On Saturday, McIver was in Vancouver and battling for a spot on the Canucks while O’Brien was in Prague toiling for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A whirlwind 48-hours later, McIver had played the hero for the Anaheim Ducks scoring in overtime against the team that had placed him on waivers the day before while O’Brien is the newest member of the Canucks acquired from Tampa essentially to fill the role the departed McIver left behind.
To further the link between the two, they were selected four spots apart in the eighth round of the 2003 National Hockey League – O’Brien, now a Canuck, by Anaheim 250th overall while McIver, a Duck, was taken by the Canucks 254th.
They are basically the same player although O’Brien has considerably more experience at the NHL level than McIver who is still trying to play his way into a regular job in the league. And the Canucks are hoping O’Brien’s an upgrade who’s ready to provide depth and, along with Rob Davison, will offer additional toughness when called upon.
“Throughout out my career I’ve been known to get in there and mix it up a little bit and I have no problem doing that if someone takes a run at one of our star players or we’re down a couple of goals. That part of my game will always be there,” O’Brien said on a conference call from Tampa Bay.
“What I’m really trying to focus on is just being a solid player. I’ll definitely bring toughness and I’ll compete every night, but I’m more worried about playing and improving every day.”
The 25-year-old Port Hope, Ontario native, was picked up from the Lightning Monday morning along with forward Michel Ouellet in exchange for Lukas Krajicek and prospect Juraj Simek. O’Brien will join the Canucks immediately while Ouellet, a 26-year-old right-handed right winger, has been dispatched to Manitoba initially.
On the surface, the deal helps both the Canucks and Lightning address areas of concern. At 6’2” and 235 pounds, O’Brien has amassed 330 penalty minutes in 158 career NHL games and provides his new club with some much-needed muscle for life in the cantankerous Northwest Division.
While Krajicek, a former first round pick of Florida who was part of the Roberto Luongo
deal with the Panthers two years ago had slipped on the Canucks depth chart and no longer appeared to be an every day player.
He joins a Tampa team in need of help on defense after surrending 80 shots in two season-opening losses overseas against the New York Rangers and should be able to crack the Bolts top six.
The addition of Ouellet to the Canucks’ organization continues a trend being set by new general manager Mike Gillis – trying to obtain relatively young forwards with a track record of some NHL success who’ve either fallen out of favour or slipped through the cracks of the organizations they’ve been in. It started with Kyle Wellwood and continued with Steve Bernier and now Ouellet appears to fit that mold, too.
The former fourth round pick of Pittsburgh in the 2000 draft, Ouellet once scored 19 goals and 48 points for the Penguins and last year, on a last place hockey club in Tampa, still managed to put the puck in the net 17 times.
Because Ouellet had already cleared NHL waivers while in Tampa, the Canucks elected to send him to Winnipeg to start the season. But he appears to have the skill and talent to earn a look with the big club at some point this season.
“The coaches and GM in Tampa told me I impressed them, but they had signed so many guys they told me I’d need to score five goals a game to make the team so they told me there was obviously not a spot for me there,” Ouellet said of learning he’d been dealt to the Canucks.
“Last season I played well at that level and it’s tough, but sometimes you have to do a step backward to take two forward, so that’s how I take it right now.”
For Ouellet, O’Brien and Krajicek, today’s transaction sends all three to their third NHL teams while Simek moves for the first time in his professional career.