O'Sullivan stalled on six

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

EDMONTON -- When it’s 33 games into the season and you are a top-six forward whose point total is running neck and neck with your minus total, there aren’t many right answers.

All you can do when the media comes calling is own it and promise to work harder, and for the most part Patrick O’Sullivan stuck to the script Wednesday when the media congregated around his stall to revisit the low point of his year.

But he can be more fiesty off the ice than on it and wasn’t willing to accept all the blame for his plummeting stock. He ventured dangerously close to the intersection of Excuse and Complaint, a position that didn’t win him any points with the coach who benched him Tuesday night.

“It’s frustrating, especially when you don’t have a lot of feedback,” said O’Sullivan, when asked about being nailed to the pine for the third period against Los Angeles. “The fact that it was against my old team obviously wasn’t an issue with the coach, but it definitely hurts me a little more.”

With six goals, nine assists and a team worst minus 13 rating, O’Sullivan’s troubles run a lot deeper than one game. The way he sees it, though, a lot of has to do with being the victim of circumstance.

“It’s difficult for me. I play different positions all the time, different linemates all the time. I haven’t really had anything consistent to do or be with the whole year.

“I’ve been out for some goals against and that reflects on my plus minus. I don’t think they’re necessarily my fault. It’s a stat that can be misleading. Maybe they’re looking at that, I don’t know. I think I’ve played enough games in this league to know that I’m a good player and can be effective.”

But that can be difficult, he said, playing limited minutes on the fourth line with JF Jacques and Zack Stortini.

“I think anybody who sees us three together can see they’re different players than me,” he said. “You have to change how you play a little bit because we don’t think the same way. It’s hard for them and it’s hard for me as well. It’s something I have to adjust and play a simple game.”

But not for long, he hopes.

“I don’t think I’m a fourth line player, OK. I don’t forsee myself playing those amount of minutes the rest of the year. So it’s up to me to get back to where I was playing.”

Now, in case you’re new to the city, head coach Pat Quinn isn’t much for excuses. He was already in a foul mood after Tuesday’s loss and didn’t want to hear anyone rationalize a season-long slump.

“I guess our expectations for Pat are a little bit higher than we’re seeing his play of late,” he said, adding he doesn’t know where the communication breakdown could be. “If being spoken to on the bench means that you’re not getting feedback, then either you’re not listening or you don’t give a crap, and I don’t know which it is.

“When you start thinking I’m being treated like a fourth liner but I’m really a first liner... what has been there to suggest that they’re first liners? Somebody told them that? Six goals make him a first liner? Sure, I guess, if there’s another guy with two goals. I don’t know what makes a first liner - I know a guy who’s a minus 13 better have a look at some other parts of their game.”

What does O’Sullivan have to do to get out of the doghouse?

“I don’t really want to get onto individuals, I’ve already said too much about this. It’s nobody else’s business but his and ours, and his teammates, but one is compete. You have to compete in this game.”

At least they agree on something.

"If I’m going to play less minutes well, then that’s how it’s going to be,” said O’Sullivan. “I’m going to play a hard as I can in those minutes and see where that takes me.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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