Anyone who has watched the Kings of late, or even looked at the box scores, knows that Patrick O’Sullivan’s game is coming around in a big way. In his last nine games, entering tonight, O’Sullivan has two goals and nine assists in his last nine games, but more importantly he looks like a more complete, confident player. The Kings expected a lot of O’Sullivan early in the season and he didn’t deliver, to the point that he got sent to Manchester in November and was told that he needed a better work ethic.
According to Marc Crawford, that’s the thing. Crawford knows the talent is there with O’Sullivan, so it’s just a matter of effort. That effort has been there since O’Sullivan returned in late January, and just in the past couple weeks it’s really been paying off. I asked O’Sullivan about the cliche that the game “slows down” for players when they start figuring things out, and he said the following…
“Obviously it doesn’t (literally) slow down, but your confidence level goes and the feeling you have on the ice improves. I’ve experienced that in the last 10 or 15 games. Now I’m at the point where I can make the plays, at this level, that I’ve been able to make at every other level. Before, I wasn’t creating as much offense as I was used to.”
The transition wasn’t easy for O’Sullivan. He dominated at the AHL level last season (47 goals in 78 games) and, truth be told, probably thought the NHL would be a bit easier than it was. He quickly found out otherwise.
The comparison might fall flat, but when I think about O’Sullivan, I think about the way Michael Cammalleri started his career. In Cammalleri’s case, the offensive skills were evident early, but the coaches were always on him to be stronger on the puck and create offensive chances for himself, rather than wait for others to set him up. In a way, I think O’Sullivan was in the same boat, and now he freely admits that a return to the AHL this season did him good.
“I think I needed to be back in the AHL for a bit,” O’Sullivan said. “There was no point in having a bad attitude about it or think negatively about the situation. I’ve overcome too many things in my life, so I just had to take my medicine and get back to the place I wanted to be. Being down there made me understand better what is expected of me.”
I asked O’Sullivan about looking around the dressing room and seeing so much young talent, between himself, Kopitar, Brown, Johnson, Cammalleri, etc. O’Sullivan said, “If you can’t get excited about that, something’s wrong with you.”