General Manager Bill Armstrong had a vision for the Arizona Coyotes. The team would still have skilled, smaller players like Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, but they needed to get bigger and harder to play against. One of the players brought in to help make the Coyotes harder to play against was Halifax native Liam O’Brien.
Games Played: 39
TOI/Games Played: 9:29
PP TOI: 3:40
PK TOI: 2:23
O’Brien was undrafted but signed as a free agent with the Washington Capitals in 2014. He would spend the next six years between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Hersey Bears, playing primarily in the AHL.
After years with the Capitals, O’Brien would sign a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche. Again he split time between the Avalanche and their AHL affiliate, playing 12 games with either team.
This past season was a big one for O’Brien. He played a career-high 39 NHL games and scored a career-high two goals.
O’Brien has a role with the Coyotes, and if you have any questions about what that is, look no further than his 106 penalty minutes last minute. You can also go to HockeyFights.com and see the ten fights he was involved in during his first season with the Desert Dogs.
Unfortunately, you don’t get too much else from a player like O’Brien. He averages under ten minutes per game, doesn’t contribute much offense, and isn’t the type of player you want on the ice with a minute left and a one-goal lead. But fans have expressed frustration that the team doesn’t have anyone to protect their skilled players like Keller, and O’Brien definitely does that.
Maybe not surprisingly, O’Brien did have to deal with some injuries during the season. He plays hard, but we probably weren’t going to get much more from him if he played a full 82-game season.
O’Brien signed a two-year, $1.55 million deal that should keep him in the valley for the foreseeable future. He does have a bit of competition from Boko Imama, but earning an extension should be seen as a big vote of confidence from General Manager Bill Armstrong.
Ideally, in the coming years, the team will have players who can serve some of the functions of O’Brien while providing more. If you look at the players GMBA drafted, they were mostly bigger players like Conor Geekie, who can eventually come in and be strong power forwards. But that will take time; until then, O’Brien has a job that he does well.