Scott Hartnell

Scott Hartnell on transitioning to media, his outdoor game experience, Gritty (PHT Q&A)

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Retirement has been good for Scott Hartnell. The 17-year NHL veteran announced his retirement in October and has been using the time away from the game to spend it with his family. He certainly doesn’t miss the traveling or the grind of an 82-game season, but definitely misses being around his teammates on a daily basis.

“But when you know, you know,” Hartnell told Pro Hockey Talk this week about retiring. “It was time for me to walk away from the game. I’ve just really, really enjoyed my time away.”

Following a few on-air stints in the off-season, Hartnell joined NHL Network this week as a studio analyst and will debut during this weekend’s coverage of the Stadium Series game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins from Lincoln Financial Field.

While still playing, Hartnell said he would run into on-air personalities who told him he would be great on TV. Since then, trying TV out was in the back of his mind and he’s eager for the opportunity.

“Right now, it’s just kind of me getting my feet wet here with NHL Network and looking to do more shows, get more involved and feel more comfortable,” he said.

We spoke with Hartnell this week about the balance of being a former player and using criticism in his new role, his outdoor game experience, Carter Hart, and, of course, his new pal Gritty.

Enjoy.

Q. As you were nearing the end of your playing days, did you start thinking about what you wanted to do post-hockey?

HARTNELL: “Yeah, I remember somebody asked me after my first year ‘What are you after hockey? It’s not going to last forever.’ I was like, oh, I’m going to play until my mid-30s, and chances were that wasn’t going to be the case. Fast forward 17 years and that was the case. Reality is I’ve got a good support system around me, still have talk to my agent, still have some good friends that are still playing and some friends that retired. You just kind of lean on all of those people and your friendships over the years. Obviously things work out and you kind of go in the direction where some things are interesting for you.”

Q. How do you think you’ll be able to balance your relationships in the game and sometimes having to be critical of friends, ex-teammates and teams you played for?

HARTNELL: “I don’t think I want to be one of those guys where you just absolutely bury a guy for not taking a hit to make the play, where if I was a teammate I probably would have said something. I don’t want to be that guy on TV; you kind of ruin some friendships along the way. There’s a fine line where I think you can constructively criticize and to get your point across without hurting anybody’s feelings.”

Q. How did you view the role of the media as a player?

HARTNELL: “I’m not going to lie, some days it’s more annoying than other days. Some days you’ve got to face the music when there’s a bad play or a bad turnover. Some days are fun, like when you’ve got a hat trick or scored a big goal or made a play that made a difference in the game. It all depends day-to-day. When you’re losing hockey games the media sucks. When you’re winning hockey games it’s let them come in early, right? There’s so many different scenarios.

“To be on the other side of a microphone, thinking of questions, asking questions, it’s very different, very uncomfortable right now.”

Q. You were able to play in two outdoor games with the Flyers in your career, one at home, one away. From your experience, would you say that being the home team is a little tougher going into it compared to the road team where it’s like a business trip with fewer distractions of family and people hitting you up for tickets?

HARTNELL: “Yes and no. Obviously you have some friends that are asking for tickets, you don’t want to say no. The one I played on the road [2010 Winter Classic in Boston], I had some family come in for that. It was standard. You want to take care of the tickets a couple days before the game so you’re not thinking of who I have to leave passes for and those kind of things. That was my kind of rule. If you ask the day of the game, I won’t even answer my phone. 

“It’s fun when it’s a big rivalry like with Pittsburgh. Flyers have made a great push, it’s at the Linc. It’s going to be a wonderful atmosphere.”

Q. Having played in Philadelphia, knowing the history of the franchise, are you amazed at how Carter Hart has come in, especially when he was called up, and helped lead a turnaround?

HARTNELL: “It’s exciting. I think fans were getting sick and tired of the losing, the uncompetitive play. One kid and obviously a couple of changes behind the bench and in the front office, it’s totally turned the mentality of the team. Talking to guys, the room is fun to be in now. Those first few games when Hart was in net, you felt like they were playing better defense, they were stepping into shots, they were not trying to get out of the way of a shot. It’s really fun to see that fire back in the dressing room and that correlates to the ice.”

Q. Finally, what was it like to spend a day with Gritty?

HARTNELL: “That guy is my best friend. He’s awesome. He’s quite the personality. I didn’t think it would go over as well. I was thinking, ‘Oh, boy, can’t wait to see this one fail.’ It’s been hilarious. The personality of him is great, how he’s up there skating with kids and running them over. I’m a big fan and enjoy him.”

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Liam McHugh will anchor studio coverage on-site in Philadelphia alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones, and Jeremy Roenick.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Scott Hartnell raises stakes in his own ceremonial puck drop

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It’s not often you see intense faceoffs during a ceremonial puck drop — like never — but there isn’t always a financial gain to be had attached to them, either.

That was apparently the case on Thursday night in Philadelphia as the Flyers were hosting the Nashville Predators and honoring former Flyer and former Predator Scott Hartnell before the game.

Here’s the puck drop:

According to Dave Isaac of USA Today, Hartnell put both Preds captain Roman Josi and Flyers captain Claude Giroux — both former teammates — up to it, offering the winner of the draw $100.

Giroux got a little richer, it seems.

Hartnell was drafted by the Predators in the first round, sixth overall in 2000 and suited up in 498 games with the club, including finishing his career there last season.

Between his two stints in Nashville, he had stops in Columbus for three seasons and Philly for seven before that, where he played 517 games.

Hartnell seemed to have quite the day in his return to Philly, where he and the now infamous Gritty befriended one another.

It’s not hard to see why these two get along so well.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rinne, Predators hand Blues their sixth straight loss in 4-0 win

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The thought of the St. Louis Blues missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs a couple months ago would have been brushed fiercely, and with good reason.

Even with a packed infirmary, the Blues managed to hang with the big boys atop the Central Division, a testament to their depth. Everything was pretty much status quo, what we’ve come to expect from the Blues as a perennial playoff team with lots of talent.

And then the wheels fell off.

The Blues lost their sixth straight game on Sunday, a 4-0 defeat to a Nashville Predators team that they previously shared a table with in the NHL’s toughest division.

Now, the Blues are now fighting for a playoff spot. They sit a point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference and two points back of the Minnesota Wild for third in the Central Division.

The Blues are now 0-5-1 in their past six and have scored two goals or fewer in seven of their past 10 games, including being shutout twice. The once-reliable scoring well has dried up. St. Louis was shutout 4-0 on Friday night against Winnipeg in an embarrassing effort. Sunday’s wasn’t much different.

Nashville, meanwhile, continues to cruise and regained sole possession of top spot in the Central Division, two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets with a game in hand.

The win also put the Predators a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for tops in the Western Conference and two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning at the summit in the NHL.

Along with Sissons’ goal, Kevin Fiala notched his 20th to five the Preds a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

Everything went right for the Preds, even when they were shorthanded.

Watson’s shorty made it 4-0 after Scott Hartnell gave Nashville a 3-0 lead 1:20 into the second period.

That nice orange-red circle in front of Jake Allen is pretty telling.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, was solid in the crease for the Predators, picking up his sixth shutout of the season and 49th of career in a 27-save performance.

The Predators, who have now won four straight, get their stiffest challenge yet against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. On the line is first place in the division, a spot both teams will likely duke out for heading down the home stretch.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Poll: Will Columbus win its first playoff series?

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Since the Columbus Blue Jackets’ debut in 2000, they have made the playoffs twice and won just two postseason games. So it would be fair to label their 2015-16 campaign as successful if they make the playoffs, but is it unreasonable to put expectations higher than that?

Columbus had a 42-35-5 record last season and while that might not be great, it is actually impressive when you consider all the injuries that team had to endure. The Blue Jackets suffered 508 man games lost last season, which surpassed the old franchise record by over 100 games, per the Columbus Dispatch. At the other end of the spectrum, Man Games Lost put the Canadiens’ figure at just 88. The Stanley Cup finalists — Tampa Bay and Chicago — had 168 and 158 respectively.

In fact, Columbus was so unlucky that if you added up all the man games lost from the Canadiens, Rangers, Kings, and Blues, you would still arrive at a number lower than the Blue Jackets alone.

Which begs the question: How much better could Columbus have done if the team stayed healthy? We’ll never get the answer to that because the Blue Jackets made a big splash this summer by acquiring Brandon Saad. He’ll bring with a wealth of experience despite the fact that he’s just 22 years old and provide the team with another significant offensive weapon along with Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, and Scott Hartnell.

Then there’s also the question of if Sergei Bobrovsky will bounce back after struggled at times during the 2014-15 season. As already touched on, the Blue Jackets need him to play like an elite goaltender. If he does manage to return to his Vezina Trophy-winning form though, then that combined with their improved offense could make Columbus a headache for a lot of teams.

Of course, this is all painting the Blue Jackets in a preferable light. Team president of hockey operations John Davidson described the Blue Jackets’ injury problems last season as “just flat-out bad luck,” but perhaps enough of it was more than that to cause history to repeat itself. Maybe Bobrovsky won’t bounce back. Maybe Foligno, who shattered his career-highs last season at the age of 27, will fall back to Earth.

What do you think is the more likely scenario?

Blue Jackets ’15-16 Outlook

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Columbus’ goal for this year should be simple:

Stay healthy.

Last year, the Blue Jackets led the NHL in man games lost, with 502. That figure derailed what was supposed to be a building block campaign; the year prior, Columbus posted a franchise-high 93 points en route to the first two playoff wins in club history.

While the team isn’t using health issues as an excuse for last year, it does recognize it can’t allow injuries to be so disruptive.

“We need to find better ways to maintain and not have major dips,” head coach Todd Richards said earlier this summer, per NHL.com. “We might have injuries this year, and you’ve got to find ways to stay afloat instead of sinking.”

If they do stay healthy, the Blue Jackets should be a legit playoff contender.

Brandon Saad, acquired in a summer blockbuster from Chicago, will give the team a dynamic, goalscoring power forward up front, presumably to play alongside franchise center Ryan Johansen. Behind those two are a host of capable scorers: Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky, to name a few.

On defense, the picture is murkier.

The club is holding out hope that Ryan Murray, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, is finally over the health issues that derailed his first two NHL campaigns. The 20-year-old, who has the potential to be a top-pairing d-man, only appeared in 12 games last year, after missing 18 in his rookie campaign.

Outside of Murray, the familiar cast of characters remains: Jack Johnson, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin and Dalton Prout, most notably. The Jackets are counting on that crew to improve internally and possibly get a push from prospects like Dillon Heatherington and Michael Paliotta, the latter acquired from Chicago in the Saad deal.

In goal, there are no questions.

Sergei Bobrovsky enters as the clear-cut No.1, coming off a campaign in which he missed significant time to injury and posted below average numbers (.918 save percentage, 2.68 GAA).

The hope is that Bobrovsky will return to the form that saw him win the Vezina two years ago, and that the skaters in front of him will stay healthy. If both those things happen, Columbus will be knocking on the door of playoff contention, and not a team opponents will want to face should it get in.