James O'Brien

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

Winners and losers of 2017 NHL trade deadline


Ah, the trade deadline. A day where people make jokes about the lack of things happening while pundits get caught on camera with food on their faces. It is a glorious time of year for message boards but not so much for anyone taking the day off for the (in)action.

It should go without saying, but assessing the trade deadline so soon after it expires is about as calming as defusing a bomb.

Let’s get rolling with subjective opinions that will inevitably make people angry …

(For the full list of trades, click here.)



The team on top of the NHL’s standings nabbed the top target of the trade deadline in Kevin Shattenkirk. Oh yeah, they did so without giving up an arm and a leg. You won’t find a richer example of the rich getting richer during this deadline.



*takes a breath, rubs eyes in bewilderment*

Prolific punching bag Jim Benning flips the script by getting great returns for Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows. It would have been even better if he did more, but moving Ryan Miller and similar dented cans is easier said than done.


The Ben Bishop return was … not good. The wizard known as GM Steve Yzerman worked some magic overall, however, flipping Mark Streit to get rid of the last year of Valtteri Filppula‘s contract while amassing a war chest of mid-round draft picks.


Look, the Capitals were bigger winners. People may only remember that considering Pittsburgh’s smaller victories, but the Penguins added potentially crucial defensive depth in Mark Streit, Ron Hainsey and Frank Carrado.

Also … your mileage may vary on this, but keeping Marc-Andre Fleury might be for the best. After all, what if Matt Murray gets hurt?

Struggling prospects like Frank Corrado and Curtis Lazar (and their former teams)

Uncomfortable situations turn into refreshing changes of venue. Meanwhile, the Leafs and Senators get some decent assets to part ways with struggling prospects. Everyone wins?


It’s a letdown not to move Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan, but goodness, that Martin Hanzal trade was deft. After surveying the assets moving during the deadline, the Michael Stone swap looks pretty nice, too.

Red Wings

Benning and Ken Holland are finally seeing the light about rebuilding. Detroit still has a ton of work to do, but this is a promising start.


They got something for Jarome Iginla and didn’t panic-move Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog. Sometimes the best move is standing pat.


A lot of these winners are sort of like a struggling math student getting a sympathy pass from a teacher to graduate from high school. Chicago is a good example … they did OK, but Johnny Oduya‘s banged up and past his prime, so they didn’t exactly set the world on fire.


Deadline day

In other words, another year where you made a mistake if you took the day off just for the deadline. Honestly, at this point you don’t deserve much sympathy.


Buffalo has been killing it at selling, but this year they couldn’t get anything for Dmitri Kulikov or Cody Franson. Before you post an angry comment, note that even Tim Murray seemed disappointed.


The good news is that Ben Bishop came cheaply. Still, Jarome Iginla has lost about a thousand steps (as painful as that is to admit), to the point where you wonder if he’s even an upgrade over Dwight King. Missing the playoffs would really hurt a team with an aging core … did they really improve their odds?


Then again, the team they’re chasing is in a dour state of mind. That Shattenkirk trade flat-out stings, and they did very little other than re-signing Patrik Berglund, so fans don’t even enjoy valuable distractions.


Anaheim didn’t clear up its questions on defense and overpaid for Patrick Eaves. In an unusually wide-open West, the Ducks barely even waddled forward.


Consider them “winners” if you’re sold on Brendan Smith. Otherwise, they lag behind other contenders.


Time will tell about Lazar, but the Burrows trade and immediate extension is a real head-scratcher.


Holy smokes, the conditional picks and salary retention details made certain trades tough to follow.

Some highlights:

(click the above tweet for deep confusion.)

/brain explodes

Teams dealing with the Canadiens

Montreal might not be clearly improved after the deadline, but few teams are going to be as annoying as this group. Steve Ott and Dwight Kings make an already cantankerous group borderline nuclear.

This post, in June

Looking back over the years, deadline day analysis almost always looks dumb in retrospect. Maybe this will reverse-jinx it?

(Oh no, this post was just reverse-reverse-jinxed, wasn’t it?)

Blues need to put crisis of confidence behind them

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OK, the honeymoon is over for Mike Yeo and the St. Louis Blues.

Confidence seemed low and frustrations appeared high after the Blues lost a season-high fourth game in a row, falling 2-1 to the Edmonton Oilers in regulation.

With the Nashville Predators starting to pull away thanks to a four-game winning streak, the Blues face the increasing possibility of having to hold off the wild card crowd or miss the playoffs entirely. The tension seems to be building.

Paul Stastny brought the most vitriol in his post-game comments, but virtually every reaction had some element of dejection, frustration, anger or confusion.

You can check out full comments from multiple Blues below.

The Blues need to shake off this stretch, as March will begin in an unfriendly way. They begin a three-game road trip on Friday and play eight of their next 10 games on the road.

That’s the kind of stretch that could break a fragile team, so we’ll see if Yeo can right the ship.

Canadiens corner market on pests by trading for Steve Ott


The Montreal Canadiens figure to be a hassle to deal with in the 2017 playoffs, and not just because it can often be so hard to score on Carey Price.

GM Marc Bergevin has assembled quite the fleet of talented forwards in Montreal, but he’s also added a lot of guys who can get under opponents’ skin. That trend continued on Tuesday, as he acquired veteran pain-in-the-blank Steve Ott from the Detroit Red Wings for a sixth-round pick in 2018.

At 34, most (if not all) of Ott’s scoring touch is gone, yet he can yap with the best of them. And the best of them includes many Montreal Canadiens; Ott joins Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw as world-class pests.

(Guys like Tomas Plekanec can needle opponents, too, but those three are especially agitating.)

Ott also gives the Canadiens an additional veteran forward after they traded away David Desharnais. There’s still a glut of defensemen in Montreal, so we’ll see if there is more to come from Bergevin.

The Red Wings get a depth pick in what might be a superior draft to 2018 as they gradually sell off some parts. It’s possible that they might have more up their sleeves, although many noticed that potential trade target Thomas Vanek suited up against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

Fight videos: Couturier vs. Landeskog; Lucic against Bortuzzo


With 12 games on the docket, playoff positioning on the line and the trade deadline messing with emotions, it’s not surprising that we got a few fights on Tuesday.

It’s a little surprising to see Sean Couturier battle Gabriel Landeskog, though the two forwards certainly have some “sandpaper” to their games. Hockey Fights pegs this as Couturier’s fifth NHL bout while this Landeskog’s third of 2016-17 and ninth in the NHL.

(You think Landeskog got mad about a possible trade joke?)

The Flyers ended up easily beating the Avalanche 4-0.

The other noteworthy fight of the night involved Milan Lucic dropping the gloves with Robert Bortuzzo. Seeing Lucic drop the gloves is worthwhile even in a more mundane bout, while Bortuzzo tries to find himself a more consistent spot in the Blues’ lineup now that Kevin Shattenkirk leaves an empty spot:

Edmonton ended up edging St. Louis 2-1 in regulation.

Galchenyuk helps Price edge Bob in goalie duel; Torts gets angry again


Columbus Blue Jackets – Montreal Canadiens games are starting to feel like events.

While the 10-0 shellacking Montreal suffered felt like a blockbuster disaster movie (think “San Andreas”), Tuesday’s matchup was a little more nuanced. Granted, that’s not to say that the Canadiens’ 1-0 overtime win was always a high-brow affair.

Take, for instance, the latest round of John Tortorella rage. In this instance, he wasn’t happy about a penalty that opened the door for Alex Galchenyuk to score overtime goals in back-to-back nights.

On the other hand, Scott Hartnell got away with some tomfoolery early in the game. (If we have #HartnellDown, was this a #PriceCheck?)

Even with those salt-of-the-earth hockey moments, there was plenty for a connoisseur to sink one’s teeth into. Carey Price got his revenge on Hartnell & Co., winning a goalie duel with Sergei Bobrovsky despite this dazzling stop:

The Ottawa Senators are stumbling a bit, but with their games in hand, Montreal had motivation to start putting together wins. The Habs are doing just that, having won three straight games in overtime to give them 78 standings points.

Columbus gets a standings point for its troubles, at least getting some breathing room in front of the New York Rangers for third in the Metro.

Torts probably doesn’t really care about that right now, and some can’t blame him.

Tortorella might do a thing or two other than laughing.