Editor's Note: Blurr takes a look at Brian Burke's interview from last night and wonders if there isn't an Irish guy that could interest the Leafs' Irish GM.
After listening to Brian Burke's interview yesterday afternoon, I was piqued (and slightly distraught) at the GM's mention of possibly still being active in the free agency market. Burke's insistence that the Leafs have $5M or so in cap space has left me scratching my head, since I've always been lead to believe that 1+1=2.
Here's proof Patty did score at least one goal as an Oiler (via nimg.sulekha.com)
However, thanks to bonus cushions, LTI relief, Chinese takeout and beer fund money all seem to muddy the waters when it comes to adding up the Leafs cap number, I'm still a bit befuddled as to precisely how much dough the Leafs can spend. Suffice to say, it isn't infinite, or even remotely close to "big money-no whammies"
What the general consensus seems to be is a need for a scoring forward (preferably with size, but beggars can't be choosers) and skill, and of particular import for the Leafs; cheap.
So, as I was reading through Spector's list of free agents that were still available, Patrick O'Sullivan's name jumped out at me. Yes, Patrick O'Sullivan. No, I have not been drinking. I know, O'Sullivan was ranked dead last in +/-, however of the bottom 10 +/- in the league, 6 were on the same team as O'Sullivan; the Edmonton Oilers.
With that said, allow me to make my case...
First, let's get the easy breezy things out of the way. O'Sullivan played on a really bad team. I'm not saying this just because it wasn't the Leafs, or to even excuse his stats (which are ugly) but to be honest, it takes a special kind of suck to be worse than the Leafs were last season. Wouldn't you agree? For all the crap we had to endure watching as Leafs fans, imagine what horrors must have been unleashed in Rexall Place to beat the Leafs to the bottom of the basement last season. Shudder...
We also know that O'Sullivan can play. His last two seasons in LA saw Patrick post a 0.65 PPG rate in 81 games as a 22 year old sophomore. The following year, he would be traded to Edmonton, but in the 61 games he played at the Staples Center, his PPG rate was a healthy 0.6.
Looking even further back, O'Sullivan's Wikipedia entry tells us that his career in the OHL and AHL is rife with accolades and franchise records, including a 47 goal rookie season in the AHL with the Houston Aeros. Not so long ago, this guy knew a thing or two about putting the biscuit in the basket. I'll be the first to admit minor league success is not an automatic qualifier for NHL success, but it's a fairly safe bet to say O'Sullivan didn't just forget how to play the game.
Lastly, let's take a look at some advanced statistics. For this past season, O'Sullivan's numbers are bleak. However, as the folks at Behind the Net will tell you; context matters. So, what is the context of O'Sullivan's ugly numbers? It's the Edmonton Oilers. A team that, as I already mentioned above, was actually worse than the Maple Leafs.
I poked around on Copper & Blue to find some data on the former Oiler, and came across a post looking at which players could be expected to rebound next season. The more green in their data table, the better, and O'Sullivan appears to be a guy who can rebound from an awful year.
Getting back to context, and adding in a purely speculative thought; as I read through O'Sullivan's Wikipedia entry, his days an amateur hockey player are noted not just for his achievements, but for something far uglier. Patrick has suffered verbal and physical abuse from his father since the age of nine. I'm lucky enough to not know what that can do to a person, but I found myself wondering if, as things got worse in Edmonton for O'Sullivan, old demons crept up. Could a clean slate and fresh start in his birth city help, or could it hinder? Again, purely speculative.
All in all, signing a player, any player, will be a gamble. I hope that, if Burke truly feels he wants to pick up another free agent, he steers clear of guys in the Raffi Torres mold, and takes a look at O'Sullivan. He turned all of 25 years this past February, and given his poor performance, should come relatively cheap. If he'd be willing to sign for a one year deal, say $1M-$1.5M, he'll have the opportunity to put his development back on track and prove that the 09-10 campaign in Edmonton was a fluke. And if not, he'll be gone at the end of the year.
It's just a damn shame that SPC limit could get in the way...