James O'Brien

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

Jared Cowen among players released from tryouts today


So, is Jared Cowen going to torch the Colorado Avalanche this time around?

During his PTO with the Avs, Cowen criticized the “joke” of a buyout experience he had with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now that’s over, as Cowen headlined Wednesday’s list of players released from their tryouts.

The Avalanche made the news official this evening:

Cowen isn’t the only one looking for another shot. R.J. Umberger was released from his tryout from the Dallas Stars as well, although Ken Hitchcock still believes the veteran winger might have some gas left in the tank.

The Los Angeles Kings released Andrei Loktionov from his PTO as well.

Finally, the Calgary Flames released Joseph Cramarossa from his PTO, too.

When combined with all of the fairly notable players who were placed on waivers, teams have plenty of options if they want to add some depth.

(Now, are they good options? That likely comes down to which GMs you ask.)

Blues rule out Robby Fabbri for entire 2017-18 season


This has already been a rough summer/preseason for the St. Louis Blues, but Wednesday presented the worst news so far.

The Blues announced brutal news: the promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the entire 2017-18 season after re-injuring his surgically repaired left knee.

With this coming season already off the table, the bigger questions revolve around Fabbri’s long-term future.

Is this the sort of issue he’ll just need some time to bounce back from? Will he ever be the same if he does return? As a smaller scorer, a loss of speed and agility could be a huge problem.

Hopefully these broader concerns are overly pessimistic. Either way, this is lousy news for the Blues, and really for fans of exciting offense in general.

Promising signs early on

The 21-year-old seemed like a potential steal for the Blues as the 21st pick of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Fabbri showed some significant flashes of brilliance even as a rookie in 2015-16. He almost scored 20 goals (18 goals, 37 points in 72 regular-season games) despite modest ice time with an average of 13:19 per night. The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs were an even better showcase for Fabbri, who managed 15 points in 20 games despite still receiving only modest ice time.

Unfortunately, his sophomore season was derailed by these issues, as Fabbri last suited up for St. Louis in early February. To call this another setback is an understatement.

Bruised Blues

Fabbri isn’t the only key Blues player dealing with a substantial issue.

Bad news could conceivably come when St. Louis takes another look at Jay Bouwmeester‘s fractured ankle. Patrik Berglund is expected to miss months while Alex Steen might begin 2017-18 on IR. Zach Sanford‘s season was essentially derailed thanks to a shoulder injury, too.

The Blues were coming into this campaign with a chance to sneak up on some people, especially with Mike Yeo getting a chance to truly put his stamp on the team. That can still happen, but these injury issues likely take the wind out of some of their buzz as a dark horse team in the West.

NHL teams will receive penalties for failed offside challenges


NHL coaches will face a different risk-reward scenario when they consider challenging whether that a goal was offside in 2017-18.

The old standard (in place since 2015) required a coach to have a timeout to make such a challenge. If a challenge was unsuccessful, that same coach lost that timeout, the only they’d get during a game. This process caused great controversy, in part because many felt that the process slowed things down and violated the spirit of the review process.

Well, as has been speculated upon for quite some time, the league is now changing the math. Instead of wondering if a coach should risk that timeout, now an unsuccessful offside review will result in a minor penalty.

Here’s how the league worded the tweak via a press release:

Rule 78.7(b) now will read:
b) If the result of the challenge is that the play was on-side, the goal shall count and the team that issues the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

Now, this might not necessarily solve all problems when it comes to such reviews. At the same time, the risk in taking a penalty might inspire a coach not to challenge a marginal call.

Of course, there are probably situations where a coach will view it as worth the risk. If there’s a last-minute goal, taking a minor penalty to protect a one-goal lead or maintain a tie could be seen as easily worth it. And so on.

Uh oh. Speaking of that math:

So, here’s a hot take: even if this reduces some griping, there will still be plenty of whining.

It probably stands as an improvement (incremental or not) though, right?

Several first-rounders such as Etem, Bennett go on waivers


Tuesday’s waiver list was an eyebrow-raiser because Jordan Nolan was on it. The elevation of such eyebrows seemed justified once the Buffalo Sabres snatched him up today.

If Wednesday’s waivers share a theme, it might be failed (or at least struggling) first-round picks.

Emerson Etem, Beau Bennett and Stefan Matteau were all first-rounders. Bennett (20th overall) and Etem (29th) were both selected in 2010, while Matteau was the 29th choice in 2012.

Ty Rattie just barely misses that theme; he was a second-rounder in 2011, yet was very close to going in the first as the Blues made him the 32nd pick. Landon Ferraro falls into a similar spot: 32nd overall, only in 2009.

Here’s the full list, via TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

It will be interesting to see if teams decide that some of these guys are worth a very minor gamble.

Bennett, 25, ranks among those getting some hype:

His development was stunted by injuries, particularly during his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so perhaps Bennett is one of those guys who can turn things around.

For some, it sure seems like their NHL careers might not really pan out.

Penguins and politics: Criticism for Crosby, Reaves wouldn’t visit White House


OK, let’s cover a variety of topics surrounding the political fallout of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ White House visit in one post.

For those interested, you can find a lot of these topics in one spot.

If not, this is consolidated in a single post, so you can just move on to other posts with less work. (It looks like there will be a significant volume of hockey-only news today. Did you hear that the Buffalo Sabres claimed Jordan Nolan?)

Criticism for Crosby, specifically

Georges Laraque was disappointed with the Penguins, as a team, for accepting Donald Trump’s invitation to the White House.

Halfiax professor El Jones singled out Sidney Crosby, specifically, in a column for VICE:

Racism is a problem in the NHL. Sidney Crosby, the sport’s biggest name, had a chance to speak, not only in support of his colleagues in football and basketball, but for players like Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien was the only black player on the USA roster at the World Cup of Hockey, where coach John Tortorella threatened to bench any player who protested during the anthem.

As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski reacted to that criticism while discussing P.K. Subban‘s decision to stand during the national anthem, it’s not too surprising that Crosby took this path as a “company man.”

Considering how annoyed Crosby seemed about Subban and Listerine, Wyshynski is accurate in describing number 87 as someone “who treats controversy like it’s radioactive.” Even so, as the captain of the Penguins and the face of the NHL, it’s also not surprising that Crosby is getting singled out, especially close to his hometown.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan expanded upon the issue with these comments.

Ryan Reaves would pass

Since Ryan Reaves was an enforcer for the St. Louis Blues in 2016-17, he’s not eligible to take that polarizing trip to the White House.

What if the Pittsburgh Penguins manage a three-peat, though? Reaves responded with “probably not, no” when asked if he would go to the White House in that scenario, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Josh Mackey reports.

“I don’t know,” Reaves said when asked why not. “I just wouldn’t. I don’t agree with things. I don’t agree with certain things that [President Donald Trump] stands for or he says.”

Pittsburgh Mayor isn’t attending White House visit

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Bob Bauder reports that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto won’t join the Penguins in their visit to the White House.

“Let’s just say if all of the attention was not focused on sports in the way that it has over the past week with the tweets that have been going out from the White House, I would have thought about it,” Peduto said. “It would just bring attention to the city in a way that could be negative. I’ll take a knee on this one and stay home.”


OK, those are three of the biggest stories that have surfaced regarding the Penguins’ situation lately.

To brush up on the rest, check below.

More on this issue

Penguins make controversial decision to accept White House invitation.

Donald Trump tweets about their visit.

Auston Matthews and others on the subject.

Ho-Sang, Okposo also weigh in.