O’Donnell’s play has been almost as nice as he is and he is in Philadelphia to do one thing.
The Flyers defender leads the league with a plus-17 and with defensive partner Andrej Meszaros, they have formed quite a pairing.
General Manager Paul Holmgren has put together one of the deepest defensive groups in the league and this team could be a real force in the playoffs.
Enjoy my chat with Sean O’Donnell!
Donald Wood: How do you like Philly so far?
Sean O’Donnell: So far it’s great. My wife and I just got married a year-and-a-half ago, so we haven’t started our family yet and we decided to live downtown. I’ve been in the league for 16 or 17 years and from what I hear, downtown Philly has come a long way. We just love it down there.
DW: I know you played in Los Angeles last year and earlier in your career and in Anaheim for awhile, so how does having former Ducks teammate Chris Pronger there help you and how has he helped you since your signing?
SD: He helped me before I signed. July 1st came along and I got a phone call from [Flyers General Manger] Paul Holmgren saying Philly was interested. I called up Chris and picked his brain on the city, the team, and the organization, and he said the team was competitive and the fans love the team. It wasn’t a difficult decision once the opportunity came, I talked to my wife and we both agreed to give it a shot for a year.
DW: It’s turned out well and you’ve been playing great. Right now you’re plus-17, which is first in the league, what do you credit for your success?
SD: I think we have a very good defense as a whole and our goalies have been playing well and we're scoring a lot of goals. I’m not one that does a whole lot offensively, as far as scoring goals, but I’ll chip in when I can. My main thing is to help in the defensive end and not let the other team score too many goals. I and my defensive partner [Andrej] Meszaros have done a good job with that in the situations we’ve been put in.
DW: Speaking of Andrej Meszaros, he’s another first-year Flyer, so how has it been playing next to him on the blue line?
SD: It’s been great. He’s been in the league for six years now and he is a guy who played a lot of hockey. I played against him in the Finals when he was with Ottawa; he was one of the guys that really helped the Senators get there in 2007. He was a guy who came here from Tampa and has really found his niche here in Philadelphia.
We get along real well, we talk a lot in practice and in the games and bounce a lot of things off one another. We’ve been on the same page on how to play and positioning and stuff like that and it’s been a real easy transition for both of us I think, coming here and playing together.
DW: With Meszaros plus-15 and sitting in 4th in plus-minus and you leading the league, you guys have been as shutdown as it gets.
SD: Well, thank you.
DW: With the addition of yourself and Meszaros, the Flyers could have the deepest six defenders in the league; how do you view the defense? They always say defense wins championships, and you won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007.
SD: I agree, I am a little bit biased because I’m a defender (laughs). The Flyers coaching staff or Paul Holmgren, whoever it is that put this together, have been very proactive, starting with Kimmo Timonen. I don’t think any of the defense was here three years ago, then they went after Timonen and made the trade for Chris Pronger a year-and-a-half ago. Now this year they brought in me and Meszaros, and they have really built this defense up and made it, I’m not going to say it’s the best, but you could make an argument that it’s the deepest six in the league.
We got our two studs in Pronger and Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle are a great three and four, while I and Meszaros pick up the rear. The team went to the Finals last year and we added a couple of pieces, so all we have to do is win two more games than the team did last year.
DW: With a team that has overhauled so much since Paul Holmgren has taken over, how do you feel about being part of this team?
SD: This team has been perennially, if not a Stanley Cup contender, close. It’s a team that could go deep and make some waves, and that’s just what the city and the organization expect every year.
I’ve been on some good teams and some that were on the rebuilding phase and at this point in my career, I am trying to win one more Cup. Kind of sail off into the sunset and it’s great to be on a team whose mantra is to win it every year. They’re not rebuilding and they’re not interested in getting younger, and that’s the main reason I spoke to my wife about the move from Los Angeles to Philly.
To her credit, she was like, "Great, I know you don’t have a lot of time left and we talked about that and I would love to help you do that."
DW: I’ve noticed that you have become more vocal as the year has gone on; has getting acclimated to the team and the organization eased you into a leadership role?
SD: I’m not a real vocal guy but I think there’s times every couple of games where something needs to be said and I don’t think it’s coming easier to say. I’m never going to be a guy that gets up in the locker room in between periods and throws stick or calls people out. I do think sometimes that there are situations in a game where you can tell guys aren’t on their game or tired or whatever, and you just help them focus on what they have to focus on. As I get more comfortable with these guys, and they’re good guys, I’ll feel more comfortable expressing my thoughts.
I would like to extend another thank-you to the Flyers organization and Mr. O’Donnell.