James O'Brien

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

Video: Billy Ray Cyrus’ Predators Stanley Cup song will make your ears ache


Breaking: Billy Ray Cyrus’ ache-y heart.

No wait, that’s not it. Actually, it’s that Cyrus pumped out a song cheering on the Nashville Predators in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup and … it’s a song.

This seems like a good opportunity to note that Cyrus’ mullet would have been a perfect fit for the era of hockey where his big hit ruled our troubled lives. Apparently we’re close to an ache-y breaky anniversary in that regard:

And you thought jumping on the Stanley Cup bandwagon brought ridicule to Justin Bieber …

Wild promotions include Brunette to assistant GM


The Minnesota Wild announced a ton of promotions in their front office on Thursday, including a boost for a familiar face in former forward Andrew Brunette.

Brunette and Shep Harder were both promoted to assistant GM positions. Brent Flahr was bumped up from assistant GM to senior VP of hockey operations (Flahr continues to be GM of the Iowa Wild). One wonders if there might be a succession plan where Flahr eventually becomes GM as Chuck Fletcher either moves up the chain or splits, but that’s just pure speculation.

(It also assumes that the Wild wouldn’t clean house if first-round disappointments continue.)

Anyway, those names are some of the most relevant among a sea of upgrades in this release. This all seems like a solid excuse to recall Brunette’s Game 7 OT goal against Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche back in 2003, a moment that still ranks among the greatest in franchise history:

Key dates for Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft


As turbulent as this postseason and the Stanley Cup Final might be, we might just look at this rush of great hockey as the calm before the storm. The NHL released an updated list of key dates for the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, and the short story is that it will be a wild couple of weeks.

The league revealed the windows of time for teams to ask players to waive various clauses in regards to the expansion draft. One of the bigger notes is that there will be a waiver and trade freeze from June 16-22.

Overall, the month of June is slated to be extremely busy for the league and its followers. Many of us won’t catch a breath until free agency slows down in early July.

Check out the full release below.

NEW YORK (June 1, 2017) – The National Hockey League released an updated critical dates calendar for the NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile, which will be held Wednesday, June 21, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET):

Monday, June 12 Deadline for Clubs to request that a Player “waive” his “No Move” clause for purposes of Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET) (with the exception of Nashville and Pittsburgh, whose Deadline will be the later of: (i) 5 p.m. ET on June 12; or (ii) 5 p.m. ET on the day following the last day of the Stanley Cup Final).

Wednesday, June 14 Last possible day of 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Thursday, June 15 First Buy-Out Period begins.

Deadline for Clubs to ask Players with “No Move” clauses whether they want to be placed on Waivers for purposes of Buy-Outs prior to Expansion Draft (11:59 am ET).

Friday, June 16 Last day to place Player on Waivers prior to Expansion Draft Trade/Waiver Freeze (12 p.m. ET).

Deadline for Players to agree to “waive” their “No Move” clauses for purposes of Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET).

Saturday, June 17 Commencement of the Expansion Draft Trade/Waiver Freeze for all NHL Clubs with exception of the Expansion Club (3 p.m. ET).

Commencement of Expansion Draft Signing Moratorium on NHL SPCs for all NHL Clubs with exception of the Expansion Club (3 p.m. ET).

Deadline for each Club to simultaneously submit its Protection List to Central Registry and the NHLPA (5 p.m. ET).

Sunday, June 18 Deadline for Central Registry to approve and simultaneously distribute the Protection Lists to all NHL Clubs (including the Expansion Club) and the NHLPA (10 a.m. ET).
Opening of the UFA/RFA Interview Period (only applies to Players who are available for selection in the Expansion Draft) for the Expansion Club only (10 a.m. ET).

Wednesday, June 21 Deadline for the Expansion Club to simultaneously submit its Expansion Draft Selections to Central Registry and the NHLPA (10 a.m. ET).

Deadline for the Expansion Club to submit SPCs for any pending UFA/RFAs who are selected by the Expansion Club and signed to a new contract (10 a.m. ET). The Expansion Club is permitted to sign a current or pending Free Agent on a Current Club’s list of Available Players during the period between 10:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 18, and 9:59 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 21, and in so doing will be deemed to have made its Expansion Draft selection from such Current Club. If the Expansion Club signs a Restricted Free Agent from the Available List of a Current Club during said period, the Current Club will not be entitled to any compensation from the Expansion Club.

Official distribution and announcement of the Expansion Club’s Selections in conjunction with the 2017 NHL Awards presented by T-Mobile (8 p.m. ET).

Thursday June, 22 Expansion Draft Signing Moratorium and Trade/Waiver Freeze are lifted (8 a.m. ET).

Rinne or Saros for Predators vs. Penguins in Game 3? Laviolette won’t say


The Nashville Predators have said all the right things about supporting Pekka Rinne after a disastrous Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. They’re not guaranteeing that he’ll start instead of Juuse Saros in Game 3, however.

The guy to do that would be Peter Laviolette, but he wouldn’t take the bait on that question on Thursday. He let the Game 3 starter be a mystery for the media and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There’s some back-and-forth about the goalies knowing who will start, but either way, we’re in the dark.

Amusingly, there are different camps that could look at either decision (Saros or Rinne) as a no-brainer. In many cases, it comes down to how you feel about the team’s loyalty to Rinne – not to mention his strong overall postseason – versus the doubts he’s caused thanks to some recent stumbles.

Granted, it’s also worth noting that Saros has been brilliant in his small sample of NHL appearances.

Either way, Laviolette is smart to play coy, maybe even especially so.

Consider this: Rinne is a towering, aggressive goalie while Saros is one of the smallest netminders in the league. Why give the Penguins the added benefit of knowing, for sure, which of these two very different goalies they’ll face as the series shifts to Nashville?

Whether it’s Rinne or Saros, you can see Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. Click here for the livestream link.

P.K. Messier? Subban doubles down on Game 3 guarantee


Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you’ll say something you’d later regret. It happens in sports, relationships and … just about every facet of life.

So, there was a chance that P.K. Subban would walk back boldly stating that the Nashville Predators would win Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final shortly after their painful 4-1 loss (see above) to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2.

Nope, that didn’t happen.

Instead, Subban doubled down on his guarantee that the Predators would win Game 3 on Saturday.

Nice. The real question is: should we call him P.K. Messier or P.K. Namath?

Either way, many of us believed that Subban would be a delight to watch both on and off the ice during a Stanley Cup Final, and he hasn’t disappointed. His skirmish with Evgeni Malkin was almost as entertaining as his explanation for why the hug-fight happened:

Meanwhile, his fantastic play sometimes slips under the radar a touch.

As great as his subtler stats may be, he’s dropping the gauntlet now. Anything short of a win will be a letdown (and an opportunity for his strangely vocal critics to pounce).

Don’t expect Subban to shrink from the spotlight.

You can see Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. Click here for the livestream link.