James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Housley wants Sabres’ defense to attack like Predators did

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It sure sounds like Phil Housley wants the Buffalo Sabres’ defense to attack much like the Nashville Predators did during his stay as assistant head coach … not to mention like he did as a Hall of Fame blueliner.

During his introductory press conference as the Sabres’ head coach, Housley did qualify things a bit by saying that he didn’t want to play with “reckless abandon,” yet it’s clear he’s leaning toward aggressive rather than passive approaches.

“I think the brand of hockey is playing with pace, playing fast, and that includes a five-man attack. Our defense is going to be very involved in the play,” Housley said. “We have to play good defense, obviously, but I think if we can get five guys up in the play – whether it’s on a breakout through the neutral zone or in the offensive zone – I think it gets the odds in your favor. It’s going to be fast.”

MORE: Sabres name Housley their new head coach.

Housley seems to realize the risk-reward factor that comes with playing an aggressive style, and he brushed off questions about whether the Sabres boast the sort of defensive personnel that could play a style that parallels what Nashville accomplished with its lofty top four.

(Housley points out that many of those players, particularly Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis, “were once young too.”)

As exciting as it must be for Sabres fans to hear Housley say that the team can be competitive out of the gate, the style of play should be especially promising. He even emphasized “high-tempo” practices, giving the impression that this young Buffalo team will have a “Go, go, go” mentality.

“We have to give these guys the responsibility to make plays,” Housley said.

Will he get that all to work? That remains to be seen, but either way, it sounds like it will be boring.

McGuire to host ‘Round Table Rally’ after Vegas expansion draft


If you want instant feedback following the announcement of the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster, you won’t need to change the channel from NBCSN.

Pierre McGuire will host the “Round Table Rally” immediately following the 2017 NHL Awards, which will kick off on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 21. As you likely know, the Golden Knights’ roster will be announced during the awards show, so McGuire will host a recap of the picks.

He’ll get reactions from Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee, along with “select newly named Golden Knights players.”

“I am honored and excited to help usher in the arrival of the Golden Knights,” McGuire said. “The expansion draft is an important part of building a great brand. Like all fans of the NHL, I cannot wait to see the array of players that will make up the inaugural line up of the Golden Knights.”

It should be a helpful and illuminating cap on what could be a wild run of moves, both by the Golden Knights and the NHL teams trying to mitigate the damage from the expansion draft.

Crosby ‘in the company of all-time greats’


NASHVILLE — For some time, there were serious concerns that injuries would keep Sidney Crosby from truly standing among the best players in NHL history. After tonight, it feels like Crosby’s making a case for already having a legendary career.

MORE: Crosby stands shoulder to shoulder with Mario Lemieux in many ways, including consecutive Conn Smythe victories.

Crosby isn’t even 30 yet and it seems like he’s checked off every box on an NHL player’s “to-do list.”

  • After tonight’s 2-0 win for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, he captained the first team to repeat as champions during the salary cap era. He matched Mario Lemieux in leading repeat Penguins champs and exceeded “Super Mario” with his third title.
  • Crosby also matched Lemieux in winning consecutive Conn Smythe Trophies. Merely getting two at any stage puts him in rare company: only Crosby, Lemieux, and Bernie Parent have won two straight.
  • The author of the “golden goal” won two Olympic gold medals with Canada.
  • If you’re more into bigger milestones, Crosby is hitting some big numbers for his career. He’s already exceeded 1,000 regular-season points (1,027) and 150 in the postseason (164).
  • Crosby earned his second Maurice Richard this season with 44 goals, providing company for his Hart and Art Ross trophies. Actually, you know what? This graphic captures most of the high points:

Sullivan is sold

Some might view such discussions as hasty, yet his coach and GM seem to think that the comparisons are quite reasonable. By Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan’s estimation, Crosby is already “in the company of the all-time greats.”

” … You know, he’s arguably the best player of his generation, and he’s a guy that just knows how to win,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he’s a player that — and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.”

Yes, Sullivan and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford might be a little biased what with number 87 enriching their careers, but their endorsements remain resounding.

When you take a step back, it’s clear that Crosby has already put together the sort of career that most players would envy. For some, such accomplishments might make that hunger and drive go away, but Sullivan likely says it best: Crosby will continue to be driven by his “appetite to win.”

Video: Watch Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate repeat Stanley Cup win


One of these days, the Penguins need to get around to winning the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh.

Much like when they dispatched the San Jose Sharks last year, the Penguins ended the 2017 Stanley Cup Final in six games, so they celebrated that big win on the Nashville Predators’ ice.

Predators fans were not happy, which is that much easier to understand when you consider the shocking way the Penguins won Game 6.

Observe who received (and then lifted) the Stanley Cup when and who was booed the loudest (Sidney Crosby or Gary Bettman?) in the video above this post’s headline.


More on the Penguins’ 2-0 win

Crosby wins consecutive Conn Smythe trophies

Sidney Crosby wins back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies


Sidney Crosby did it … again.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the rare feat of repeating as Stanley Cup champions, Crosby managed to win a second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy. This continues a trend of Crosby meeting and sometimes exceeding some of Mario Lemieux’s greatest accomplishments.

(“The Magnificent One” managed back-to-back championships and playoff MVPs himself, but Crosby has more Stanley Cup Final points and now owns an extra ring.)

Now, it must be said that like last year, the Penguins boasted plenty of crucial contributors beyond Crosby.

Evgeni Malkin is the most obvious alternative choice, actually managing one more point (28) during this postseason than Crosby, who generated 27. Matt Murray missed too much time to be a legitimate MVP choice, but he was sensational in crunch time once again. Phil Kessel and rookie sensation Jake Guentzel also provided plenty of offense for the Penguins.

The Penguins defied expectations in winning a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang. Ultimately, Crosby was the biggest reason why.