James O'Brien

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

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.

Report: Panthers may add Chris Pronger to front office


With that zany contract finally expiring, Chris Pronger could be a hot prospect for NHL front offices. Then again, he might not be on that “free agent market” for very long.

The Florida Panthers are in discussions to hire Pronger and have him work with GM Dale Tallon, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports.

As Dreger notes, Pronger has been working with the Department of Player Safety, which was a gig that helped fellow former star Brendan Shanahan develop as an executive. Working with Tallon could be quite the boon for Pronger.

The Panthers already announced that Shawn Thornton was moved to a business-related gig, so the Cats would boast arguably the most menacing group of suits if Pronger indeed joins the fold.

(Keep your head on a swivel at the water cooler, non-former-NHL players in the Panthers front office.)

Related: Could Larry Robinson be joining the Florida Panthers?

Devils GM: Ilya Kovalchuk ‘drives the bus’ regarding NHL future


In an ideal scenario, the New Jersey Devils would be able to play the field and get the best deal possible for Ilya Kovalchuk’s rights.

In reality, GM Ray Shero & Co. are vulnerable to the 34-year-old UFA forward’s whims, including whether he truly wants to return to the NHL at all. Shero told NHL.com that Jay Grossman (Kovalchuk’s agent) indicated that the sniper’s preference was North America over the KHL.

“If tomorrow he decides to stay in Russia, OK, but who knows?” Shero said, according to NHL.com. “That’s his call in the end. Right now nothing, according to [Grossman], has changed and he would like to pursue [NHL] opportunities.”

Shero notes that “Kovalchuk kind of drives the bus on this in terms of talking to teams or where he could want to play.”

MORE: Five potential landing spots for Kovalchuk.

As this post notes, the situation is a little complex, as the Devils would need to sign-and-trade Kovalchuk.

On the bright side, Kovalchuk’s services seem like they’ll be worth all the headaches. He generated 78 points in the KHL in 2016-17, and even at 34 would probably rank as one of the deadliest shooters in the NHL.

Even if the Devils don’t quite get full value in moving him to … wherever?

Let’s look at Jake Guentzel’s playoff records (and records he’s eyeing)


Jake Guentzel‘s red-hot rookie playoff play certainly made headlines after Game 2 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but Pekka Rinne‘s meltdown still diverted some of the attention.

A day later, we get a little time to digest just how well he’s playing (with and without Sidney Crosby); we also get a chance to ponder some of the history he’s made and some of the records he can still match or break.

New marks

Guentzel, 22, set a new rookie postseason record with his fifth postseason game-winner.

He also scored the GWG in two consecutive Stanley Cup Final contests for the Penguins, becoming only the second rookie to do so (at least in the era of the NHL owning the trophy). He’s also the second rookie to generate three multi-goal games.

The Nebraska native is already putting up some of the best numbers of any U.S.-born rookie. His 19 points sets a new mark for American rookies and his 12 goals do the same.

More to come?

Guentzel is chasing Dino Ciccarelli for some NHL-wide rookie records from any country. Guentzel’s 12 goals aren’t far behind Ciccarelli’s rookie record for tallies (14) and he’s close to matching his points (19 vs. 21).


As a reminder, the Penguins have Guentzel locked up to his ridiculously cheap entry-level contract through 2018-19, so he could continue to make a difference for Pittsburgh even once he’s no longer chasing rookie records.

Shawn Thornton shifts from Panthers player to Panthers executive


Back in April, it became clear that tough guy Shawn Thornton realized his playing days were over with the Florida Panthers. That doesn’t mean he’s finished trying to help them succeed.

The Panthers announced that Thornton will transition from enforcer to “vice president of business operations.”

“Shawn’s work ethic, enthusiasm and passion for the Panthers organization is second to none,” Panthers president Matthew Caldwell said. “We are thrilled to welcome him to our executive team and know that he will bring the same level of professionalism, experience and leadership to the business side of our organization as he did in the locker room.”

From an entertainment perspective, the best thing to come from all of this was probably this prank, a reminder that rookie ribbing isn’t exclusive to players alone.

Nicely done.