wake up every morning with the mountains in the background. It’s a great place to live.

I do a lot of relaxing. It’s such a long season. It’s a grind. So anytime you get some time off to relax and save up some energy, you need to take advantage of that opportunity. I’ve been out in the city a little bit and have gotten to meet some people. It’s a fun city.

While Shane O'Brien has a ways to go before we can dub him the next Adam Foote, he has been good in his first 19 games in an Avalanche uniform and has helped the defensive corps to improve.  Hopefully, this is a good sign for things to come for both SOB and the Avs D.

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