Chirping O’Brien just what the doctor ordered for Flames
Gritty defenceman specializes in getting under opponents’ skin
This is a 230-pound noisemaker. Barking, sassing, taunting, needling.
Without much encouragement, Shane O’Brien can supply a steady stream of trash-talk.
And if his on-ice discourse happens to put the blue in blue line, so be it. He will not be muzzled — not in Calgary.
The Flames have let it be known — they are green-lighting his gab.
“Quite frankly, that’s something we need on our team,” general manager Jay Feaster said Wednesday afternoon at McMahon Stadium after introducing four newbies — Corban Knight, T.J. Galiardi, David Jones, O’Brien — to the local press. “It’s been a concern of mine for some time — we’re a very quiet team. Our guys are quiet in the room. We’re quiet on the bench.
“It’s used to be a lament of (former coach Brent Sutter). It used to drive us to distraction, really, how quiet (it was).”
Quiet, yes, and very soft and very easy to play against.
So the Flames are keen for O’Brien to be his abrasive self. Loud and lippy, please.
“He’s a live wire,” said Feaster. “He is a guy who chirps out there on the ice. It’s funny. (Craig Conroy) said, ‘Oh, I know Obie well. He’s been chirping me for a long time.’ That’s how he is. He’s a guy that likes to get into the heads of the other team — and he’s the kind of player who can back it up. In the room, he’s a vocal guy. He’s an emotional guy. A lot of passion.”
O’Brien appreciates the vote of confidence.
“A couple times in my career — some places I’ve played — some coaches didn’t like that,” O’Brien said. “Some GMs didn’t like the fieriness I brought some nights . . . and maybe some nights (it was) out of control a little bit. I’ve learned to harness my game.”
But not too much, the Flames dearly hope.
Flapping pie-hole aside, O’Brien is no pushover.
More than 850 penalty minutes in 483 dates offer a hint of things to come.
“I will definitely be finishing my checks on a nightly basis,” said O’Brien. “I take a lot of pride in protecting the blue paint and making sure our goalie can see the puck. And not only that, but making sure he’s not being bothered and people aren’t bumping into him. The front of our net is going to be a tougher place to stand, I’ll guarantee you that.
“I still take the odd penalty here and there, which I’m sure the fans won’t love. But I’m going to compete every night. I’m going to play hard. I’m going to get in guys’ faces. It’s about winning hockey games and you do the little things.”
Part of which, apparently, is spooking the opposition — through either action or reputation.
Jones can vouch for this.
“He’s one of those guys . . . you go to the net and you know you’re going to get a stick in the neck or the back or the arm,” said Jones, laughing. “He definitely brings a lot of personality. The biggest thing, he loves the game so much. When he’s out there playing, you can just tell. He’s so expressive and I think that’s what Jay is looking for.”
While in charge of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Feaster, desperate for a jolt in February 2007, sent Gerald Coleman and a first-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks to get O’Brien and a third-rounder.
In terms of a presence, Feaster compares O’Brien to Andre Roy.
“(Roy) was good for our team (in Tampa),” he said. “Torts would lose his mind with him sometimes — he’d get frustrated — but when Andre Roy left our team, we lost personality. We became a very quiet team. I’d watch a stretch of the warm-up and there wouldn’t be a word said. When we ultimately brought Andre back . . . it was just incredible the difference it made. So I think those kinds of players are unique. Having had Shane before, I think he’s just what the doctor ordered here.
“I love the personality that he brings to the room and on the ice. He’s a guy that keeps things loose, keeps guys on their toes. It’s great to be reunited with him.”
O’Brien, who turns 30 next month, feels the same way — rebuild or not.
“Obviously, we know what people are saying about us,” said O’Brien. “(But) it’s going to be fun playing in Calgary in front of fans that know the game, that are passionate about the game. That fuels the city. I got a taste of that in Vancouver. When I left, I missed it. This is Western Canada, right in the heart of it. So it’s even more exciting.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald