Liam McHugh

Bettman: ‘Safety is paramount’ in NHL Return to Play, 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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Gary Bettman stressed that “safety is paramount” while discussing the NHL Return to Play/2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers with Liam McHugh.

In the lengthy segment you can watch above, Bettman also sheds some light on the process. He explains that the NHL discussed some best-of-five series for the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs (after the field of 24 in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers shrinks to the typical 16), but the players wanted best-of-seven series.

While Bettman seems optimistic about the bubble covering the safety bases during the NHL Return to Play, he also warns that players and others shouldn’t “take anything for granted” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier previews
• Eastern Conference top seed round-robin preview
• Penguins vs. Canadiens
• Rangers vs. Hurricanes
• Islanders vs. Panthers
• Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

• Western Conference top seed round-robin preview
• Jets vs. Flames
• Oilers vs. Blackhawks
• Predators vs. Coyotes
• Wild vs. Canucks

• NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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

Can Kevyn Adams overcome inexperience to succeed as Sabres GM?


Fair or not, it’s difficult to avoid the “inexperience” question regarding the Sabres handing the GM keys to Kevyn Adams.

Keith Jones, Patrick Sharp, and Liam McHugh discussed that subject, along with other Sabres issues, in the latest edition of “Our Line Starts.” While Sharp provided some glowing words for Adams, and Jones expressed optimism about holdover head coach Ralph Krueger, the larger Sabres picture is unsettling.

You can watch and listen to the full “Our Line Starts” podcast in the video above. The episode is also included at the bottom of this post. Here’s the specific clip discussing Adams and the inexperience issue:

Sabres present a colossal challenge for GM Adams, even ignoring inexperience

It’s amusing that Kim and Terry Pegula leaning on “E” buzzwords, especially efficiency, in making this change, being that they’re going with a third inexperienced GM in a row.

Let’s be honest, if there’s an “E” you’d use to describe this Sabres era, it would be “erratic.”

Adams represents the fourth GM the Sabres hired since the Pegulas came into the picture in 2013. Ralph Krueger ranks as their sixth head coach. Both Tim Murray and now Jason Botterill only received three years to make their marks as Sabres GMs.

To be frank, it’s difficult to guess what kind of vision Adams has as GM. In a lengthy discussion with The Athletic’s Tim Graham (sub required), Adams emphasized communication. And, yes, the word “efficient” went around a lot.

But there weren’t a lot of specifics. Just about every team claims that they want to emphasize speed and character, two things Adams did key on.

Adams did indicate that he’ll be working closely with Krueger. There can be some drawbacks to coaches having a lot of say in personnel matters, but considering how disjointed the Sabres are right now, having two top front office members on the same page is a plus.

(Yes, the Sabres are absolutely dealing in small victories right now. That’s what happens when you’re rudderless amid a nine-year playoff drought.)

Can Adams rebuild — not just the roster, but also the front office?

Botterill getting fired and replaced with Adams grabs the headlines. Yet, the Sabres absolutely dismantled their staff, almost top to bottom.

The Athletic’s John Vogl captures how scorched-earth the Sabres “barren” system currently looks (sub required), illustrated quickest in his tweet:


It’s not particularly promising that Adams doesn’t just qualify as inexperienced as a GM. He hasn’t served as an assistant GM, either. He was just promoted to vice president of business administration in September.

To be fair, many of us roll our eyes at NHL teams constantly hiring “retreads.”

Still, this situation makes you wonder if it’s really ideal for a novice. Sabres fans aren’t exactly overflowing with patience right now. Neither is superstar Jack Eichel.

Adams isn’t merely being asked to unearth prospects, or clean up the salary cap. While the Sabres’ messaging hinges on “doing more with less,” they’ll need to restock their front office — at least eventually.

Frankly, I view going short-staffed as short-sighted, at least in the longer term. It’s easy to look at a large staff as bloated. However, a savvy team can save millions merely by investing in an analytics staff that would tell people “No.”

Could a larger analytics emphasis have averted disastrous free agent signings over the years? Possibly. Maybe they could have salvaged more from trading Ryan O'Reilly, if that was unavoidable? It’s pretty easy to see how relatively cheap staff members could save teams millions.

The Sabres do still employ an analytics director (Jason Nightingale), but that doesn’t mean it’s an area of emphasis. I personally believe that is where a team can be more “efficient” than old-school, bigger spending teams.

Sabres at least have time to search for answers

Overall, there are a lot of troubling signs for the Sabres, with the inexperience of Kevyn Adams merely being one of them.

That said, it’s crucial to remember that the Sabres will probably look quite different whenever the 2020-21 season kicks into gear. (Or, gulp, 2021-22? Just 2021, then 2022? We live in uncertain times.)

The key is for important people, particularly the Pegulas, to learn from mistakes. Not even going through a GM search ranks as yet another troubling sign, but maybe inexperience won’t matter as much as some think regarding Adams?

It will be fascinating, and maybe a little frightening, to watch it all play out. Speaking of playing out, enjoy the latest episode of “Our Line Starts” below.

Start-12:45 Breaking down the front office overhaul in Buffalo
12:45-16:35 What will life in the “bubble” be like?
19:10-22:50 Discussion on potential hub cities as the official announcement nears
22:50-34:30 Handicapping some of the major awards

Where else you can listen:




NBC Sports on YouTube:


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

Anson Carter shares profound thoughts on racism in hockey

As Blake Bolden said, Anson Carter created a “mic drop” moment during the latest “Our Line Starts” podcast (also with Jamal Mayers and Liam McHugh).

Carter spoke of a white friend who owns a New York hotel telling him that she’s become “exhausted” about having conversations about race relations. For her, a few days of such conversations left her mentally drained.

“I said, ‘Try having these conversations for 46 years,'” Carter said. “It’s like running a marathon. Training for a marathon, the first time you go out there, you’re exhausted. But, once you start building up that endurance every single day, it becomes a little bit easier. And that is what this is all about.”

Carter continued with a profound point. Many of us have the luxury to “stick to sports” and divest of these conversations when the marathon proves too grueling. Anson Carter does not.

” .. I don’t have that same ability to take the skin off my shoulders like shoulder pads and hang it up and say ‘OK, onto the next thing, I’ll go live my life now,'” Carter said. “This is my reality. And, when you think about it that way, people start to get exactly what everyone’s talking about.”

Wow. You can witness Carter’s “mic drop” moment in the video above this post’s headline, but the full episode is worth your time (and at the bottom of this post).

Anson Carter also appeared on “Lunch Talk Live”

Anson Carter brought some optimism about the future to his “Lunch Talk Live” appearance with Mike Tirico.

He notes that, during his playing days, it felt like “no one was listening.” Tirico and Carter also spoke about “In Union, There’s Strength,” the video Carter put together responding to George Floyd’s death.

“Just because we’re social distancing, doesn’t mean the hockey community is socially distant,” Carter said.

Full episode of Our Line Starts

2:40-5:35 Anson’s inspiration for producing his powerful video
5:35-8:50 Jamal, Blake, and Anson discuss their new role with the NHL
8:50-12:55 How can NHL players make a difference beyond offering support on social media?
12:55-17:10 Ways to foster a more inclusive environment at the youth level
17:10-20:45 Examples of how diversity can lead to positive change in the sport
20:50-24:30 Importance of making people feel comfortable to speak up
24:30-End Anson’s passionate closing remarks

Where else you can listen:




NBC Sports on YouTube:

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

Vladimir Tarasenko fully recovered from shoulder surgery

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Vladimir Tarasenko was close to returning to action prior to the NHL Pause and is ready to play if the 2019-20 season resumes.

The Russian winger required surgery on his left shoulder after sustaining an injury in a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings in late October. No. 91 had three goals and seven assists in the 10 games he played this season.

“He was ready to go,” Blues coach Craig Berube told NBC’s Liam McHugh. “Before we got shut down, he was probably going to be back that week. He did a great job of rehab and taking care of himself. I was really impressed with what he did.”

[RELATED: NHL Power Rankings: The most impressive single season stats]

The Blues currently sit atop the Central Division and Western Conference with a slim two-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche.

“These guys are great athletes. I would say a good week of skating and conditioning work. I think they would probably be in good enough shape to get going again,” Berube said when asked how long it would take his team to get ready after the pause. “It’s probably not enough time but we will be able to do it.”

“We all try to keep in contact,” Berube added. “Our strength coach will send them workouts and things they could do at home. … It’s all about staying healthy and staying in the best shape that you can.”

The Blues hope they will get the opportunity to defend their title and if that comes to fruition, Tarasenko will be in the lineup.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Video: Why the Buffalo Sabres are a threat in the East

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Before the season started, the Buffalo Sabres were earning buzz for all the money owner Terry Pegula invested in the team. Adding high-priced free agents like Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff gets a team noticed in the offseason, but through the team’s first two games it’s their scorers getting it done.

Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville lead the way while getting help from surprise players like Luke Adam help make the Sabres a threat in the Eastern Conference. Ryan Miller isn’t so bad in goal either. Coach Lindy Ruff has been a constant in Buffalo all these years and he very well might have his best team yet this season.

The Versus crew of Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury, and Keith Jones break down what makes the Sabres tick this season.

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