James O'Brien

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

Fight: Patrick Maroon vs. Tom Wilson, a mix of MMA and boxing

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As much as opponents need to “keep their heads on a swivel” against Tom Wilson, the Washington Capitals’ heavy-hitter has to be alert in his own right.

According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Wilson engaged in his fifth fight of the season, and we’re only a little more than a month into 2017-18 as of Nov. 12. At this pace, Wilson may catch his career-high of 14 bouts from 2013-14.

Throwing so many big hits makes Wilson a big target, and in some instances, that means bringing a team’s bigger bruisers his way. Edmonton Oilers winger Patrick Maroon ended up “addressing” Wilson on Sunday; as Sportsnet’s announcers note, Maroon showed off an MMA-style takedown and then later switched to boxing in their normal fight.

Being that he’s moonlighting as a top-line forward with Connor McDavid most nights, Maroon hasn’t dropped the gloves all that often. Perhaps he decided to make it clear to Wilson who he’d need to deal with in the event that anything happens to number 97?

Either way, it’s a fairly entertaining set of skirmishes during what is, as of this writing, a grinding 0-0 stalemate between the Oilers and Capitals.

The game is currently scoreless in part because of this disallowed goal, by the way:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

How Duchene, Turris are doing with new teams

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If Matt Duchene wanted immediate revenge against the Colorado Avalanche, he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

In his first two games as a member of the Ottawa Senators, Duchene faced his former team in a back-to-back set against the Avalanche. Funny how things work out, right?

Well, when you dig deeper, the situation is a little less scripted. He didn’t face his former teammates once in Ottawa and once in Colorado; instead, the two teams went all the way to Sweden for overseas games in November. One can imagine that this experience cut down on some of that awkwardness – that “first game in Colorado in the road locker room” will have to wait – but it also made it less-than-perfect.

Still, you might be wondering how it went for Duchene.

In his case, it’s something of a good news/bad news situation.

The Good

Duchene’s team won in both cases. The Senators took Friday’s contest 4-3 in OT and 4-3 on Saturday.

After going even (7-7) in the faceoff dot on Friday, Duchene reminded that he has quietly become one of the better guys at winning draws, going 11-3 during Saturday’s win. That second contest also gave the impression that he’s starting to settle in with the Sens, as he fired eight shots on goal in 16 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time.

Following the win – and also considering the travel – Duchene joked that he might “sleep for five days” when he gets home:

So far, it looks like Duchene is lining up with Alex Burrows and Mike Hoffman. Considering the amount of space Duchene could open up with his speed and the shooting talent of Hoffman, that duo is particularly intriguing for the Sens.

The Bad

Duchene wasn’t able to score a goal or an assist in either of the two games. If you’re the type who seeks instant gratification (or gambled on him big in Daily Fantasy), then that has to have been frustrating.

Plus/minus is a borderline obnoxious stat at times, but some will harp on his combined minus -3 in the two games against the Avalanche in Sweden.

On a personal note, he looks kind of weird as number 95. Agree/disagree?

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While Duchene’s duo of debut games were a mixed bag, Kyle Turris enjoyed a more straightforward good time during his first game with the Nashville Predators.

Turris was named the first star of the Predators’ 5-4 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it wasn’t just because locals are so excited about how Turris can boost scoring. The 28-year-old scored a goal and an assist in that high-scoring, exciting game in Nashville.

Peter Laviolette wasn’t shy about deploying Turris. While overtime naturally enhances his ice time, it’s worth noting that Turris logged 21:38 TOI. About the only bummer was that he only received 1:18 of his time on the power play, and he might not be on the top unit for a while. (That could change if Laviolette decides to go with a four forward setup on the PP, but that would make for the bold move of choosing one of P.K. Subban or Roman Josi.)

Here’s the first goal of Turris’ Nashville tour:

A second line of Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala seems awfully intriguing. Both Smith and Fiala could really benefit from Turris’ presence, as each guy already generates chances. Turris might just be able to add that “finishing touch” to their games.

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The beauty of the Turris – Duchene – Avalanche trade is that everyone, to an extent, came out a “winner” on paper. Just considering the bouquet of futures Colorado GM Joe Sakic managed under all that duress.

Still, the big names involved will be judged by both individual and team factors. Each showed signs of doing well on a personal level, and their teams must have been delighted to go 3-for-3 so far.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Samuel Girard logged big minutes in his first two games with the Avalanche, collecting an assist.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sharks’ Meier fined, not suspended, for elbowing Del Zotto

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier has been fined for elbowing Vancouver defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

The NHL announced Sunday that Meier will be fined $2,403.67 for the infraction. The play occurred late in the third period of San Jose’s 5-0 win over the Canucks on Saturday night. Meier was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

More AP NHL: apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Note: You can see the infraction in the video above this post’s headline.

Blackhawks turn to Sharp – Toews – Kane amid scoring struggles

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When you’re stumped to find a solution, sometimes it pays off to see what worked before.

The Chicago Blackhawks are going with that strategy amid some scoring struggles, as NBC Sports Chicago’s Tracey Myers and others note that Joel Quenneville is reuniting a line that may inspire Blackhawks nostalgia: Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane.

Some would call it going retro. Others prefer “going nuclear.”

“Right now we haven’t had the team scoring so we’re trying to get that first and maybe things will look on balance as we’re going along. But I feel if they can score and other lines can score, maybe there’s balance that way, too,” Quenneville said, via Myers. “We’re just looking at any way right now to recapture what it’s like to score because we know it’s there.”

With Brandon Saad managing one assist in his last nine games after a red-hot start to his second run with Chicago, it makes sense to shake things up, especially with the Blackhawks struggling to score at even-strength.

While there are concerns with loading up by putting Toews and Kane together rather than going with the usual plan of asking them to carry their own lines, Saad helps tie things together on a passable second trio:

Putting Saad with Artem Anisimov and Richard Panik could work, maybe.

Sharp might be the forward in the greatest need of a boost. The 35-year-old hasn’t scored a point in his last nine games and only has a goal to show for his last 11.

The Blackhawks could certainly benefit from a bump in energy and creativity, as their schedule is on the more challenging side beginning with tonight’s game against the Flyers in Philly. Take a look at the upcoming stretch:

Thu, Nov 9 @ Philadelphia
Sat, Nov 11 @ Carolina
Sun, Nov 12 vs New Jersey
Wed, Nov 15 vs NY Rangers
Sat, Nov 18 @ Pittsburgh
Wed, Nov 22 @ Tampa Bay
Sat, Nov 25 @ Florida

That’s a difficult weekend, not to mention a run of five of seven games on the road. At 7-6-2, the Blackhawks are currently in the running for a wildcard spot in the West, an experience that remains a bit foreign to this proud group (even if prognosticators have been forecasting such a regression for years now).

It’s not clear how long the Blackhawks would roll with this combination – Coach Q has made it pretty clear that he’d rather diversify his offensive threats – but it might help shake things up. If you enjoy watching those three work together, tonight’s your night.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Duchene owners win biggest in Turris trade, fantasy-wise

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Let’s all take a moment to toast Nashville Predators GM David Poile.

When it comes to league-changing trades, Poile is on top of the NHL, and no one is even all that close. OK, Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin are up there, but while Poile wears a college graduate’s hat, those two sometimes don dunce caps.

Poile doesn’t just make trades, he generates headlines and injects some much-needed buzz into a league that lacks the movement of the NBA, where seismic shifts happen often enough to spoil hoops fans. Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. Some dented cans of vegetables for Filip Forsberg. And now this move, which nets the Predators Kyle Turris and delivers Matt Duchene from misery in Colorado to (insert question marks and happy faces) in Ottawa.

This post takes an early look at the fantasy dominoes that may fall/have fallen from this trade, but giving Poile a digital pat on the back was only the right thing to do first. Thanks Dave!

[Rotoworld on Clayton Keller’s Calder push]

Need for speed

Duchene ranked as one of my favorite sleepers coming into 2017-18 for three reasons: 1) his numbers, in my opinion, were bound to rebound after an unusually repugnant season, 2) he’s dual eligible, something that always gains my approval, and 3) it was reasonable to assume that he’d head for greener pastures.

In the case of playing with Senators speed demon Erik Karlsson, green means go for Duchene.

Imagine this scenario, something that will keep defensive-minded coaches up at night: Karlsson zips down the ice, getting the opposition off balance, and then sends a perfect set-up to Duchene, who can keep up. Then a lot of bad things happen to the other team, especially the opposing goalie.

Considering how hard the Senators went after Duchene, I’d wager he’ll inherit a lot of the big minutes and opportunities Turris received. Via Left Wing Lock, it looks like Duchene’s early linemates will be Zack Smith and, most enticingly, sniper Mike Hoffman.

Actually, scratch that; the most enticing element is still Duchene and Karlsson sharing the same ice.

One other thing to realize is that Duchene hasn’t been getting the best opportunities in Colorado for a while now. That was especially clear in 2017-18, as he ranked sixth among Avs forwards in power-play ice time, on average.

A mild loss for Turris, but a boost for Nashville

Early on, Turris’ linemates look quite intriguing with the Predators:

Still, Turris was logging 19:41 minutes per night with Ottawa, second only to all-around dynamo Mark Stone. With Ryan Johansen carrying that big contract and chemistry with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, Turris slides into a(n appropriate) role as a second-line center. There might be some losses, although the upside is that he might face lesser competition.

[The Rotoworld NHL podcast]

Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala are both intriguing, as Turris could open opportunities for Smith (a solid sniper who could use a boost) and Fiala (an intriguing young player who showed signs of a breakthrough before suffering a grisly leg injury in the playoffs).

Nashville’s talented defensemen P.K. Subban and Roman Josi could enjoy a subtle bump, while the Preds might be able to give more goal support to goalies such as Pekka Rinne.

Avalanche questions

We’ll have to see if Samuel Girard figures into much of anything for the Avalanche, at least early on. Over the long-term, he’s quite interesting. (That said, Left Wing Lock lists him on a top pairing with Erik Johnson, so you never know; maybe the kid will continue his strong work from early looks with the Preds right away.)

Other Colorado players face interesting challenges and opportunities. Duchene’s presence was a boon for Nail Yakupov, so can the struggling former top pick maintain that resurgence without him?

Keep an eye on the likes of Sven Andrighetto, as even with Duchene’s influence being a little muted, someone will be asked to step into a heightened role. It’s plausible that they’ll replace Duchene by committee.

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Trades like these really spice things up, both in fantasy and reality.

Let’s hope that there will be other moves to break down as this season goes along, especially as we start to approach the “dog days.” Other NHL GMs, feel free to pitch in a bit. As impressive as Poile’s run has been, he doesn’t have to be the only person on the dance floor.

Now picture Poile dancing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.