Before he returned home to South Yorkshire following a two-month spell at Swedish club Leksands IF, the GB international knew he was coming back to a much-changed organisation.
Not only were most of the players he played alongside during 2017-18 gone, but, after a difficult start to the campaign, so too was head coach Paul Thompson.
O’Connor makes no secret of the admiration he has for his former boss, their friendship and mutual respect developing both on and off the ice over the years.
Like many people, O’Connor was disappointed Thompson felt it necessary to leave the club for personal reasons last month.
But the 29-year-old is fully aware that teams have to move on quickly in such difficult circumstances and has soon adapted to life under Thompson’s replacement Tom Barrasso.
“I’m very good friends with Paul, both in terms of our working relationship and away from the rink,” said O’Connor. “It was sad to see him go, but you have to respect his decision.
“But the owners have done a great job of bringing in Tom. He’s a very good coach – you just have to look at his cv. Every coach has a different style, a different philosophy. Thommo’s was different to Tom’s and you have to play to the way that the coach you are working under wants.
“If you don’t, then you’re not going to be be around for too long. But I like what Tom has to say – he’s very direct and very positive.”
O’Connor was on hand to score the winning overtime goal at Sheffield Arena on Wednesday night to seal a 5-4 victory against Coventry Blaze. The Steelers are on home ice again tonight when they host Dundee Stars (7pm).
The midweek victory lifted Barrasso’s team to eighth in the Elite League standings and although there is still a big gap to close on the leading teams, O’Connor is confident enough time remains for the Steelers to enjoy success this season.
“Any team can get injuries and have a bit of a slump,” added O’Connor. “It is a long year and if we can put some kind of run together anything can happen.
“But we can’t afford to play in 20- or 40-minute spells – we’ve got to be playing a full 60 minutes every night, like we did against Nottingham and Coventry.”