In case you missed it, here is the first part of my interview with Patrick O'Sullivan. In the first part of our talk, Patrick talked about his upbringing and the way his mental health was treated upon entering the NHL. Patrick recently released a book called "Breaking Away." You can find him on Twitter at @realPOSULLIVAN.
Patrick O'Sullivan arrived in Los Angeles as they began the rebuild that eventually made them who they are now. He was acquired in a deal that sent talented forward Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild.
In his first season with the Kings, O'Sullivan scuffled. Just a month into his first season, he was sent back to the AHL for close to three months. However, he finished that season in strong form. Patrick notched 14 points in his final 16 games, a very encouraging stint that served to solidify his future role with the team. He appeared to be a part of the same future that Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown already belonged to.
Those bright years, despite being described as his "fondest memory" in the NHL, were not all happiness for Patrick, though.
In his first season with the Kings, he struggled to mesh with head coach Marc Crawford. 'Crow', despite knowing Patrick's history with his father, made an example of Patrick on a nightly basis. In his book, Patrick describes how other teammates were often incredulous at the way Crawford handled things. O'Sullivan asked players that played for Crawford elsewhere if this was normal, and apparently it was:
I talked to a lot of the older players. Some of them had played for him before even when they were young. Aaron Miller played for him as a rookie in Colorado in the mid-late '90s. He said that was just kinda what Crow did. He would pick one or two young guys and just ride them for the whole year.
Keep in mind that Marc Crawford was very aware of O'Sullivan's situation. It is probable that this was just Crawford's style, but it is also possible that Crawford believed this was the only way to get through to Patrick. Crawford never laid a hand on Patrick, but he did give him a slight kick in the butt one time during a game. Patrick turned and stared daggers back at Crawford, who never touched him again.
The following season, Crawford proceeded as if Patrick was just a regular player on the team. However, Patrick said it wasn't like they ever buried the hatchet or patched things up; Crawford seemed to just move on. At the end of that season, Crawford was fired. Apparently, the writing for this move had been on the wall for much of that season:
It was obvious, I think, even to Dean back then. By the time Crow's second year rolled around, they needed a different guy to work with the young players. That was obvious.
I don't think this is any real revelation. I was a bit surprised by Crawford being fired at the time, but mostly because I had a tortured relationship with sports back then and I figured that anything I wanted was simply never going to happen.
Crawford's failings were numerous, but O'Sullivan believed that his biggest problem was a failure to adapt to the modern NHL:
The Crawford thing was unfortunate. I don't know - clearly he didn't know how to change his style to adjust to the new game. That's why he's no longer in the league.
While Crawford was a stressful presence, Patrick said that Rob Blake was often the voice in the room that guided the players through Crow's tantrums:
If Crow would come in during intermission and really gave it to us, Blakey would make sure that on Crow's way out he would say something like, "Let's win - let's come back in this game for the guys in here." Like, "fuck the coaches," type-thing.
I've never liked Rob Blake more than I do right now. Patrick went on to say that Blake was the best player he ever played with, and that other young players on that team - specifically Anze Kopitar - would agree.
Opposite Rob Blake on the Quality Person Spectrum sat Patrick's very first road roommate as assigned by the Kings, Sean Avery:
He was by far the weirdest guy I had ever played with. I don't think he's a horrible person, he just - he kind of struggled with his own issues and that got brought out when he was around other guys on the team.
Fortunately, Patrick didn't have to spend all of his time with Sean Avery. He also shared a place with Anze Kopitar during their first season with the team:
That was a fun first year for sure. To be that young, living in LA, we had an apartment right on - right down by the beach in Hermosa. We certainly - we got our money's worth that year.
Patrick left the team near the end of the 2008-09 season in a three-way deal that saw him go to Edmonton and Justin Williams come to Los Angeles. It was a critical trade in the building of the Kings. Justin Williams was the face of the possession-hockey giants as they rode Corsi to two Stanley Cup championships. The fact that O'Sullivan was traded for a future Conn Smythe winner is not lost on him. In fact, it helped him feel a stronger connection to the team he once played for.
Patrick had a lot he wanted to say to the city he used to call home, so I'll let him finish this:
I know the people, the fans have been waiting a long time to really have some success and they got that. I was treated really well by everybody that I ever interacted with, you know, with that fanbase. I was just happy that they won and everybody - you know, the fans got to see that. I guess, to win it again is just icing on the cake for everybody involved there. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed playing in LA and that's by far my fondest memory or favorite place I ever played. Definitely L.A.
Below, I'll attach the audio. Here is the link to the full transcript. Thank you for reading and listening and sharing.