James O'Brien

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

‘Stop the violence’ – Hockey world reacts to Dallas shootings


P.K. Subban and members of the Dallas Stars stood among those who shared heartfelt messages after the shootings that killed five police officers in Dallas on Thursday.

(NBC News DFW has more on the frightening situation.)

Many tweeted messages like #DallasStrong while Subban’s statement ranks among the moist poignant: “stop the violence.”

The Stars released the following statement about the matter:

Individual members of the Stars also shared their condolences.

Former players shared their sentiments as well, including longtime face of the franchise Mike Modano.

Jason Demers shared this thought following the scary moments in his former hockey city.

This is just a sample of the outpouring of support from those who play and follow the sport following a tragedy that hits close to home.

P.K. Subban and Predators: A match made in fun


Despite his remarkable charitable work and gregarious personality, the Montreal Canadiens decided that P.K. Subban wasn’t the right fit for their locker room.

However you feel about it – big win for the Habs, worst trade in team history or somewhere in between – the bottom line is that Subban is now a member of the Nashville Predators.

From every indication, it sounds like the two will go together like peanut butter and jelly or Subban and Jagr wigs.

The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan believes that Subban isn’t just a great fit from an on-ice standpoint, bumping an already-strong Predators defense to another level.

His attitude should blend in well, too.

“The way that I look at it is the guy, from what I’ve seen and playing against him and hearing things and seeing things throughout his time in the NHL, he’s all about fun,” Ryan Johansen told the Tennessean. “He cares about everybody. … To me, he’s enjoying every moment of it. Like all of us, he’s living his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. And he’s having a blast. He’s not going to let people judge him for who he is. He’s just going to be himself.”

People are already daydreaming about Subban resurrecting the triple-low five with Pekka Rinne.

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the combination.

While some wonder if Subban rubs people the wrong way, others even wonder if it’s a bad move for P.K.

Hey, maybe both Subban and his new team will prove doubters wrong.

Will Eric Staal be another big-name bust for the Wild?


Sometimes the Minnesota Wild feel like they’re controlled by a video game or fantasy hockey player.

Time after time, they seem to sign or trade for one of the biggest names available.

Unfortunately, you can’t just put reality’s difficulty setting on easy, and those impulsive moves frequently end up being flops for the Wild.

(Just look at Jason Pominville‘s bumpy start to 2015-16 and Thomas Vanek getting bought out as two easy examples, while the Minneapolis Star-Tribune goes through the laundry list of letdowns.)

In signing Eric Staal, the Wild once again opted for one of the biggest resumes available, and they hope he approaches the heights of his past.

Granted, even Wild GM Chuck Fletcher knows there are limits to such expectations, as he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“Let’s be honest, when you’re 32 years old you’re not the same player as when you’re 25, 26,” Fletcher said. “But we think this is a good situation with Eric, and obviously, he felt the same way. We have some quality players he can play with. We certainly have an important role he can fill.”

They pumped up Staal’s defensive abilities along with his scoring skills, and a cursory glance at his possession stats would imply that could be true.

Really, it might all come down to expectations and context.

Yes, he’s produced solid-enough possession stats, yet he’s also enjoyed some cushy zone starts.

If that continues and he draws strong linemates, Staal would face nice odds of being a plus for the Wild. He also rid himself of the baggage that comes with a huge contract, as his $3.5 million cap hit is risky but not crippling.

Bruce Boudreau’s positive approach is likely to do wonders for his morale, too.

On the other hand, Staal was ineffective to the point of near-irrelevance at times with the Hurricanes and Rangers last season. If that’s merely the reality rather than a down period for the veteran forward, then the Wild just saddled themselves with a three-year error.

In other words, an all-too-familiar mistake.

Ultimately, there are enough pluses and minuses to make this an intriguing situation: will Staal find that extra life?

Backes doesn’t want to ‘sling mud’ at Blues on his way out


David Backes isn’t about to “sling mud” at the St. Louis Blues after they couldn’t agree on term.

As Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “there’s no leaving town with fingers-out-the-window.”

Still, while Blues GM Doug Armstrong discusses bell curves and how players regress with age, Backes really exposed the human side beyond “just business” in that Post-Dispatch piece that’s worth your time.

Things got dusty for Backes when he watched this tribute video from the team.

“It made me well up to watch it, to see that first goal,” Backes said to the Post-Dispatch. “I’m still a kid, lanky, don’t know where my appendages are in that video, playing with (Keith) Tkachuk and living in his basement. All those memories are vivid and they come back.”

On the same day that he signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins, Backes shared this farewell letter to Blues fans on Twitter:

As a “numbers nerd,” Backes understands the Blues’ perspective, at least to some extent.

That doesn’t mean there are no emotions involved in leaving a team you represented for more than a decade.

Hurricanes add defensive depth by signing Tennyson


The Carolina Hurricanes added some blueline depth on Sunday by signing defenseman Matt Tennyson to a one-year, two-way deal.

Refreshingly, the Canes provided his contract details: Tennyson gets paid a rate of $675K at the NHL level and $275K when in the AHL.

The 26-year-old played in 29 games this past season after appearing in 27 in 2014-15. Tennyson saw a significant ice time drop when he did suit up for Peter DeBoer, so it seems like he fell out of favor with the San Jose Sharks.

The Hurricanes rightly consider him a depth addition.

“Matt gives us added depth on the blueline, as a right-shot defenseman who has proven he can play at the NHL level,” GM Ron Francis said.

Chances are, he’ll bounce between the AHL and NHL just like he did with the Sharks.