Author: James O'Brien


PHT Morning Skate: Big Fish Bjugstad


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Should we call him “Big Fish” Nick Bjugstad? (Willie Mitchell’s Instagram)


Steve Dangle has an interesting take on the Maple Leafs firing Randy Carlyle, including a great dirty pants and shirt analogy (it will make sense when you see the video):

(via Sportsnet)

Numbers behind that failed situation. (QMI)

Russian defenseman Ziat Paigin threw his stick into the stands following his team’s loss to Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2015 WJC, but the good news is that it sounds like no one was hurt. (The Hockey News)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Kevin Connuaton had an amusing request from his former team, the Dallas Stars.

A review of the fourth episode of Epix’s Road to the Winter Classic. (Puck Daddy)

NHL on NBCSN: Wild hope to rise from ‘rock bottom’ against Sharks

Minnesota Wild v San Jose Sharks

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Minnesota Wild host the San Jose Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Minnesota Wild hope to climb up from “rock bottom” as they host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

That 7-1 loss to the Dallas Stars was devastating, but in some ways, they’re set up nicely to bounce back. As tough an out as the Sharks are, they’re playing without former captain Joe Thornton and may be a little fatigued coming off of last night’s buzzer-beating win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Really, the tension could really rise if Minnestoa doesn’t begin to figure things out.

This begins a three-game homestand for the Wild with playoff-caliber opponents on the docket in San Jose today, Chicago on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday.

That’s a tough slate, yet such games (and matches against opponents closing off back-to-back sets, in general) are challenges that legitimate playoff teams must meet. As of this writing, the Wild are slipping out of playoff contention with an 18-15-4 record (40 standings points, seven behind final wild card holder Winnipeg, as well as San Jose). These are the kind of games that may help trigger a turnaround or accelerate a downfall.

On the bright side for the Wild, they’ve dominated the Sharks at home lately, winning the last seven games between the two teams in Minnesota.

One would think that Alex Stalock will play for San Jose after Antti Niemi started last night, but we’ll see. The Wild’s goaltending situation has been worrisome whether it’s been Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom in net.

The Sharks have the makings for a tough test for the Wild, but then again, isn’t that usually the case in the rugged West?

Maple Leafs fire Randy Carlyle

Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs

The Randy Carlyle era is suddenly – some might argue, mercifully – over in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs announced his firing on Tuesday morning.

The team’s exact phrase is “head coach Randy Carlyle has been relieved of his duties.” While that’s soaking with corporate speak, it almost feels right in this case, as coaching in the pressure cooker that is Toronto must generate a massive helping of stress.

The Leafs noted that assistant coaches Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will guide the ship for Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals, but didn’t announce plans beyond that contest.

“I want to thank Randy for all of his hard work and dedication,” GM Dave Nonis said. “It’s never an easy decision to make when changing your leadership but our team was not trending in the right direction and we felt an immediate change was necessary.”

The Maple Leafs generated a 91-78-19 record during parts of four seasons with Carlyle at the helm. He helped Toronto break a six-season playoff drought, although the 2013 postseason run memorably ended in a disastrous fashion against the Boston Bruins.

Toronto is currently on a two-game losing streak and has dropped seven of nine games. Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets seemed like a microcosm of critics’ biggest beefs with Carlyle: the Jets generated a 40-21 shot edge and prompted a fan to chuck a Leafs jersey on the ice (in Winnipeg).

This stretch seemed like the last straw, although one cannot help but wonder if the writing was on the wall once exec Brendan Shanahan began transitioning the franchise toward a more stats-leaning path. Even a contract extension did little to stop calls for Carlyle’s head, and as we’ve now found out, such speculation was justified.

One interesting thought on the timing of this firing:

Naturally, the replacement rumors will only rev up now that the inevitable happened …

An abbreviated look at the unraveling of the Carlyle era

Nonis puts onus on players back in November

Why he was failing at his job

Cody Franson said players weren’t trying to get him fired

Leafs hand Carlyle a contract extension

A lot of jerseys were lost in the making of this firing

Rangers approach ‘hardest road trip of the season’

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

As fantastic as things have been for the New York Rangers lately, there’s an imbalance that stands out: they’ve played six more games at home than on the road. By the time they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 18 (on NBC), things will be closer to even … but we’ll see what kind of shape the Rangers are in by then.

Simply put, the next seven games serve as a serious test for a Rangers squad that’s won 10 of its last 11 games.

Wednesday: at Anaheim
Thursday: at Los Angeles
Saturday: at San Jose
Jan. 13: vs. the Islanders
Jan. 15: at Boston
Jan. 16: at Columbus
Jan. 18: at Pittsburgh

Considering how much tougher the Columbus Blue Jackets have been lately – not to mention all the former Rangers who probably mark these games on their calendar – there’s really not a “gimme” in that bunch.

Derick Brassard admitted that this a challenging stretch to the Bergen Record.

“I think it’s the hardest road trip in the season,” Brassard said.

“It doesn’t matter who we are playing, we play hard. It’s going to be a big test for our team.”

So far, the Rangers are 8-6-1 on the road and were especially hearty away from home in 2013-14, going 25-14-2 away from Madison Square Garden. This has been a tremendous month of work for New York, but it looks like will learn a lot about this team in the next two weeks.

PHT Morning Skate: Putin vs. Poutine

Vladimir Putin

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Fans made the Vladimir Putin – poutine connection on at least two occasions during the 2015 World Junior Championship gold-medal game between Canada and Russia (which Canada won).

As usual, the Internet got weird about it.

*shudders* Moving on …

Connor McDavid had high praise for Sam Reinhart –

Brent Burns’ love of locker room pizza continues

The Vancouver Canucks had a prank for Eddie Lack on his birthday: