James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Damage control or lost in translation? Klefbom clarifies Hall critique

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Situations like these are becoming familiar to the point of resembling tropes.

First, a player says something brash, usually to a foreign outlet.

Next, people pick up on it and the drama boils to a froth.

Finally, said player either backtracks or clears the air, depending upon whom or what you believe.

It’s happening again in the case of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom critiquing Taylor Hall‘s big-game credentials … or not.

To catch you up to speed, people believed that Klefbom claimed that Hall didn’t play his best hockey against tougher teams, at least according to an interview per hockeysverige.se.

That same outlet gave Klefbom an opportunity to clarify/backpedal – again, it’s down to who you believe – and the Edmonton Journal passed along his updated feelings with help from this imperfect translation:

Klefbom’s statement that Taylor Hall is not performed equally well against the best teams in the league, he meant was more of the team’s players.

– “It’s not that it was only Taylor, but everyone, including myself. The reason we have not taken us to the playoffs is that there are too many players who have underperformed when it is really needed.”

As the Edmonton Journal notes, it’s still probably fair to say that Klefbom believes the trade is a win … especially for him, as Adam Larsson is a fellow Swede who can bolster the blueline (maybe even pairing with Klefbom).

It’s ultimately one of those “He said I said but I didn’t say it”-type scenarios, and it only matters so much.

But, sure, it adds an extra pinch of spice to the Oilers’ visit to New Jersey on Jan. 7 and Hall’s first game as an away player in Edmonton on Jan. 12.

For a little more, check out the Edmonton Journal’s take.

More fun with damage control

Andrei Kostitsyn’s lockout comments

Teemu Selanne wishes he didn’t bash Bruce Boudreau

Michal Neuvirth, Roman Hamrlik, awkward times

Etem, Canucks clearly had a blast at Vancouver Pride parade

via Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks, and especially Emerson Etem, really embraced Sunday’s Vancouver Pride parade.

As in, they didn’t just hand off a tweet or two. Etem, Canucks mascot Finn and others were on hand and … they seemed like they had a blast.

(It’s the sort of thing that might even get an out-of-touch blogging fellow to sign up for that newfangled Snapchat contraption. There was some great stuff on the team’s “vancanucks” account.)

It’s tough to top Etem’s participation:

thank you to everyone showing support! getting super rowdy at the Vancouver #prideparade #selfiesunday

A post shared by Emerson Etem (@etemerson) on

… Not to say that Finn wasn’t out in full, furry force:

OK, OK. So maybe Canada’s Prime Minister stole the show a little:

Again, much of the team was involved with or embraced the event:

Well done, Canucks.

Coyotes went the extra mile to woo free agents

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The first impression you get from the Arizona Coyotes promoting 26-year-old John Chayka to GM is that of a move toward analytics. That’s not unreasonable, either, considering his role in creating “Stathletes.”

Still, one might be shortchanging the alteration going on in Arizona if they merely picture dry spreadsheets, endless video sessions and Jonah Hill’s character in “Moneyball.”

The Coyotes seem keen on changing the perception that they’re an unstable franchise, and it sounds like they’ve started that process in how they convinced Alex Goligoski and Jamie McGinn to join the fold.

The Arizona Republic published a fantastic, in-depth story describing that process, which included gift baskets, personalized jerseys and the Paw Patrol.*

In the locker room, Coyotes jerseys with the players’ names and numbers were hanging at stalls.

“It was my wife’s first professional jersey,” Goligoski said. “She’s pretty excited about that.”

Gift baskets were also waiting for them that included local beers, salsa and jams, a couple Apple Watches and a Coyotes dog leash; Goligoski has an English bulldog named Sully and McGinn a cockapoo called Lola.

You might say “The right contract is really what drew them there,” and that’s probably quite accurate. Still, it’s easy to imagine Goligoski drawing a ton of attention in the free agent market during a time when defensemen were raking it in, so credit the Coyotes for going all-out in getting their guy.

“I wouldn’t have been as inclined (to sign) had I not gone there,” Goligoski said of the Coyotes’ tour.

That’s good stuff, and you have to wonder: shouldn’t all 30 NHL teams try similar pitches?

Much like going deep on analytics, it seems like a no-brainer, so the Coyotes should leverage such advantages while they exist.

Again, the full story is well worth your time.

* – Probably not the kids’ show.

That’s settled: Avalanche sign Barrie to four-year, $22M deal

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They didn’t travel the smoothest road, but the Colorado Avalanche found the light at the end of the tunnel with Tyson Barrie.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Avs signed Tyson Barrie to a four-year, $22 million contract, which works out to a cap hit of $5.5 million per season.

The Avalanche confirmed that it’s a four-year contract, although they didn’t share the financial terms.

The Denver Post’s Terry Frei breaks down how Barrie’s salary will work out each year:

This comes after Barrie became the first player to reach salary arbitration during this off-season.

Whether that process was nasty or not – feelings sometimes get hurt during the rare instances when hearings actually take place – it’s clear that they were able to work something out.

This seems like a good deal for Barrie if you factor in how close the total came to what he was asking for in arbitration:

Of course, with Barrie being 25, the Avalanche get to eat up some UFA time for Barrie, a valuable commodity as a high-scoring defenseman.

This just about takes care of Colorado’s cap space:

For some time, there was a fear that the Avs were going down the same road with Barrie that they traveled with Ryan O'Reilly. Instead, this result is a breath of fresh air.

Granted, don’t ever dismiss the possibility of people drumming up trade rumors the moment things seem a little sour …

Gabriel Landeskog hopes his concussion story helps others

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When you’re an impossibly young captain of the Colorado Avalanche, it’s probably tough to choose your own health over the best interests of your team.

That scenario presented itself to Gabriel Landeskog, and he decided to fight through the pain. As you can see in the video above, he regrets the decision.

Landeskog shared his story, stemming from an injury in 2013, with “EMPWR,” a charitable foundation focused on concussion awareness. You can watch him discuss that tough period in his life in the video above.

It appears that Landeskog was discussing this hard hit by then-San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart:

NHL.com’s game report notes that Landeskog delivered multiple hits on Stuart after that. While he was giving rather than receiving those checks, those moments still likely left the Avalanche captain vulnerable to further injury.

It’s easy to say “Don’t go back in the game” when you’re not in the situation, but hopefully more players will protect themselves in the future.

Landeskog isn’t the only NHL player to share his experiences, and some weren’t as “lucky” as he was. Take Joey Hishon, whose career unraveled thanks in part to concussion issues:

(H/T to CSNNE.com.)