James O'Brien

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

2016 Vezina finalists: Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick


The NHL announced the three finalists for the 2016 Vezina Trophy on Wednesday, answering the question of “which two goalies will lose to Braden Holtby?”

All kidding(?) aside, the final trio is Holtby, Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick.

Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record at 48 and helped the Washington Capitals run away with the Presidents’ Trophy. His save percentage was nice at .922.

Bishop was part of a massive tie for fourth place in wins at 35, but his save percentage was a sparkling .926. This season really cemented his spot as a legitimate go-to guy in net.

Quick has been a polarizing goalie for some time, pleasing “mainstream” pundits with his Stanley Cup rings and doing so again with his 40 wins, second only to Holtby. His .918 save percentage might be the sticking point; that mark ties him for 23rd in the NHL among netminders who’ve played at least 20 games.

There are plenty of goalies who enjoyed strong seasons, fueling what’s sure to be a very rational, well-mannered debate … about who should have lost most prominently to Braden Holtby.

Do note that NHL general managers are responsible for the voting.

WATCH LIVE: New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 1


Here’s something you don’t see every day/year/decade: a Game 1 on the same night as a Game 7.

Well, unless you’re cheating and counting the NBA’s postseason and the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. You cheaters.

Anyway, both contests are on NBCSN, beginning with the start of the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning’s intriguing series.

There isn’t a ton of history between these teams, yet even with the Bolts’ injuries, there’s still plenty of talent on each side. You can stream the fun via the link below:


Coyotes release statement after Glendale gets AEG to run Gila River Arena


You know it’s spring/summer when there are multiple stories about the Arizona Coyotes’ arena headaches.

Last week, PHT noted that Phoenix’s mayor hopes that the Coyotes will share a new building downtown with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Another wrinkle surfaced on Tuesday, as it appears that the City of Glendale took arena management control of Gila River Arena from the Coyotes and gave it to AEG, a company that runs facilities including the Los Angeles Kings’ Staples Center.

(The Phoenix Business Journal breaks down the deeper details.)

The Coyotes released the following statement regarding this development:

“AEG is a company we know well and are in fact partners in the National Hockey League. We look forward to working with them, and will now await official notice from the City of their plans to transfer management of the arena. At that point, we will begin the 90 days (or less) transfer process. The Coyotes are committed to playing the 2016-17 NHL regular season at Gila River Arena and remain focused on securing a long term arena solution in the Valley that is based upon a true partnership.”

Nowhere in any statement did someone say “Closure will come soon” and, really, who would expect a conclusion after this saga has already persisted for our natural lives all these years?

Not a huge mistake: Will Arnett will host 2016 NHL Awards


Great actor and noted Toronto Maple Leafs fan Will Arnett was announced as the host for the 2016 NHL Awards, which takes place on June 22.

You hopefully know Arnett from his magical role as Gob Bluth in “Arrested Development.” Hopefully he brings that oddball energy (and maybe “The Final Countdown”) to the awards and avoid the sulking demeanor from “Flaked.”

“I’m excited to host the 2016 NHL Awards because we all know in 2017 I’ll be too busy celebrating the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup.” Arnett said, via the league release.

Again, Arnett’s a funny guy.

Now watch some of his greatest hits because there isn’t any playoff hockey on tonight (NSFW warning: some bad words).

Blackhawks – Blues Game 7 set a ratings record or two


Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues capped off a splendid series with thrilling hockey, and it showed in the ratings.

Here are some key facts and figures via this NBC Sports Group release:

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 26, 2016 – Monday night’s Game 7 presentation of the Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues on NBCSN averaged 1.353 million viewers to rank as the most-watched first-round game in the network’s history, as the Blues defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 to win the series and eliminate the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The game peaked at 2.0 million viewers in the final full quarter hour (11-11:15 p.m. ET). Digitally, the game finished with 11.6 million minutes streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra to rank fourth all-time among NHL games.

Locally, CSN Chicago’s presentation of Hawks-Blues Game 7 delivered a 19.1 HH rating in Chicago to rank as the most-watched telecast ever in the history of the network, dating back to 2004. Last night’s rating shattered CSN Chicago’s previous all-time high of a 13.7 HH rating for a Bulls-Pacers first-round NBA Playoff telecast (April 21, 2011).

In addition, NBC’s presentation of Game 6 of the Blackhawks-Blues series on Saturday night (8-11 p.m. ET) averaged 2.822 million viewers to rank as NBC’s most-watched first-round game in four years (BOS-WSH, 4/22/12; 3.519 million), and the fourth-best on record.

Through 13 days, the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on cable have averaged 500,000 viewers (38 games), up 5% vs. 2015 through the same period (474,000). Digitally, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have produced 753,000 uniques and 126.4 million minutes across all Live Extra platforms, increases of 33% and 99%, respectively, vs. 2015 (566k uniques; 63k minutes).

That’s impressive all around. It’s also justifiable considering how great that series was.

Click here for the full release.