Patrick O’Sullivan: Better Than You Think He Is

O'Sullivan

The trade deadline move that sent Erik Cole and a fifth round pick to Carolina in exchange for Patrick O’Sullivan and a second round pick was roundly praised in the media (and by me). It was more than a little disappointing when O’Sullivan didn’t bring the same form to Edmonton that he had in Los Angeles.

The basic numbers show us a startling drop-off:

  • Los Angeles: 62GP – 14G – 23A – 37PTS, +1
  • Edmonton: 19GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, -7

On the other hand, I really don’t think that O’Sullivan’s counting numbers are fully reflective of his play, for a couple of different reasons. The first item is shooting percentage. Players get hot and cold, but generally they revert back to their career shooting percentage after a while. Here are O’Sullivan’s numbers over his career:

  • 2006-07: 44GP – 5.4 SH%
  • 2007-08: 82GP – 10.0 SH%
  • 2008-09 (LA): 62GP – 7.0 SH%
  • 2008-09 (EDM): 19GP – 3.4 SH%
  • Career: 207GP – 7.5 SH%

In Edmonton, Patrick O’Sullivan’s shooting percentage was less than half of what it was in L.A., 45% of his career number, and one third of his total from last season. Even if we were to imagine that he converted at the same rate he did in L.A., he would have scored twice as many goals.

The second item is on-ice shooting percentage. The first item looked at O’Sullivan alone, whereas this measures the shooting percentage of all of O’Sullivan’s line-mates when he was on the ice. Let’s do some comparisons (all numbers at even-strength):

  • O’Sullivan in Edmonton: 5.1 On-Ice SH%
  • O’Sullivan in Los Angeles: 7.5 On-Ice SH%
  • Edmonton Team Average: 8.8 On-Ice SH%
  • Worst Edmonton Number (Steve MacIntyre): 5.9 On-Ice SH%

I think it’s pretty clear that O’Sullivan’s number in this category is largely a result of luck. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that better players help the play stay alive and thus help generate better chances for their line-mates, thus bringing up their on-ice shooting percentage, but for O’Sullivan’s number to be so low is farcical. His numbers are below a) his average in Los Angeles, b) the Oilers’ team average (and I think it’s fair to say that O’Sullivan is an above-average offensive player) and c) Steve MacIntyre’s team-worst 5.9 on-ice SH%. The Oilers took 156 shots at even-strength with O’Sullivan on the ice. If we were to bump O’Sullivan’s numbers up to his performance in Los Angeles, it would mean that he was on the ice for 4 more goals for at even-strength. If we were to bump that number up to the Oiler’s team average (since on-ice shooting percentage is 80% a result of line-mates anyway), that would mean O’Sullivan was on for 6 more goals for. Not only would that likely inflate his assists totals, but it would almost erase his -7 rating.

The third item is on-ice save percentage. Vic Ferrari conclusively showed that this is completely independent of the quality of an individual defending forward; rather, it’s affected by quality of opposition, quality of goaltender, and to a large degree by random variance. In other words, whatever the save percentage was behind Patrick O’Sullivan, we can be relatively certain that it wasn’t of his doing. Did that have any effect on his plus/minus (all numbers again at even-strength)?

  • Patrick O’Sullivan’s On-Ice Save Percentage: .913
  • Edmonton Oilers’ Team Average Save Percentage: .925

Patrick O’Sullivan was on the ice for 173 shots against at even-strength. 15 goals were scored against while he was on the ice; if we were to adjust his on-ice save percentage to the team average, it would only be 13 goals against.

The combination of these three effects to reduce O’Sullivan’s counting numbers is incredible. If we compensate for all of these factors (and assume that he would have continued to post assists at the same rate for projected goals) the difference is stark:

  • Actual: 19GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, -7
  • Projected: 19GP – 4G – 7A – 11PTS, +1

That’s nearly double the output and an 8-goal swing. This isn’t to say that we should discard O’Sullivan’s actual performance; every player has hot streaks and cold streaks and over the course of the season these things tend to even out. The problem is with small sample sizes; when we start to break the season down into 20-game chunks, we can get a distorted picture because very few players produce four identical 20-game segments. Sometimes, the bounces go their way and they produce better results than are reasonably sustainable. In Patrick O’Sullivan’s case, his results (as compared to his actual play) were unreasonably low; over the course of a season they would certainly have been better. The lesson is not to underrate him based on the 20 games that closed out the season.

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Exactly what I’m getting at. Good player, but doesn’t fit with the team’s needs.

    The guy scored as many goals as our 1st line centre playing with Pisani, Stortini, and Moreau all year. He's blazing fast and young. But lets get rid of him. Could the Team maybe start with veterans who arent producing instead of the kids in their sophomore season?

  • Hippy

    Brodziak doesn't hit anything out there, and I would say he's been groomed for the 3rd line anyways.

    To those who want Cogliano on the wing. Picture this:

    Gagner, Horcoff, O'Sullivan, Cogliano, Nilsson, Hemsky.

    I cannot think of a softer top 6 in the entire NHL. Can any of you? And we don't need to get biggger, stonger, more difficult to play against?

  • Hippy

    I truly believe that getting traded was a big shock to Patrick, and that he didnt want to leave LA/come to Edmonton. The same went for Erik Cole coming here. When these guys are disapointed to get traded they dont perform. Look at Cole now vs Cole in Edmonton. Sure you canbreak it down to line mates, ice time, different team, etc etc etc. But if the player isnt happy hes not going to perform.

    Now thats not to say Patrick wont perform next year. You have a new year, new teammates, some success hopefully and maybe he will perform up to expectations.

  • Hippy

    sittingatmydesk wrote:

    I beleive we have to trade one of Gagner or Cogliano, while they have some value, we cant keep both, its the reality, Cogliano cant win a face off, i think he would be better at the wing. At the same time we need to get bigger, so if we can trade for a 3 line center that can win face offs and be a energy guy, would be great..

    Exactly what I'm getting at. Good player, but doesn't fit with the team's needs.

    FFS, this team missed the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row, and drastic changes are needed I would say. People wanting to stay the course, small and soft, clearly aren't paying attention.

  • Hippy

    @ J-Bird:
    I agree that Gilbert is one of the best tradable assets on the team, but even 2nd assists are meaningful; otherwise everyone would have them.

    Cogliano was mis-cast as a checker all year. He probably will be switched to the wing in the top 6 next year if a proper checking center is acquired.

    Inexcusable trading Torres? have you ever seen him play for a whole season? He dissappeared more often than he showed up, that's why he was moved, and he couldnt justify his 2.25 mill salary. He laid a few great hits then would go 7 games without being a difference maker. I think your memory is only keeping the good stuff. Just dumping his salary was a good thing.

    The 4th line of Brodziak, Storts, Jacques, and MacIntyre were hardly princesses. In the last quarter of the season they were the best line on the team too often.

  • Hippy

    I beleive we have to trade one of Gagner or Cogliano, while they have some value, we cant keep both, its the reality, Cogliano cant win a face off, i think he would be better at the wing. At the same time we need to get bigger, so if we can trade for a 3 line center that can win face offs and be a energy guy, would be great..

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Gilbert, while not a bad player, had a ton of 2nd assists. But people, be honest, does he drive the bus out there? No chance. Secondary player, getting $4 million per season. He has value as a trading chip right now, and I think they gotta pull the trigger. Because it won’t be long until other teams figure that out either, and we’re saddled with another unmovable contract.
    The same applies for Cogliano IMO. We’ve got Horcoff for the next thousand years, overpaid, big time, as a first liner. As usual. Gagner is on the 2nd line or 1st line. Where does Cogliano fit? I don’t see it. I like him, and again, I think he has value in a trade. But he’s not going to be a 3rd liner, a checker, so he’s gotta go. Use the asset to fill a need.

    Come on… The second assist thing is crap. If a play goes tick, tack, toe and in the net does the second assist not count? Jonathan did a post devoted directly to second assists a while back (Willis help me out with a link here) and it shows Gilbert isn't the worst when it comes to that. A point is still a point, but then I guess the oh say 800 second assists Gretzky got were crap too.

    Trade Cogliano? You're nuts. The guy should be put on the wing instead of playing center. It would ease the pressure defensively on him, and he wouldn't have to take draws.

    Who's next on your block? Hemsky? Gagner? Maybe with a career high 2 goals MacIntyre could be packaged for Lecavalier?

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Never complained about a proven commodity in Souray.
    Gilbert, while not a bad player, had a ton of 2nd assists. But people, be honest, does he drive the bus out there? No chance. Secondary player, getting $4 million per season. He has value as a trading chip right now, and I think they gotta pull the trigger. Because it won’t be long until other teams figure that out either, and we’re saddled with another unmovable contract.
    The same applies for Cogliano IMO. We’ve got Horcoff for the next thousand years, overpaid, big time, as a first liner. As usual. Gagner is on the 2nd line or 1st line. Where does Cogliano fit? I don’t see it. I like him, and again, I think he has value in a trade. But he’s not going to be a 3rd liner, a checker, so he’s gotta go. Use the asset to fill a need.
    For a team that lacked any type of physical play, trading Torres for an AHL project is inexcusable. Totally.
    Kevin Lowe made one hell of a mess here, and I got news for all of Oiler nation, it’s going to be a while before they get better too. 17% of the cap next year tied up in untradable contracts in Horcoff and Penner alone, and they’ll be lucky to hit 50 goals combined. Getting value out of contracts this isn’t.
    A soft as marshmallows team doesn’t need to commit to another midget in O’Sullivan, to go with the rest. Even our 4th liners, save Stortini, are a bunch of princesses out there.

    Why do people think the team gets better by simply removing Horc/Penner?

  • Hippy

    Never complained about a proven commodity in Souray.

    Gilbert, while not a bad player, had a ton of 2nd assists. But people, be honest, does he drive the bus out there? No chance. Secondary player, getting $4 million per season. He has value as a trading chip right now, and I think they gotta pull the trigger. Because it won't be long until other teams figure that out either, and we're saddled with another unmovable contract.

    The same applies for Cogliano IMO. We've got Horcoff for the next thousand years, overpaid, big time, as a first liner. As usual. Gagner is on the 2nd line or 1st line. Where does Cogliano fit? I don't see it. I like him, and again, I think he has value in a trade. But he's not going to be a 3rd liner, a checker, so he's gotta go. Use the asset to fill a need.

    For a team that lacked any type of physical play, trading Torres for an AHL project is inexcusable. Totally.

    Kevin Lowe made one hell of a mess here, and I got news for all of Oiler nation, it's going to be a while before they get better too. 17% of the cap next year tied up in untradable contracts in Horcoff and Penner alone, and they'll be lucky to hit 50 goals combined. Getting value out of contracts this isn't.

    A soft as marshmallows team doesn't need to commit to another midget in O'Sullivan, to go with the rest. Even our 4th liners, save Stortini, are a bunch of princesses out there.

  • Hippy

    @ baggedmilk:
    I slow clap your rant. All excellent points that i 100 percet agree with, but…

    baggedmilk wrote:

    That’s the reason that you’re here complaining on a fansite and not a GM.

    Isn't that the reason we are all here?

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Hardly a definate keeper. Another small guy of which the team has too many of, and another guy Oiler fans are trying to project to be better than they actually are. Wishful thinking. I have never seen a management team rely so much on the word “potential”. It’s a cry of hope when it comes to all the players.
    I’d like some commodities that are proven. It seems that management is putting far to much in the word “potential”, which only means they haven’t done a damn thing yet.
    They traded a proven NHL commodity in Torres for an AHL player in Brule for “potential”. Who does that? Who won that trade?
    Penner signed for the same reasons. Horcoff, Gilbert. Rediculous.
    Can somebody in the media, anybody, point this wishful thinking type management out this team has and continues to have FFS? All the media sounds as irrantional as the fans are and it drives me nuts.

    The dude has scored 20 goals in the show last year, and 16 this year. Not to mention he's locked up for another two years at a reasonable price. He kills penalties and can take draws if need be. Big problem too with Gilbert's 45 points and a positive +/-.

    You want to talk about the Torres trade? His 27 goals a few years ago was great. Then what did he do? 15, 5, and then 12 this year in Columbus. Yeah we miss his size, but according to Tambellini that's something they're bringing back here this summer.

    Know what drives me nuts? People like you that complain about every single thing with this team. You're the kind of guy that said, "ah well Souray is overpaid. $5.4 million? He's a bum." Then you probably loved him this year didn't you?

    That's the reason that you're here complaining on a fansite and not a GM.

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Penner signed for the same reasons. Horcoff, Gilbert. Rediculous.

    You dont think Gilbert lived up to most of his contract? He put up more points than Bouwmeester, the next coming of Coffey according to many Oiler fans.

  • Hippy

    J-Bird wrote:

    Hardly a definate keeper. Another small guy of which the team has too many of, and another guy Oiler fans are trying to project to be better than they actually are. Wishful thinking. I have never seen a management team rely so much on the word “potential”. It’s a cry of hope when it comes to all the players.
    I’d like some commodities that are proven. It seems that management is putting far to much in the word “potential”, which only means they haven’t done a damn thing yet.
    They traded a proven NHL commodity in Torres for an AHL player in Brule for “potential”. Who does that? Who won that trade?
    Penner signed for the same reasons. Horcoff, Gilbert. Rediculous.
    Can somebody in the media, anybody, point this wishful thinking type management out this team has and continues to have FFS? All the media sounds as irrantional as the fans are and it drives me nuts.

    They traded a proven NHL commodity in Torres for an AHL player in Brule for “potential”. Who does that? Who won that trade?

    Who does that? Every team trades vets for picks/prospects at one time or another.

  • Hippy

    I dont want to see this kid become another Lupul. Have everyone rag on him because he cant perform in a bad system on a bad team just to see him move on and play well for someone else.
    Even with ~my favorite player ever Horcoff~ I wouldnt mind to see the guys on the team play under a different coach before they get exiled. Too many bad performances this year for it all to be fluke.

  • Hippy

    Hardly a definate keeper. Another small guy of which the team has too many of, and another guy Oiler fans are trying to project to be better than they actually are. Wishful thinking. I have never seen a management team rely so much on the word "potential". It's a cry of hope when it comes to all the players.

    I'd like some commodities that are proven. It seems that management is putting far to much in the word "potential", which only means they haven't done a damn thing yet.

    They traded a proven NHL commodity in Torres for an AHL player in Brule for "potential". Who does that? Who won that trade?

    Penner signed for the same reasons. Horcoff, Gilbert. Rediculous.

    Can somebody in the media, anybody, point this wishful thinking type management out this team has and continues to have FFS? All the media sounds as irrantional as the fans are and it drives me nuts.

  • Hippy

    I love O'Sullivan, the dude has some slick hands and a wicked shot. When he gets comfortable here (maybe with an offensive coach grooming him along) he is going to be a definite keeper. Let's not run this one out of town, eh Oiler fans? Great piece, Willis.