James O'Brien

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

Collberg clears waivers, so Isles successfully terminated his contract


The New York Islanders were able to terminate Sebastian Collberg’s contract as of Saturday.

This comes after placing him on unconditional waivers on Friday (he naturally cleared waivers).

As this previous PHT post notes, the Islanders thought he had the potential to become a top-six forward after acquiring him as part of the Thomas Vanek trade.

Honestly, even his AHL numbers provide little inspiration. That said, at 22, it’s possible he could get things together and eventually make a dent in the NHL.

He’d likely need to prove himself quite a bit more to do so.

Stars shouldn’t struggle to sign Jamie Benn to an extension


As much as people linger on the negatives after the Dallas Stars’ season ended with a thud, there are reasons for optimism.

One can find that if you look past the $10.4 million allocated to two under-performing goalies and notice the incredible bargains the Stars enjoy with some of their best players.

Seriously, other GMs probably weep with envy at this, especially since they might have made different decisions while building around this core:

Jamie Benn: $5.25 million cap hit through 2016-17
Tyler Seguin: $5.75M through 2018-19
John Klingberg – $4.25M through 2019-20

There are some other solid finds here or there (super-pest Antoine Roussel is a nice steal at $2M), but that trio is pretty staggering.

Of course, the Stars will eventually need to pay up, and that time will come soon in the case of Benn.

If you ask him, he’d like to make sure that issue doesn’t linger, as he told the Dallas Morning News.

“This is where I want to play, this is where I want to be,” Benn said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”

It really shouldn’t be too difficult, either.

The Stars see some contracts dissolve this summer, but the ones that expire (along with Benn’s current deal) after 2016-17 are likely most relevant.

Patrick Sharp‘s $5.95M cap hit goes away, as does Ales Hemsky‘s $4M mark. The Stars can make other calls, such as moving away from Johnny Oduya ($3.75M) if they feel as though age caught up with him.

Either way, the bitter pill of the Stars’ Game 7 meltdown is easier to swallow when you look on the bright side.

The Stars would be silly to waste a second in locking up their best player, especially with their other key guys on such thrifty deals.

Looks like Ryan Callahan won’t get suspended for hit on Kris Letang


Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan will not face a suspension hearing for his controversial check on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Callahan received a five-minute major for the hit, which you can watch in the video above. He explained his case for what happened here, claiming that Letang “turned at the last second.”

As one might expect, not everyone was happy with the league’s decision regarding discipline (or lack thereof).

There were some other controversial moments in the Lightning’s eventual 3-1 win in Game 1.

Ondrej Palat (only?) received a minor penalty for a hit on Brian Dumoulin while a Chris Kunitz knee-to-knee hurt Tyler Johnson.

So far, it appears as if all three incidents will pass by without a fine or a suspension, but PHT will make note if that changes. The two teams square off in Game 2 on Monday.

Sharks’ Marleau: ‘These opportunities don’t come along every year’


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) One of the playoff-success challenged franchises in St. Louis and San Jose will play for the Stanley Cup this season.

The two teams that have enjoyed loads of regular season success followed by annual playoff disappointment will meet in the Western Conference final starting Sunday with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

The Blues are looking to make the final for the first time since 1970 and win it all for the first time ever. The Sharks have never even played for the title since joining the NHL in 1991-92.

Each of the 56 previous playoff appearance for the two teams have ended with a loss – often times a crushing one.

“I don’t try and live in the past for this franchise or for the San Jose franchise,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “I don’t think any of the young players on San Jose care about what happened five, six years ago for them and I know Troy Brouwer and (Kyle) Brodziak and these guys don’t care what happened here two years ago or in `01-02. This is our team, this is their team, they’re going to chart their own destiny and they’re doing a great job.”

The Blues have made the playoffs 40 times in their 48-year history – more than any team outside the Original Six – but they have yet to win it all while much younger franchises like Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim have won the Cup.

The Sharks are in the postseason for the 18th time and despite having the second most regular seasons wins in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, they have never made it past the conference final. In three trips to this round, San Jose has three wins and 12 losses.

“These opportunities don’t come along every year,” forward Patrick Marleau said. “We want to win a Cup. We haven’t done that yet. There’s a lot of work left.”

Here’s a look at some of the biggest postseason disappointments for both franchises:

REVERSE SWEEP: A year after losing a seven-game series in the second round to rival Los Angeles, the Sharks broke out to a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in the first round in 2014. San Jose then lost four straight games to become the fourth NHL team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead. The pain from that defeat lasted and the Sharks didn’t completely recover until this season, missing the playoffs entirely last year.

MIRACLE ABORTED: After powerhouse Edmonton got knocked out by Calgary in 1986, the door was open in the conference finals for the Blues. St. Louis staged a memorable comeback in Game 6, rallying from a three-goal deficit in the third period before winning in overtime in what is known as the “Monday Night Miracle” to force a seventh game. But the Flames bounced back and won 2-1 at home to deny St. Louis a trip to the final.

PRESIDENT’S TROPHY: The Sharks were the top team in the league in 2008-09 in the first year under coach Todd McLellan and looked poised to make a long playoff run after three straight second-round exits since acquiring Joe Thornton. But they ran into an Anaheim team that was two years removed from a Stanley Cup title and had a hot goalie in Jonas Hiller. Despite outshooting the Ducks by more than 12 shots a game, San Jose lost the first two games at home and fell in six games.

2-0 AND OUT: In both 2013 and 2014, the Blues jumped out to 2-0 series leads in the first round over powerhouses Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively. Just when it looked St. Louis was ready for a long run, the Blues followed with four straight losses each series, raising questions about their playoff toughness. Six of the eight losses were one-goal games, with three of the defeats coming in overtime.

BLOWN CHANCE: The early season 2005-06 trade for Thornton helped the Sharks shake off a poor start and grab the fifth seed in the Western Conference. When the top four teams all lost in the opening round, the Sharks suddenly turned into the favorite. They seized that role and won the first two games of their second-round series against eighth-seeded Edmonton before losing Game 3 in triple overtime. San Jose never won again, getting outscored 14-6 in the final three losses.

THREE SWEEPS: The Blues made the Stanley Cup final in each of their first three seasons as the top team in the NHL’s expansion division. That success quickly ended when St. Louis matched up in the final against one of the league’s established powerhouses. The Blues were swept by Montreal in 1968 and `69 and then Boston in 1970 in a series best remembered for Bobby Orr flying through the air after his Cup-clinching overtime goal in Game 4.

AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report

Just for Men: Jaromir Jagr

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After years of seeing the guy take an inordinate amount of blame when his teams didn’t succeed, it’s a delight that Jaromir Jagr is in that Teemu Selanne stage where virtually everyone loves him.

It’s even gotten to the point where he’s acknowledging all the jokes about his mulleted prime.

(Almost to the degree that it’s less fun to make those jokes, honestly.)

Anyway, as great as Jagr’s mullet can be, that business in the front and party in the back often distracts from the legendary winger’s questionable facial hair choices.

As you can see in this post’s main image, Jagr took some time to ease into life as a possible “Wolverine” casting option.

Remember that weird strip on his chin from his New York Rangers days?

Yes, there have been some questionable beard-related decisions, yet it’s easy to forget that these are the pitfalls that come with a player being in the public eye for so long. And really, it’s all been a treat. Thanks Yags.