James O'Brien

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

Flyers consider Radko Gudas week-to-week


It’s easy to scoff at players pulling out of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey – especially if you’re the cranky type who makes a lot of noise on the Internet – but plenty of guys probably really do need the extra time.

From the way the Philadelphia Flyers are depicting the situation, it sounds like defenseman Radko Gudas is one of them.

The Flyers provided some additional information about the brute beyond Gudas being unable to play for the Czech Republic.

Here’s the statement from GM Ron Hextall:

“Radko Gudas sustained an upper body injury during his offseason training and will be evaluated on a week to week basis. We are hopeful and optimistic that he will not miss any regular season games.”

Week-to-week doesn’t sound especially promising.

The Flyers signed Gudas to a contract extension back in June, so they have to hope that any missed time is minimal.

(Unless you’re of the opinion that they’re better off without him … although it’s a little late for that considering the extension they gave Gudas.)

Don’t be shocked if you see multiple ‘Captain Connor McDavid’ stories


Sometimes you just need to acknowledge the obvious.

Yes, some might bristle at the idea of Connor McDavid becoming the captain of the Edmonton Oilers at age 19. Maybe it would advance the argument that the franchise has been guilty of giving young players too much too soon.

On the other hand, would it be any more honest to hand the “C” to a veteran just because, especially after things went so disastrously for Andrew Ference?

McDavid is a focus for the Oilers, and might be their biggest leader already. He’s already a selling point for the likes of Milan Lucic.

Those are considerations that the Oilers are likely batting around as they consider their next captain, but interestingly enough, it’s not the only McDavid captaincy question that head coach Todd McLellan must ponder.

McLellan acknowledged the possibility of the 19-year-old wearing the “C” for North America to Postmedia Network’s Michael Traikos.

“The captain of the Oilers? We’ll figure that out at training camp,” McLellan said. “The captain at the World Cup? We’ll find out this week.”

As much as people make anthem/lack of history jokes about World Cup squads like Team North America and Team Europe, that really would be something: McDavid possibly being named the captain of two significant groups … maybe in the same month.

That isn’t likely to be the most impressive accomplishment of the budding superstar’s career, but it might just be the most unique.

If he dons either “C,” mind you …

(H/T to The Score.)

Report: Henrik Lundqvist did not suffer a golf-related injury


There were rumblings that Henrik Lundqvist might be added to the growing list of players bowing out of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but apparently that’s not true.

ESPN’s Joe McDonald reports that Lundqvist did not suffer an injury playing golf. He’s expected to practice on Monday and it sounds like he’s good to go for Sweden.

Now, if there are any further developments, PHT will pass along word. At the moment, it sounds like a dodged bullet for Sweden, Lundqvist, the New York Rangers and fans of high-level goaltending.

Sorry, Erik Johnson, it looks like you’re still pretty lonely when it comes to golf injury jokes.

Victor Rask says he’s ready for Hurricanes training camp

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As curious as the Carolina Hurricanes’ decisions were to bring back Cam Ward and give Raffi Torres a tryout, neither of those decisions are necessarily far-reaching.

No, the boldest move might have been stating firmly that Victor Rask is a core guy; he gives the Hurricanes just four players who have contracts covering at least the next three seasons after signing a six-year, $24 million extension in mid-July.

That term and money will shine a brighter spotlight on the 23-year-old, but what about that surgically repaired shoulder?

Rask told the Raleigh News & Observer that his shoulder is “100 percent” and that he’ll be ready for Hurricanes training camp.

He also seems at least somewhat aware of what that new contract means for his future and his connection with Carolina.

“I wanted long-term and I’m happy that they believe in me,” Rask said. “I’m just excited for the future and I think we’ve got something really good going on here … It feels like home for me, so it’s very nice to come back here.”

With a foundation of young players and sneaky-impressive possession numbers since Bill Peters took over, the Hurricanes are becoming a chic pick to make some gains in 2016-17.

Rask would be an integral part of such a turnaround, so Carolina needs him to be healthy and productive. So far, it sounds like he’s in a good position to enter next season without lingering effects from that injury.

Of course, we’ve heard plenty of players claim to be “100 percent” and then see their seasons go off course, so it remains to be seen if Rask’s optimism is actually justified.

With head coaches at World Cup, many assistants ramp up duties


The 2016 World Cup of Hockey doesn’t just challenge NHL teams in putting players at risk for injuries.

The Canadian Press points out an interesting consideration: 14 head coaches will be involved in guiding the different teams, prompting assistant coaches to assume more of the burden of running training camps.

Granted, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper does note that the situation prompted him to plan out more of training camp than ever.

“If you’re going to go on vacation you plan for somebody to watch your house, sit your dog, all those type of things, so this is no different,” Cooper told the Canadian Press. “You’re planning exactly what’s going to go on every single day, you’re just not out there blowing the whistle. But everything is set right down to the minute on how things are going to go.”

The way Cooper describes this, you almost expect him to send an assistant coach a text to make sure that he didn’t leave the oven on.

It could be interesting to keep an eye out for reports or murmurs about disruptions during training camp. Will some teams enjoy advantages that others don’t? Will certain decisions about burning entry-level contract years or retaining PTOs go a little differently?

We’re already seeing teams like the Lightning and Washington Capitals plan ahead, so maybe it’s not a big factor. Then again, in an age of parity, you never know where that next little edge might come from.