This contract is a POS

As the 2009-10 campaign reached its "1/3 of the way through the season" mark, another insignificant milestone was reached by a not-significant-enough player. Namely, Patrick O'Sullivan played his 46th game as an Oiler, reaching the quarter pole of the Edmonton portion of his three-year, $8.775 million-dollar contract. That's 183 games from date of acquisition to date of expiry, not that I'm counting or anything.

When O'Sullivan was acquired at the trade deadline, his acquisition along with a second round draft pick in exchange for impending UFA Erik Cole and a 5th rounder was widely considered a master stroke by Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini. "We got two years plus of O'Sullivan for 20 games of Cole ... what a steal!" went the refrain. Indeed, when Tambellini converted the second-rounder into Ales Kotalik, a big experienced winger who came a lot closer than O'Sullivan did to replacing Cole down the stretch, the argument could be made that Oilers got O'Sullivan for next to nothing.

Except the man with the unfortunate acronym of "POS" came with a contract, one that included both term and substantial dollars. In other words, we got an asset and a liability. Which weighs more?

At one level I try hard to separate a player from his contract and judge his performance in and of itself. However, when judging team's management, a player's contribution on the ice is part of a complex equation that includes salary cap, team payroll structure, the on-ice needs of the team, and how a given player fits into those various puzzles. In the case of Patrick O'Sullivan I'm pretty unimpressed with the contributions of the player, and very unimpressed with value for money. After the jump we'll examine O'Sullivan's production by a wide number of statistical metrics and try to draw some conclusions based on those numbers. I'll try to leave "saw him not-so-good" out of the equation as much as I can. Numbers rule, after all.

 First of all, let's look at boxcars. (Note: all stats cited here were compiled before the EDM @ DET game on Thursday):

Year GP G A P +-
2008-09 19 2 4 6 -7
2009-10 27 4 9 13 -11
Oiler total 46 6 13 19 -18

... which prorated over a full 82 GP yields 11-23-34, -32. By way of comparison, in his one season here, Joffrey Lupul posted 81 GP, 12-16-28, -29. Lest you think that an unfair comparison, bear in mind that Lupul was on the first year of a 3-year deal that paid him exactly $8.775 MM. The Oilers were able to successfully divest that, but now have picked up the last 2+ years of O'Sullivan's identical pact. (Identical w.r.t. cap hit; O'Sullivan's contract was frontloaded so Katz is "saving" a million or so real dollars. Which is a sobering thought for a whole 'nother reason.)

OK, so the boxcars aren't flattering. There's more to the game than boxcars. Let's move on and look at those "underlying numbers" folks keep talking about. Here I will stick entirely to 2009-10 data, since that from '08-09 is inextricably mixed and heavily weighted towards what Patio did with the Kings. From the above boxcars it doesn't appear O'Sullivan's overall performance has changed noticeably. According to stats at NHL.com, he does however have a bigger role:

Time On Ice :: 512:46 (2nd)
EV TOI :: 371:23 (2nd)

PP TOI :: 90:08 (2nd)
SH TOI :: 51:15 (2nd)

... behind only Dustin Penner in all four cases. In terms of TOI per GP, Sully ranks 3rd or 4th in all cases, with Horcoff and/or Hemsky entering the mix. Let's just say the man is not wanting for opportunity.

Shots :: 77 (2nd)
Missed Shots :: 30 (1st)
Shots that didn't go in :: 113 (1st)
Shooting percentage :: 4.1% (13th/13, and behind a bunch of defencemen too)

Enough has been said about this already.

Turning to the data collected by Gabe Desjardins at his terrific resource behindthenet.ca, let's consider even-strength results of the 13 Oiler forwards who have played at least 10 GP so far this season. Where does Patrick O'Sullivan rank among them?

QualComp :: -0.001 (5th/13)
QualTeam :: -0.241 (9th)
ZoneStart :: 47.9 OPCT (6th)

Smack dab in the middle of the table for difficulty of competition and of zone assignments. Lousy quality of teammate, which I think can be fairly directly attributed to O'Sullivan's own results. Since Desjardi/ns bases QT on +/-, any individual with a crappy +/- will appear to have poor teammates, cuz whoever he was out there with was getting scored on too.

G/60 :: 0.51 (10th)
P/60 :: 1.70 (5th)

Middlin' production, especially on the Goals front.

GF ON :: 13 (6th)
GA ON :: 22 (13th/13)

Now we're getting to the nub of it. Whoever he lines up with or against, O'Sullivan is getting outscored pretty badly.

GF ON/60 :: 2.21 (10th)
GA ON/60 :: 3.73 (11th)

Make that very badly.

+- ON/60 ::  -1.53 (11th)
+- OFF/60 :: +0.27

That's a big difference. The team outscores with O'Sullivan on the bench. With O'Sullivan on the ice it's another matter entirely.

Corsi :: -12.05
REL Corsi :: -1.5 (7th)

The guy has a rep as a shooter with a poor Sh%, so I would hope and expect that his Relative Corsi would be a positive number. It's not.

Sh% ON :: 8.28%
Sv% ON :: .888
PDO :: .971

Obviously this is a key contributor to Sully's poor goal differential. Some would attribute all of this to luck, particularly the Sv% side of the equation. That said, David Staples' Errors project, a detailed study of all goals scored for and against in Oilers games, suggests that O'Sullivan is personally culpable on more than his share, leading all Oiler forwards in Errors with 16 at last count. On the Sh% side, we have to consider Patio's own poor record, 4.4% on 136 shots as an Oiler, and also the fact that a disproportionate percentage of all shots taken while he's on the ice are taken by him personally. It's certainly enough of an influence to drag down an entire line.

Let's turn now to special teams. Again I have limited comps to Oiler forwards with 10+ GP with an additional stipulation that they average 1:30/GP on the relevant special team. There are 8 such guys on the PP, just 4 on the PK.

G/60 :: 0.00 (8th/8)
P/60 :: 1.42 (8th)

Well, that's just downright lousy. 7th of the 8 is at 3.41 PPP/60, 2 full points ahead. Yes, I know O'Sullivan has played the point quite a bit, but all of the qualified defencemen are at 2.43 or better, 1 full point ahead. That 1.42 is almost Petersen-esque.

GF ON/60 :: 8.49 (4th)

That's better. The unit does alright with Sully out there, although it's not like he's contributing what Staples calls "unofficial assists" by screening the goalie, etc. At best he's the fourth last guy who touched the puck.

SH GA ON/60 ::  -7.20 (2nd/4)

So-so. Pisani is first of course, but doesn't have the requisite 10 GP.

Penaties Drawn :: 6 (T-6th)
Penalties Taken :: 5 (T-2nd worst)
 

The funny thing here is that O'Sullivan came to the Oilers with a record of drawing penalties. He was supposed to replace Cole in this respect. Last year he had an outstanding record of 32 penalties drawn to just 8 taken, a ratio of 4:1. This year he's just breaking even, among the worst of the forwards in fact. What gives?

OK, let's look now at the dreaded RTSS counts.

Hits :: 19 (9th among all forwards)

More than a few of the other smurfs, but not a big part of his game. Reddox has 24 hits in 9 games, Stone 19 in 8, and both with far less ice time per game.

Blocks :: 24 (1st)
Takeaways :: 16 (2nd)
Giveaways :: 12 (9th)

OK, here's something promising. He will block a shot, and his Gv/Tk ratio is pretty good. Maybe there's a defensive player in there somewhere.

Faceoffs -- 43/107, 40.2% (12th)

Among the 7 forwards with 100+ draws, O'Sullivan ranks 7th, behind even Andrew Cogliano. The thing about these versatile guys that can do a lot of things is that they need to do some of them well or else they're not much help.

Oops, there I go straying into editorial remarks. I guess I'm just not seeing enough in any of these numbers to convince me this guy is come anywhere close to punching his $2.925 MM ticket.

Switching gears again, let's have a look at the scoring chance data generated by Dennis at MC79hockey and tabulated by Scott over at Gospel of Hockey. Here we have data for O'Sullivan's 19 games at the end of last year plus his results through Game 27 this season.

Last season:

First 8 games :: +49/-48 = 50.5%
Last 11 games :: +44/-63 = 41.1%

This season:

First 10 games :: +37/-41 = 47.4%
Next 10 games :: +41/-54 = 43.2%
Next 7 games :: +24/-39 = 38.1%

Hmmm, same trend, both years, starts out mediocre and descends from there. Some of it may be linemates, but if so, at the very least surely we can conclude that O'Sullivan isn't driving play in the positive direction.

I didn't tabulate special teams chances except for one thing: in 46 games as a regular penalty killer, O'Sullivan has been on the ice for three (3) shorthanded scoring opportunities. For a guy with his speed and supposed offensive game the counterattack "should" be part of his weaponry, but very clearly it just isn't.

One last stat based on O'Sullivan's 46 GP as an Oiler:

Cap hit :: $1,640,853.66

***

Conclusion: It must seem that I hate this player, but I don't. I even hold out a little hope for him based on occasional "seen-him-goods" which clearly do not show up in his numbers. What I do Hate is that contract, which he hasn't even begun to cover. I realize with long-term pacts one can expect younger players to underperform the early years and older guys to underperform at the end, but in the middle year of any contract the player should be delivering somewhere close to value for money.

In 2009-10 Patrick O'Sullivan's cap hit is more than double that of Ladi Smid. It's more than triple Gilbert Brule. It's more than Zack Stortini, Ryan Stone, Ryan Potulny and J-F Jacques combined, with $500,000 to spare! He should be way clear of all of those guys. Is he?

Finally it's interesting to note that O'Sullivan has already been traded three times in his young career: with a first-round pick for Pavol Demitra; with a second-round pick for Justin Williams; and with a different second-round pick for Erik Cole. The first one was a weird trade, but the last two fit the equation of a salary dump. If it seemed to be too good to be true when we got that second-rounder to sweeten the pot, it probably was.

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