James O'Brien

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

Feeling great, indeed: Giroux scores OT winner for Flyers


Well, good thing Claude Giroux played tonight.

There was plenty of speculation regarding whether the Philadelphia Flyers captain was healthy enough to play on Monday after taking a hit that might have briefly knocked him out on Saturday.

Giroux insisted that he was feeling great heading into Monday’s match against the Winnipeg Jets. Whether he actually does feel healthy, he certainly looked great, scoring the overtime game-winning goal for a big 3-2 OT win for the Flyers.

Naturally, overtime phenom Shayne Gostisbehere was involved, setting up the Giroux goal. Giroux also assisted on Wayne Simmonds‘ 2-0 tally, so there’s no denying No. 28’s impact in this contest.

With this win, the Flyers will finish tonight as the second wild card, even if the Detroit Red Wings hold on for a win against the Buffalo Sabres. (Philly holds a game in hand.)

Report: Jimmy Vesey spurns Predators, opts for free agency


Nope, it doesn’t sound like Jimmy Vesey will be to the Nashville Predators what Chris Kreider is to the New York Rangers.

That would require Vesey to sign an entry-level contract with the Predators, and that’s not reportedly happening, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Harvard forward will instead opt for free agency.

With that, he’ll be a 22-year-old unrestricted free agent who can sign a deal … starting on August 15?

It appears as though Vesey will follow more of the Justin Schultz model of leaving college and then not signing a deal with the team who drafted him. It’s quite interesting that Vesey decided not to sign with the Predators, which would have given him a chance to at least potentially jump right into playoff races (quite a bit like Kreider’s debut with the Rangers).

He was a third-round pick (66th overall) in 2012, and he scored nicely for Harvard during the last two seasons in particular.

The “Vesey Sweepstakes” might not really begin until August, but the speculation could be heavy for some time.

Update: Here’s the latest on Nashville’s response:

Video: Red Wings, fans celebrate Gordie Howe’s birthday in style

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The Detroit Red Wings and their home fans did a great job celebrating the 88th birthday of “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe.

You can see that fantastic stuff in the video above.

NHL.com also captures much of the spirit of the evening for Howe, whose 88th birthday comes on March 31.

The best part of it all might just be this photo of Howe with Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg:

Tough to top that.

Boone Jenner bloodied by puck, returns for Blue Jackets


One way or another, it’s looking like a rough Monday for one of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ best players of 2015-16.

Boone Jenner‘s coming along very nicely as a budding power forward, but he might miss a little bit of time after taking a puck to the face during tonight’s contest against the Washington Capitals.

As you can see from the video, Jenner was bloodied by the puck.

Update: Yes, he returned, and pretty quickly.

Have you heard that hockey players are tough?


Emails show NHL’s discussions about fighting, concussions and ‘personal tragedies’


As part of an ongoing concussion lawsuit, a Minnesota federal court unsealed some provocative emails between Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and former Department of Player Safety head Brendan Shanahan.

TSN’s Rick Westhead tracked down those emails and transcribed some of those exchanges, with a chain from 2011 (a time of considerable tragedies for enforcers) standing out.

It’s a lot to absorb, and you absolutely should read the article at TSN, but perhaps we can provide a quick synopsis.

Maybe the most significant exchange took place between Bettman and Daly while they were discussing a Globe & Mail article titled “Getting Rid of Hockey’s Goons,” which Shanahan apparently sent to them:

“Do you remember what happened when we tried to eliminate the staged fights?” Bettman wrote in a Sept. 3, 2011, email to Shanahan and Daly. “The ‘fighters’ objected and so did the pa [NHLPA]. Eliminating fighting would mean eliminating the jobs of the ‘fighters’, meaning that these guys would not have NHL careers. An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so) or whether a certain type of person (who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player) gravitates to this job (I believe more likely).”

Daly replied: “I tend to think its a little bit of both. Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”

Lawyers for the former NHL players keyed on Daly’s comment in particular, as Michael Cashman told Westhead that “this internal email from senior NHL executive Bill Daly to commissioner Bettman acknowledges the link between head injuries, depression and personal tragedies.”

The NHL attempted to get those and other emails sealed by the court, but back in January, Bettman said “they’ll be a distraction at best, but I don’t think they impact the rest of the case.”

(We’ll have to wait and see as far as that is concerned.)

The above exchange is probably the most interesting detailed in Westhead’s article, although there are plenty of other facets worth exploring, so absolutely give it a read.