James O'Brien

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

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee


If you were expecting Evgeni Malkin‘s comments about bringing the series back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7 to bother the Tampa Bay Lightning, you’re out of luck.

Or, if that guarantee did provide bulletin board material, the Bolts aren’t admitting it.

Jon Cooper’s response was logical enough.

Good stuff as usual from the Lightning’s often-articulate and outspoken head coach.

“Yeah, I mean, the series isn’t over,” Jason Garrison said. “That’s the mindset that everyone has to have.”

Not exactly smoking hot takes coming from Tampa Bay, but they’d probably be silly to provide anything but boilerplate quotes.

The real responses will come on the ice.

Hitchcock is having ‘fun’ trading barbs with DeBoer


For St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, talking smack sure beats talking x’s and o’s.

He admitted that he’s really enjoying the give-and-take that he’s undergoing with San Jose Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer.

“The answer, do I enjoy it, is yes,” Hitchcock said. “Quite frankly, what you guys report, it’s really boring. We got to have some fun, too. I find it fun.”

The veteran head coach admits that he enjoys sending the media on a “wild-goose chase,” especially if it takes heat off of his players.

(Ah yes, it always comes back to strategy for Hitch.)

He repeatedly said that it’s fun … and you know what? It really is. (He also points out that he coached with DeBoer, though the Sharks coach doesn’t believe that it was much more than a “learning experience.”)

Now we really just need the two coaches to start barking at each other over the glass to really drive the point home.

Granted, DeBoer may not feel the same joy for the trash talk.

For more on their back-and-forth, check out this post.

So, it seems like Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6


The Pittsburgh Penguins are speaking pretty confidently about their chances of keeping their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning alive.

(At least, they’re pretty sure of themselves aside from that pesky goaltending question.)

Maybe Evgeni Malkin didn’t quite go Joe Namath or Mark Messier with reporters on Monday, yet every now and then we need a little guarantee-type bulletin board material. Here’s his quote, via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

“I believe in my team, I believe in myself,” Malkin said. “We’re coming back to Pittsburgh for sure.”

Johnston described it as “an unsolicited guarantee.”

Malkin isn’t the only Penguins player proclaiming that they’re likely to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

It’s understandable that the Penguins feel sure of themselves. After all, Game 5’s defeat marked their first consecutive loss in ages. You don’t rattle off win after win (and bounce back from losses) that regularly without building up some bluster.

Of course, on the other hand, worrisome Penguins fans might be concerned that these comments will give the Lightning that extra push to put this series away on Tuesday night.

Poll: Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray for Pens in Game 6


After the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5, Marc-Andre Fleury admitted that he needs to play better.

The question is: will Mike Sullivan give him another chance, or will he go back to Matt Murray with Pittsburgh’s season on the line in Game 6?

We won’t get an answer from Sullivan until tomorrow morning:

Fair enough.

This allows us an opportunity to play armchair head coach without that pesky “getting second-guessed on Twitter either way” nuisance.

So, if you were Sullivan, who would you start tomorrow night?

(Note: for the sake of simplicity, Jeff Zatkoff isn’t included as we’ll make the assumption that both Fleury and Murray can actually play tomorrow.)

Panthers’ front office upheaval continues with firing of scouting director


The Florida Panthers made quite a leap forward in 2015-16, yet many of the architects of their transformation are either being moved to new positions or fired altogether.

The latest to get fired is Scott Luce, a scouting director who first joined the Panthers way back in 2002.

This report surfaced from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and was confirmed by new GM Tom Rowe by way of George Richards of the Miami Herald.

It sounds like this might come down to “creative differences.”

Other members of the front office are expected to take on larger roles, though Rowe may also hire a replacement for Luce’s duties.

The executive is expected to draw considerable demand from around the NHL.

To recap, the Panthers changed at the top, with Rowe taking over the GM position while Dale Tallon moved on to a president-type role. Florida also parted ways with assistant coach and former player John Madden.

The Panthers will look different on the ice with new duds in 2016-17, and may sport a few philosophical changes that may not be as apparent to the naked eye.

Perhaps we’re in for an intriguing off-season of moves?