Flames Waive O’Brien (Update: He Clears)



I made that comment last night after Shane O’Brien needlessly gave the puck away in the Flames zone leading to the Predators 3rd goal. O’Brien played just 5 minutes versus Nashville, but ended up -3 anyways.

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The puck was bouncing right for Eric Nystrom last night which helped drive the Flames defender’s plus/minus down, but being a huge liability isn’t anything new for O’Brien this season. No doubt his horrible performance was simply the final straw and why Calgary decided to place the slow moving rearguard on waivers today.

Every partner O’Brien has skated with this year has seen his results take a nose-dive, from Chris Butler to Dennis Wideman. The only regular defender who has a worse relative possession rate on the Flames is Ladislav Smid, and he gets fed much, much tougher assignments. No other defenseman on the club sees easier competition than O’Brien this year and he starts more shfits in the offesnive zone (55%). He only averaged about 11 minutes of ice whenever he dressed this season, which is the forward equivalent of about 6 minutes a game.

The Flames traded Cory Sarich for a worse version of Cory Sarich this past off-season. Calgary had the option a couple of summers ago to let Sarich walk as a free agent and avoid this needless and unsightly spiral into O’Brien territory, but instead Feaster made the baffling decision to re-ink Sarich for two more years. Laughingly, I have been told through back channels that the team figured they needed more grit and toughness on the blueline and Sarich was the best option at the time. This is what happens when you privilege play style over play quality.

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Whatever the path to the O’Brien decision, the move today is the right one. He’s not an NHL defender anymore.That said, it’s too bad Burke couldn’t pull a Doug Wilson and trade O’Brien for something at the deadline like the Sharks did with the equally useless Douglas Murray last year. Oh well.

UPDATE: Darren Dreger is reporting that O’Brien has cleared waivers.

  • BurningSensation

    Am I the only person who thinks this bodes well for how Burke is evaluating the team?

    SOB is a slow footed face-puncher, and yet Burke saw fit to waive him anyway!

    What are the chances the Oilers sign him off waivers?

    Oh please Oh please Oh please

  • Derzie

    The question now is who do we recall or do we acquire someone via trade. Will we see Smith(we already know what he can do), Breen (who may be an inexperience O’B) or might we see something daring and allow a revolving door of Billins/Ramage/Witherspoon until a trade occurs. I know what my preference would be.

  • I hate seeing a guy sent down. Must be a super tough day. Having said that this was the right move. He just has not been very good. Is there any chance that he gets picked up. I figure that the team likely tried hard to move him before putting him on waivers.

    I agree with an earlier poster who said that this is a good sign for Burke. you know he likes the toughness and size of O’B but not his skill level. the next move to prove this will be the signing of Russell. With all of the talk near the end of last week I thought that this move would be announced by now.

  • Shane O’Brien deserves a little respect for just how long he’s managed to stick around the league as a physical defenseman. Most guys that play like that see their bodies break down a lot sooner.

    That said, he’s now too slow, and his poor decision making make him a fringe NHLer at best.

  • RedMan

    best wishes for Shane… sorry for his sake to see this day come.

    On the otherhand, looking forward to seeing previews of the next generation of Flame rearguards as they cycle guys through for 5-10 games each

  • He should have fought kassian in that wild sat night game. Burke was prolly Pissed he skated away! No point having a liability if he’s not dropping the gloves and using his best assets at any given opportunity.

  • RedMan

    Is there still compliance buyouts? Will the Flames use one, or will he just play out his career in the AHL while using his salary for the Flames to reach the cap floor?

    Never would I have guessed to see the day where I would be missing Cory Sarich.

    If no one takes the guy on Waivers(which no one will cause he’s not very good), Burke should look at finding slightly not as bad defenders(or maybe a forward) who make more money and trade for them while trying to get a mid teir pick back. If that trade were to happen make sure that no additional contract years are being picked up.

  • loudogYYC

    Considering $2M isn’t too difficult to carry and that the Flames will need a few overpriced players next season for cap reasons, seeing O’Brien on waivers speaks volumes to how bad the guy actually is at hockey.

    I really hoped we could get even a 5th rd pick for him but no luck this time.

    • beloch

      It might be the Flames never even tried to get anything for him. Waiving him outright might be a motivation strategy from Burke/Hartley to send a message to the rest of the room that the kind of performace that SoB put on last night won’t be tolerated.

      • loudogYYC

        That would be brutal asset management and I doubt putting him on waivers after a crappy game was strictly reactionary.

        O’Brien was being scratched a lot and when he played he barely played minutes. It’s obvious the coach doesn’t trust him so the GM would have to ask around to gauge the level of interest around the league.

        I think the message to the room is delivered either way, it’s just a bit of a shock that his stock has fallen so hard.

        Feaster didn’t have an eye for defensemen in his time here. Time to move on.

  • loudogYYC

    One needs to ask what O’Brien brought to the Flames. Grit? No. Toughness? Not really? Fighting the middle weights? Nope. Finesse? Please. Every player needs to bring “something” and unfortunately, SOB brought nothing of significance. Waivers is not surprising.

  • beloch

    This is likely not the last we’ll see of SOB in Calgary.

    SOB’s possession stats were respectable until this year. He did okay the last couple of seasons in Colorado even though he was playing in more of a second pairing role a lot of the time. That’s why he’s making $2M/yr! I’m not sure what happened, but this year he’s getting clobbered on the third pair! With one more year at $2M left on his contract he is definitely a negative value asset. He is unlikely to be claimed off waivers unless there’s an injury-ravaged team out there that is desperate for warm bodies on their blue line.

    If one or two of the Flames’ defenders are injured in the near future SOB will certainly be called back up, but he might actually be called back up immediately just to start the 30-day timer that has to run out before he can be put on waivers again (This assumes the goal is to give him away to any takers). If he’s not claimed this month, better luck next month! One bit of evidence suggesting Burke’s goal really is to give SOB away (besides common sense) is that he was placed on waivers on a weekend. It takes 48 hours for players to clear on weekends as opposed to 24 on weekdays. Waiving him on a Saturday doubles the time that other GM’s have to hem and haw about pulling the trigger.

    Personally, I think SOB being claimed off waivers would be the best thing for everyone involved. The Flames get rid of a negative-value contract for free. Some team gets a to fill out their blue-line. SOB gets to keep playing in the NHL. Who knows, he might even improve on a team that plays differently! Good luck SOB! Here’s hoping you land on the ice in a new city instead of the Flames’ press box!

  • mattyc

    SOB is playing in Babchuk like territory, very poorly. I watched this guy last month against the Blues he acted like he was Bobby Orr, instead of dumping it in. He carried it needlessly behind the net like 3 or 4 times during the game. There’s no need for a d-man, especially like SOB acting like an offensive player. His best days are long behind him.

  • mattyc

    I’ll admit to never having liked watch SOB play. Even when he was playing here in Vancouver he was painful; took bad penalties, and was weak defensively and slow.

    Feel bad for the guy, but like everyone’s already said, it’s really about time.

    Who would have thought we would be missing Cory Sarich by comparison.

  • beloch

    In other hilarious/depressing news:

    Buffalo won tonight, improving to 3-4-3 in their last 10. They are now
    point behind Edmonton and have three games in hand. In terms of percentage of possible points they could have, Buffalo is now 0.35 on the season while Edmonton is 0.34. Yes, Buffalo is now officially doing better than Edmonton and is poised to pass them in the standings, giving Edmonton yet another 1st overall pick.

    I’d gain a lot of respect for the league if they just said, “Hey Edmonton, you’re cut off.”

    If Hernán Cortés (an evil, but brutal and effective leader) were brought in to turn things around in Edmonton, the first thing he would do is burn the Oiler’s first-overall picks for the next five years, just to show everyone in the org that losing is no longer winning. Then he’d hold an auto da fé and burn MacTavish at the stake too.

    Edmonton’s city council might actually gain approval if they changed the city signage from “City of Champions” to “City of Lottery Picks”.

    Things have gotten so bad in the Oiler’s dressing room that I hear Eddie Murphy’s career just magically appeared there and was the liveliest thing in the place!

    If Daryl Katz tracked down Chuck Norris and hired him to use his powers to save the Oilers, Chuck would round-house kick Katz into the sun.

    And finally, the funniest joke of all: The Edmonton Oilers.

    P.S. I’m a semi-Oilers fan (whenever they’re not playing the Flames). I make jokes to ease the pain. I also drink, which explains the quality of the jokes.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      As far as lottery picks go, I believe the league should cap the number of first overall picks to 1 every 3 years. Any team that has ‘won’ a lottery pick in the previous 3 drafts should be automatically removed from a lottery process. These teams would still pick in their proper order aside from picking the first. The idea is that this should encourage up to 3 bottom feeders to ice a competitive team, att the backed of the regular season and stop rewarding perpetual losing.

      On the flip side the top 16 teams should not be included in the lottery. These teams arguably don’t need a crack at generational plays (like McDavid for example). No matter the odds why should the Pens, Black Hawks and Kings get a top pick after years of getting picks in the draft?

      • RexLibris

        It is only the bottom 14 teams’ selections – those that miss the playoffs – that are entered into the draft lottery.

        So if Detroit misses the playoffs and finishes with the 17th best record in the league, their draft lottery chances would be 0.5% to win and advance to 1st overall.

        The percentages run from top to bottom thus: 25, 18.8, 14.2, 10.7, 8.1, 6.2, 4.7, 3.6, 2.7, 2.1, 1.5, 1.1, 0.8, 0.5.

        In the Oilers’ case, I suspect that if they were to wind up with the 1st overall selection again the NHL league office will give them a call to communicate an expectation that this will not continue.

          • RexLibris

            That is true, and how concerned do you think they are that nearly a generation of their “elite” prospects are set to spend part of their careers in one of the league’s least favoured markets?

            Stamkos going to Tampa Bay was music to their ears, second only to Crosby in Pittsburgh. Kane to Chicago, Tavares to the Islanders (maybe), also helped the league generate some excitement and advertising dollars.

            Had Seguin or Hall gone to Toronto they’d have been a golden ticket for marketing and commercial partnerships.

            I don’t think the NHL will be giddy over the possibility of Ekblad in Edmonton. They’d probably prefer he go to Buffalo to help reset their commercial efforts in that market.

          • RexLibris

            The Nordiques took three consecutive 1st overall picks in the early 90s. The Oilers were hardly breaking new ground.

            This season has been an aberration in many ways (horrible regression on Dubnyk’s save %, terrible puck luck, re-training players on defensive fundamentals, disappearance of the power-play, etc) and there aren’t very many Oilers fans who are content to potentially see another 1st overall pick.

            That aside, MacTavish has made some roster changes and one suspects that he will again be busy this summer trying to turn this roster into an NHL-worthy team.

            As well, there has been some talk recently of off-season changes to the assistant coaching staff. The HCs keep changing and the result is the same, meanwhile the ACs stick around. This extends to goalie coaching and so on.

            If next season is a repeat of this one then I’m not certain if anybody within the organization would be safe. Even Lowe.

          • beloch

            I’m actually pretty happy with how Ramo and Berra have been progressing under Malarchuk. At the start of the season both of these goalies had a lot of huge holes in their games. Now, if they’re not league average starters, they’re at least competent backups. Ramo is clearly a step ahead of MacBackup now.

            If Burke (or his new “GM”) decide to bring in a new goalie coach, Edmonton would do well to pounce on Malarchuk. Personally, I hope the Flames keep Malarchuk and treat him well so he doesn’t get poached.

          • Avalain

            I was a Nordiques fan back in the early 90s. for some reason I got obsessed with their jersey in junior high…

            And let me tell you, it was WAY worse than the Oilers. Sakic was drafted in 87 and the team didn’t win ANYTHING until 1995. I think there were single digit win seasons in there. They were TERRIBLE in 90, 91, 92, 93 a full 7 years into Sakic’s career. The Oilers would have to suck like they are for another 3+ years to be comparable. In fact it was around now that the Nords hit ROCK BOTTOM (the Lindros saga – which was 4-5 years into their suckery)

            I came to my sense and stopped cheering for them right when they moved to Colorado (and became good… sigh).

            The scary thought for me now is that it worked out OK for the Nords. Those hard years turned into a powerhouse for 10+ years. Several Stanley cups, hall of famers and a perennial cup favourite for a decade were all birthed from those 3 straight 1st overalls + 4 more years of pure suck.

            My hope is that the pressure mounting on mgmt in YEG forces them to do something dumb (like perhaps the Isles trading Chara & their 1st rounder – Spezza – for Yashin). Cause you’d have to think that eventually… this mgmt/coach or the next, eventually they will just get really good in spite of themselves. And that day will suck because the Oiler fans I know have bottled up 5 years of rage and are just waiting to be the cockiest SOBs in the league.

          • RexLibris

            Yes, the 90s Nordiques were a sight to behold.

            They also traded every one of their 1st overall picks, which some in the media have suggested was key to Colorado winning the Cup the year after they moved. It didn’t. They got lucky twice in getting a king’s ransom for Lindros and then in acquiring Roy, and the Nordiques had some phenomenal drafting deep into the later rounds.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      There is not much about European soccer that I like, but I do like the “relegation” rule: the team(s) who finish with the least points get kicked out of the league and are replaced by teams who won the league below them. You should see the bottom dwellers fight to try and not finish last!!!

      (I also like their “3points for a regular- time win” rule.)

      On a brighter note; even if the Oilers finish last AGAIN…..their odds of getting the first overall pick statistically is around 30%, isn’t it?
      Burke can wheel and deal to get the first overall pick to get Ekblad…


      • ChinookArchYYC

        I have been a fan of the 3/2/1/0 point system for quite some time. It might prevent some teams from sitting on leads.

        I’m not sure the regulation rule would work in the NHL as the second league(AHL) is owned by the NHL teams whereas I believe in football all teams in all leagues are independent of each other.

        • RexLibris

          It prevents teams from playing for the tie…….
          ; relegation would not work in the NHL, but it would Sure change the “lose at all cost” strategy some teams have if it would.


        • BurningSensation

          Totally agree. Soccer (or ‘football’) figured this out for us a long time ago.

          Relegation is an interesting idea, but utterly impractical for the NHL to impose. Which is probably a good thing if you are Flames fan right now as we would be at serious risk of joining the Bundesliga or SMLiiga

  • mattyc

    Heat lose 4-3 in OT, Friday 1-0 in OT; Granlund and Rhino score last night. BC wins 3-2 Johnny has a goal and an assist, Arnold 3 A’s, Providence gets blasted 6-1 Gilmour an A, Yale wins Agostino 2 goals. As for the CHL I will let others report.

  • MonsterPod

    It seems that most players these days are getting some sort of no-movement clause, like Stajan apparently has about 10 teams he can say he won’t go to.

    This is becoming Edmonton’s biggest problem. When players are asked to submit their list, Edmonton is likely on it. And Calgary’s fast falling into that boat too. Look at Justin Schultz two years ago wanting to play in Canada, but not in Cowtown.

    Edmonton can’t trade for players because they refuse to go, like Heatley. And they can’t sign free agents either. They went huge after Hossa and many others. Nylander said okay, but then his wife nixed the deal.

    I’m actually starting to feel sorry for them. But Calgary needs to work hard and quick to make sure they don’t become the next Ed. Keeping 80s alumni out of management and coaching should go a long way to helping the team not look like a joke.

    • beloch

      “Look at Justin Schultz two years ago wanting to play in Canada, but not in Cowtown.”

      I love how his decision to play in EDM has gone so far. It’s been a lot of fun to watch, particularly this season 🙂

      • piscera.infada

        He also didn’t want to play in Vancouver, for the team he grew up cheering for. Shows you where his head/priorities were. He didn’t care about the team being any good, just the opportunity to raise his clout. He deserves a loser.

  • beloch

    Here;s an ideal for the draft lottery. If a team finishes last more than twice in a five year period there chances for getting the number on pick in the lottery is lessened, not eliminated.
    Here’s an example and I’m using the current Edmonton situation as an example not as a way to pick on them. Say the Oilers finish last this year , they would have won the lottery 3 of the last 4 years and there chance to win this years lottery would be the same as this years 27th seed(I think it’s Florida but am not sure) the extra points would be divided equally between the Sabres, Flames and Panthers. This would lower a repeat but still give a chance. It would rather easy to calculate.

    • Avalain

      I’m really not sure that we need to go that far. After all, they just changed the draft rules with the last CBA. 2 of the 3 1st overall picks for the Oilers were because they had a 45ish% chance at first overall by finishing last. Now the last place team has only a 25% chance. It’s a big difference and we have yet to even see the last place team win the lottery since it was implemented (one year, but that’s my point).

      If we needed to make a change, I would rather see something like the 1st and 2nd picks are run as a lottery system. But again, they shouldn’t (and won’t) do anything about this until we see how the current system is working.

      • Parallex

        I’d go one step further… make ALL non-playoff teams picks lotto determined. Keep the initial percentage chances the same (getting progressively better as lotto balls are removed) but draw for picks 1-14. As it stands now teams still have a meaningful incentive to not win games after a certain point (draft range certainty) I’d be in favor of removing that certainty… finishing poorly would still give you good odds of getting a high pick but you would no longer have the certainty of having at minimum a one slot negative differential relative to your finish.