James O'Brien

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

Rickard Rakell undergoes surgery, out at least two weeks

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Rickard Rakell‘s participation in the World Cup of Hockey was cut short after he was hospitalized; now it comes down to finding out if he’ll be ready once the Anaheim Ducks’ season begins.

The Ducks provided an update on his condition today: he underwent surgery to remove scar tissue from an appendectomy. He’ll need to miss two weeks before he can resume training.

Such a timetable doesn’t guarantee that the promising young forward will miss the start of the regular season. Anaheim begins its 2016-17 campaign with a five-game road trip that kicks off in Dallas against the Stars on Oct. 13.

That’s a decent amount of time for Rakell to recover, yet there’s always the possibility that he’ll face setbacks.

If it helps anyone deal with the less-than-ideal news, at least it’s tough to pin this too much on the World Cup of Hockey.

Add Faksa to list of Dallas Stars injured at World Cup

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It’s early, but so far, the Dallas Stars are likely the team grumbling the most about World Cup of Hockey injuries.

Tyler Seguin‘s hairline fracture in his heel is clearly the main concern, yet he isn’t the only player to watch, as Radek Faksa is banged up as well.

Faksa is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury, according to Peter Dufek. (Stars Inside Edge’s Mark Stepneski also passed along a Google translation indicating that it’s considered an “upper-body” issue …)

The whole situation has the Stars, well, a bit concerned. This has been a physical tournament in the beginning stages, so Dallas’ plight likely has other teams holding their breath with the start of the 2016-17 season not that far away.

‘Pressure is a privilege’ for Team Canada


When discussing the expectations Canada faces in just about any international hockey tournament, Wayne Gretzky essentially echoed Rick Bobby’s “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

Granted, he said it in a very Canadian way to NHL.com, but the sentiment was pretty clear.

In cases like these, one would normally throw out a sarcastic “no pressure,” but it sounds like Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock actually embraces that tension.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Babcock said. “If you don’t have any pressure, it means you have no chance. Do you want to come to the tournament with no chance, or do you want to come to the tournament with pressure? …

“For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think our guys would, either.”

So, does this mean we need to throw out well-worn phrases like “gripping the sticks too tight?” Because that would be quite the shame.

While Babcock is all about the pressure, that doesn’t exactly mean that he’s the sort of risk-seeker who is going to go sky-diving from a hockey sense. As Jonathan Willis explains in this Sportsnet article, Canada’s style is essentially designed to play the sort of “tight” way you might expect from a team under pressure.

Since Mike Babcock’s ascension to the head coaching position in 2010, Canada’s approach has been to emphasize defensive ability. The underlying assumption seems to be that the Canadian team should outscore the opposition in almost any situation, and that the important thing is not to mess up on defence. That means bringing a safe, button-down style to every game and counting on the talent disparity to automatically compensate for any sacrifice on the offensive side of the puck.

In other words, Team Canada isn’t bothered by the dangers of high expectations, but they’re certainly avoiding the pitfalls of taking risks.

On paper, that’s a reasonable plan, yet the vultures will circle if decisions such as picking the likes of Jay Bouwmeester over P.K. Subban end up backfiring. And Babcock seems like he’s made peace with that thought.

Hossa, Gaborik explain Slovakia’s hockey slippage

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Say what you will about communism; it might have had its hockey benefits, at least in Slovakia.

That’s the way Marian Hossa sees things as he explains his country’s puck plummet to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“ .. The parents didn’t have to pay big money like they parents do these days. There was big competition because everybody could play and come play and only the best can go further,” Hossa said. “Right now, there’s not enough kids because it costs so much money for the parents. It comes down to economics. I think that’s why there’s a big hole.”

To Hossa’s credit, he’s trying to make a difference with his charitable organization “Hoss Heroes,” which aims to boost the youth movement by providing free equipment.

Marian Gaborik spoke about the lack of young players, too, and he wondered if the problem is that coaches in the area fell behind the rest of the pack as far as how the game is played.

It makes you wonder if Slovakia should consider springing for the sort of hockey summit that boosted Sweden and Finland’s respective profiles.

For now, it’s about sobering realities such as Slovakia merely sending the following players to the World Cup as a chunk of Team Europe:

Hossa, Gaborik, Tomas Tatar, Zdeno Chara, Andrej Sekera and Jarsolav Halak.

That’s a pretty impressive group, but it doesn’t answer the nagging question of “Who’s next?”

Wow, Dustin Byfuglien is a healthy scratch for U.S.


Like other hockey nations boasting a variety of options, it’s easy to second-guess John Tortorella and the rest of the Team USA brass. Sitting Dustin Byfuglien makes it even easier.

After floating the one-of-a-kind offensive weapon around, including that familiar move of putting him at forward, Torts raised some eyebrows in making Byfuglien a healthy scratch altogether.

Then again, when you consider the fact that Byfuglien’s been snubbed before as far as international play goes, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised? Perhaps the large scorer isn’t in shape, or isn’t in shape according to what Tortorella values? Does this come down to the view from some that Byfuglien’s risks outweigh his rewards?

(For what it’s worth, Tortorella told the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan that the move is “no knock” on Byfuglien and indicated that he could work his way back into the lineup.)

All kinds of questions come up with this move, especially if the U.S. struggles to create offense against Team Europe on Saturday.

Seriously, don’t be shocked if a lack of firepower burns America, even if that doesn’t happen this afternoon.

The other scratches are forward Kyle Palmieri and goalie Cory Schneider. More than a few believe that Schneider is America’s best option (just take a look at his career save percentage numbers), but America is clearly invested in Jonathan Quick.