A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

O'Neill possibly making a comeback

I just got word via Dave from COI about the possibility that Jeff O'Neill will be donning the old #92 sweater in Carolina again. Luke has most of the details in his post over at LSB, but the gist of it is that they're looking to get some "organizational depth". Apparently, the Matt Cullen situation is still kinda shaky, and the Canes need to have an NHL-calibre center under two-way contract for emergency fill in.

"Yes, that Jeff O'Neill.

The Canes have talked to O'Neill and Jeff Taffe, Rutherford said, but both are holding out for one-way contracts. "


Yeah.... No.

Jeff O'Neill was a good player for a few years, and he is the franchise's leading goal scorer since the team moved to Carolina. For the record, O'Neill scored 176 for Carolina. Rod Brind'Amour has scored 149 for Carolina, and Eric Staal has scored all of his 124 for Carolina. Brindy should pass that mark this coming season, and Staal should pass it early in the 2009-10 season.

Jeff O'Neill is not remembered for his 41-goal season in 2000-01. He is not remembered for his other accomplishments, which put him near the top of every franchise statistical category.

Jeff O'Neill is remembered around here for very different reasons. He had a legendary row with former Hurricanes coach Chairman Mo following a bag skate. He had a couple of run-ins with John Law, including his arrest for DUI and public urination during the lockout.

O'Neill scored 60 or more points four straight seasons, but in 03-04, he stopped caring. He was lazy and sloppy on the ice. By the end of the season, he had fallen from fan favorite to pariah, often drawing boos for his listless play. I have never apologised for the way I felt about him.

After the underachieving 34 point season in 03-04 came the lockout. Instead of staying in shape and doing something good, he sat around with Bates Battaglia and got liquored up. I don't know for sure that O'Neill and Batesy were hanging out, but Bates has the reputation of being a party boy, and I'll make that assumption whether it's fair and accurate or not.

The DUI arrest was O'Neill's second. His shoddy play was enough to make him fall from grace, but the DUI was the last straw for many fans. After the Steve Chiasson incident, this organization is really sensitive about drunk driving.

The fight with Maurice, the lazy play, and finally the DUI pretty much secured O'Neill's walking papers. Then, in June of 2005, O'Neill's brother was killed in a single-car accident near Toronto when he fell asleep at the wheel. There was no suspicion of drugs or alcohol. Only fatigue.

Donny's untimely passing provided an excellent opportunity for the Canes to "trade" O'Neill to the Leafs. That was exactly what Jeff wanted and needed.

O'Neill had 38 points for the Leafs in 2005-06 and 42 in 06-07. Oddly enough, he ended up back with coach Paul Maurice, and the two let bygones be bygones. Although these numbers aren't quite up to what he's capable of, he was getting back on the right track. Until...

O'Neill didn't play at all in 2007-08. Not professionally, anyway. He played in a Thursday night beer league. For some reason, he thinks that he can go from once a night in a 30-and up league to a one-way NHL contract. Jim Rutherford has made his intentions quite clear.
"He's trying to work his way back but with him sitting out a year, his opportunity would be on a two-way contract, probably starting in Albany," Rutherford said. "Maybe even at center ice. He played there in junior. At this time, we're experimenting with a few things. Based on his career he feels the same way (as Taffe) — he would like one-way contract somewhere. If he can't we're willing to talk with him."

There are loads of other unrestricted free agents who could be signed to two-way deals. I'm not sure why O'Neill is being considered.

Seriously, I'd rather have Pavel Krispy Brendl. Speaking of whom, it looks like he's been doing okay in the Swedish Elite League.

I'm sure that when the dust settles, O'Neill won't have a contract with Carolina, but it gives us something to talk about.

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