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Avs to make O’Brien a healthy scratch — again

Jan 24, 2013, 10:36 AM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Colorado Avalanche Getty Images

Colorado coach Joe Sacco has told the Denver Post that defenseman Shane O’Brien would be a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game when the Avs take on Columbus Thursday night in Denver.

O’Brien, 29, hasn’t touched the ice this season, a strange development considering the Avs made him one of their biggest free-agent priorities this summer, inking O’Brien to a three-year, $6 million deal prior to him hitting the open market.

According to Mike Chambers of the Post, O’Brien “does not appear out of shape physically,” and is saying all the right things as he tries to get back in the lineup.

“Obviously, the coaching staff feels like I don’t give the team the best chance to win right now. It’s never fun,” O’Brien explained. “All you can do is continue to work hard, wait for your chance to get back in there, and when you do, you have to play well.”

Sacco has gone with the same six-man defensive rotation in both games this year: Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson, Ryan O’Byrne, Jan Hejda, Greg Zanon and Tyson Barrie.

That’s left O’Brien in the press box with fellow defenseman Matt Hunwick — but, on Thursday, Hunwik will make his season debut against the Jackets.

Given O’Brien’s notorious party-boy reputation (see here), it’s easy to speculate why things have gone they way they have in Colorado.

But to say he’s reverted to his old ways might not be accurate — last November, he was profiled in a glowing Post article about his maturation into the “ultimate Avs teammate” that included the following from Sacco:

“He’s been a real nice addition to our lineup. He plays hard and plays within himself,” Sacco said. “Shane’s a little bit older now (28), a little bit wiser. I had a good talk with him at the start of the year, and he just wants to play hockey now. Every player at the start of their career probably does something they wish they could take back. I don’t even know all the stuff that happened there, but you hear stuff. He’s been great here, and I see no issues as far as that side.”

It’s a situation worth monitoring moving forward. After Thursday’s game, the Avs head out on a four-game road trip that includes a stop in O’Brien’s old stomping ground — Vancouver — on Jan. 30.

  1. govtminion - Jan 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Very strange. Sacco must really not like something he’s seeing in practice, but why you’d go sign a guy as a FA and then not use him at all in your first three games is beyond me. I guess with injuries starting to rear their ugly head though, the decision on whether to use him or not might be out of Sacco’s hands at this point.

  2. jernster21 - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Are you guys going to write an article every time Shane O’Brien is scratched? He’s a 2 million dollar defensemen, not Shea Weber. The Avalanche aren’t the only team in the league that healthy scratch players – last I checked Vancouver had a boat load of defensemen – they’re probably scratching people each night too. Hunwick was scratched a lot last year and came in and played well when given the opportunity – at the end of the day, the players who give the team the best chance to win should play each night – unfortunately for Joe Sacco, I don’t agree with his assessment that Tyson “turnover” Barrie gives the Avs a better chance to win than Shane O’Brien or Hunwick and apparently Sacco is now in agreement with the decision to play Hunwick over who I would expect to be Barrie.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      It’s fairly noteworthy when you consider they signed him to a somewhat substantial contract this past offseason.

    • Mike Halford - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      I think we’ve only written two.

      To be fair, it might be a bit over the top but I just don’t get why a cost-conscious team like Colorado would go three years/$6 million on a player the coach views as his eighth-best defenseman. It’s actually really baffling, IMO, unless O’Brien is secretly hurt or terribly (also, secretly) out of shape.

      • jernster21 - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        I get your point. I’m a firm believer that Sacco actually does have a “dog house”, fair or not – it’s easy to judge on the outside when we don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Should be interesting to see if this turns out to be more than a short term “disciplinary lashing”, if that’s what this is, in which case, one would have to think upper management (GM GS) will point out that he didn’t give O’Brien a 3 year deal to ride the pine. The fact that Hunwick bothered resigning in Colorado after last year is what baffled me.

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