James O'Brien

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

Still no Tomas Hertl for the Sharks in Game 6

It may not come as a big surprise, but Tomas Hertl still isn’t ready to play for the San Jose Sharks.

He won’t be available for Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, but there’s no word on whether he’d be ready if the Sharks can force a Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins (which would come on Wednesday).

“Hertl is making progress, getting better every day,” Peter DeBoer said. “[He] won’t play tonight, no.”

As PHT discussed before, the Sharks aren’t outright saying he’s done until next season, even if rumors indicate as much.

Hertl brings a lot to the table, especially when he combines with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

While he’s missed, the good news is that the Sharks have seen other forwards step up, including lesser-known guys like Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi.

Welcome Scott Hartnell back to the trade rumor mill


Around trade deadline time, there was serious speculation that the Columbus Blue Jackets would trade Scott Hartnell.

That didn’t happen, yet there’s a chance he might get moved during this off-season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Hartnell waived his no-trade clause and would accept a move to a “decent” number of teams:

3. There were some Scott Hartnell rumblings around the trade deadline, but nothing came to fruition. The ask was high. There is something going on now, though. According to sources, Hartnell, who has a no-move clause, has agreed to waive it for several teams. Kekalainen and agent Matt Oates would not comment, but word is it’s a decent-sized list.

Hartnell is 34, and I think potential trade partners are a little concerned about that third year remaining on his contract. If it was one or two, I’m not sure there’d be much worry. But, it’s clear he’s willing to move on, which will have him motivated to make an impact.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Rob DeWolf did not get a response from the Blues Jackets or Hartnell regarding those rumors, but it seems like a move would make sense for both sides.

Columbus would get to shed some salary (Hartnell’s cap hit is $4.75 million through 2018-19) and gain some space for a younger forward.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Hartnell wanted out, either.

The frequently falling forward found himself injured and a healthy scratch more often than he’d like with the Blue Jackets. He’s absorbed a lot of NHL mileage (including 1,109 regular season games), so Hartnell may qualify as “an old 34.” You never know when a team might turn things around, but in Hartnell’s mind, he may believe that he’d have a better chance to win elsewhere.

Of course, finding a trade partner could be a challenge, especially if the “ask” is still high. Perhaps a team on that “decent-sized list” would want Columbus to retain some of Hartnell’s salary?

Long story short, it could be a pretty interesting scenario to watch.

Let’s take a step back and admire Penguins’ remarkable run of trades


You could call one of the playoffs’ hottest trios “The HBK Line,” yet you could also consider them “the line that trades built.”

Considering how integral Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin have been to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, it’s easy to forget that none of them have even hit their anniversary in the Steel City just yet.

As a refresher:

That’s impressive work by itself, yet the Penguins reinvented themselves with a variety of other trades that can be graded good-to-great.

Rob Scuderi was once a key defensive defenseman, but he’s seen better days; Trevor Daley ended up being a superior fit before his unfortunate injury.

Justin Schultz has his own issues, yet he’s probably been worth the look for a third-round pick. The Penguins also acquired two blueline fixtures on March 2, 2015: Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy.

This isn’t to say the Penguins are flawless in this and other approaches. The Lovejoy move didn’t always look great. The Maple Leafs may “win” the Kessel trade in the long run.

Even so, the big picture is remarkable. As much as the organization can thank the draft for building its core in the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, trades took the Penguins to the next level.

(Especially if you consider replacing Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan as a “trade” of sorts.)


The San Jose Sharks enjoyed their upgrades through free agency

Don’t expect Peter DeBoer to channel Herb Brooks


Come on, Peter DeBoer, you could at least play along.

Inspirational speeches are one of those goofy things that make sports great, even when it’s Bill Pullman providing motivation in a rather non-sporting movie.

Apparently the San Jose Sharks will need to settle for “two wins away from the Stanley Cup vs. one loss away from it all being over” as their motivation heading into Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“These guys don’t need to be inspired to play,” DeBoer told USA Today. “They’re in the Stanley Cup Final. Some of them have waited 18 years. There’s no speech I’m going to give Patty Marleau to make him play harder.”

That’s a real bummer, especially when we have football players like Ross Ventrone of the Pittsburgh Steelers doing Herb Brooks impressions.

Pop culture-wise, it sounds like DeBoer’s taste lie less in getting people pumped up and more in being … stately?

Oh well.

Let’s not dump on DeBoer too hard, though; he’s defied the odds by keeping his facial hair all season long. That’s pretty inspiring, even if it doesn’t carry the rhythm of “The legs feed the wolf.”

Anyway, for those Sharks and sleepy-eyed readers who do want some inspiration, here’s Kurt Russell’s awesome Brooks speech rendition from “Miracle.”

/runs through a brick wall

Sharks coach believes Couture is clutch

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With the San Jose Sharks’ deep playoff run on the line, Logan Couture generated a goal and two assists.

Martin Jones is the obvious No. 1 reason why San Jose reduced the Pittsburgh Penguins’ series lead to 3-2, but Couture is next in line.

His coach noticed that big effort in a big situation, as CSNBayArea.com reports.

“I think great players have that ability,” Pete DeBoer said during a conference call on Friday. “I put him in that category, just like Joe Pavelski has a knack for game‑winning goals. I think Logan has the ability to raise his level of play when the chips are down. I think he’s done that for us the entire playoffs.

“It’s a great gift to have. Not everyone has that ability.”

Even if you roll your eyes at “clutch” talk, there’s no denying Couture’s productivity. With 29 points in 23 playoff games, he’s easily the leading scorer of the 2016 postseason.

Injuries limited Couture to 52 up-and-down games during the regular season, depriving the Sharks of an All-Star-caliber player for a significant chunk of 2015-16.

Understatement: he’s made up for that absence in a big way.