One of the major objectives of Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren during the off season was to improve the team’s already solid defense. The next objective was to increase the overall size of the team.
On July 1, the official first day of the NHL’s free agency period, Holmgren accomplished both by signing defenseman Sean O’Donnell who at 6’2”, 237 pounds took to the ice on Thursday with some of his new teammates
“This is my second day [of skating],” said O’Donnell. “It took four or five days to get acclimated to the city, figure out where my wife and I wanted to live and then I went back to a family thing back in Ottawa for a week, and then we just got back this week. We’ve had the ice twice now, so two down and bunch more to go.”
O’Donnell is one of eight Flyers that make up the defense, which currently stands at an average of over 6’2” and 212 pounds. A trait that he sees will make a significant difference this season, even if he is switching Conferences.
“Well I don’t know a whole lot about the East. Obviously you know [Alexander] Ovechkin and [Sidney] Crosby and some of the teams, [New] Jersey, but it’s been awhile since I played regularly out here, so I just know that this team on paper is a solid team. Especially on the defense and down the middle, so it’s going to be a tough team to beat.”
As far as his contributions to the team, he sees no reason why he can’t step right in and play the game he’s been accustomed to his whole career.
“It’s a matter of us coming together and helping the team do what they did last spring. I think that personally I have a lot of confidence in my game. I think it’s a very steady game. I don’t think I do anything flashy, but I like to keep my mistakes to a minimum, so I’m hoping to bring some of that veteran presence back there, address some things on the ice if they need to be addressed and be a good guy in the locker room.”
And although the 15-year NHL veteran has arrived on a new team and in a new city, he certainly has some familiar faces in the locker room.
“To have Prongs and have Lappy there and to be able to talk to them, you almost have a little built-in respect because you’re friends with those guys and they’ve been around and when they accept you and they put in a good word in for you, then it’s a little easier with the other guys.”
That’s one of the other reasons I was happy about coming early. Instead of coming and meeting 20-25 guys brand new, I’ve met Lappy, Ville Leino. I met Blair Betts
and of course Prongs and as the guys start coming in one at a time, its a lot easier to meet them that way than all at once.”
O’Donnell was teammates with Ian Laperriere
for five seasons in Los Angeles from 1995-96 to 1999-00, and for two seasons with Chris Pronger
in Anaheim, including the 2006-07 season in which the pair skated to a Stanley Cup championship with the Ducks.
“I think it’s a great acquisition from the team,” said Laperriere. “He’s such a good guy to be around and good defenseman. He knows his role and he brings a lot of experience and stability on defense, and he’s won before. You can never have enough of the guys who have won before and know what it takes to go all the way.”
Knowing what it takes to go all the way, O’Donnell can’t help but think that the Flyers definitely can have the same success as last year and even take that final step.
“Well that’s the reason why we’re here. During the playoffs last year in LA, we got eliminated and I looked at my wife and said ‘I don’t know how much longer I have’ and I think LA’s on a good path. I just think it may be a little while, a couple years away. We kind of looked at some teams and Philadelphia was the team where I thought I could really be a good fit there… so we were lucky enough to get a phone call from Paul Holmgren on July 1 and the rest is history.”
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