How did your favorite team come up with their nickname?

NHL.gifPicture, if you will, a world where the NHLs most popular team in northern California would hit the ice being introduced as, “Your San Jose Rubber Puckies!” That sounds rather insane, I know, but it almost came to be. Of course, they also might’ve been known as the San Jose Salty Dogs or the San Jose Screaming Squids. Oh, the humanity!

Thankfully sanity prevailed and the Sharks were born. They’re not the only team with a fascinating story to tell though. Thanks to Rob Macneil of Sportsnet, we’ve got the short stories as to where all 30 NHL teams got their now famous nicknames and that narrowly avoided horror story from San Jose is just one of the handful of gems that Macneil discussed.

A couple of the more notable near-disasters include the Nashville Predators who saw a host of new-wave future marketing disasters:

In 1971 Nashville, a nine-inch fang belonging to a saber-toothed tiger was discovered during the construction of an office building. When it was time to name the franchise, three choices were presented, Ice Tigers, Fury and Attack. Owner Craig Leipold then added his own submission to the vote, Predators. Once the contest closed, Predators ended up being the successful pick.

Fury? Attack? These are names that barely function well in indoor lacrosse. Yikes. While the sabre-toothed tiger makes for a great logo, the alternate logo used on the shoulder patches of Predators jerseys featuring a sabre-toothed tiger skull is one of the most haunting and truly intimidating images around. It’s a shame the NHL wouldn’t allow them to use it as a main logo. As always, skulls = money. Every death metal band in existence can’t be wrong, right?

The Minnesota Wild, whose name isn’t exactly a dream come true in the first place, nearly fell to a worse fate: being named poorly after local folk lore.

In 1998, Wild was chosen as a tribute to the state’s wildlife and outdoors reputation. It was chosen from a group of six finalists, beating out the Blue Ox, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Freeze.

If you’re going to name a team after something to do with the story of Paul Bunyan, you might as well just go with Lumberjacks and be done with it. Having the option of “Blue Ox” is reaching too deep to be smart. Besides, just the mere possibility of having Jacques Lemaire suit up in plaid and performing a certain Monty Python skit just has “comedy gold” written all over it.

Finally, if you thought that the Columbus Blue Jackets nickname is inspired yet odd, just be thankful that it was chosen in the first place and pay respect to your veterans while doing so.

When a name-the-team contest was held, over 14,000 entries were received. The name came down to two, ‘Blue Jackets’ and ‘Justice’. The former was chosen to celebrate the Civil War history in the state of Ohio and Columbus. Ohio contributed more residents to the Union Army than any other state, including William Tecumseh Sherman (who led the burning of Atlanta), Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, and George Custer.

That’s a truly great story and I think we’re all happy that the Columbus Justice aren’t in existence. What we’re all still trying to figure out is just how a neon green insect came to don the colors of the Union army in the first place.

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    Looking to make the leap: Nikita Zaitsev

    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev #2 of Russia dumps the puck in as forward Cody Eakin #21 of Canada tries to block the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Group B game between Canada and Russia on December 26, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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    This post is part of Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT…

    “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The physical part of the game will be different for him in the NHL, but the way he moves the puck and skates and how defensive you now have to be to play, it just really makes you think he can be really successful for the Leafs.”

    That quote was from former NHL defenseman Ryan Whitney, speaking in May about newly minted Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who went up against Whitney in the KHL.

    So needless to say, expectations for Zaitsev this season are fairly high.

    And they’re high for reason. At 24, the undrafted blueliner has a wealth of professional experience — seven full campaigns, split between Novosibirsk and CSKA Moscow — and really came into his own over the last few years. He routinely led CSKA in d-man scoring, and was named a KHL first-team all-star in ’14-15.

    That pedigree should translate into plenty of opportunities in Toronto.

    And hey, Toronto has plenty of opportunities to offer.

    It’s likely one of the big reasons Zaitsev chose the Leafs over other interested suitors like Calgary, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (per Sportsnet). The Leafs are still in the early stages of their rebuild, and it shows on defense — based on current projections, Zaitsev could open as a top-four guy alongside Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Matt Hunwick, leapfrogging the likes of Martin Maricin, Roman Polak and Connor Carrick in the process.

    The great unknown, of course, is how his success in the KHL will translate into North America. Every NHL club is hoping to land the next Artemi Panarin, but it’s important to remember that 1) Panarin is a forward, and 2) jumped onto a line next to Patrick Kane.

    The transition for defenders has generally been tougher, something folks in Philly saw last year with the failed Evgeny Medvedev experience.

    Of course, Zaitsev has a few more things going for him than his fellow Russian. He’s younger than Medvedev by nearly a decade, and is a coveted right-handed shot (Medvedev’s a lefty).

    And like most players coming over from the KHL, Zaitsev’s on a one-year, performance bonus-laden contract that amounts to a “prove it” deal in the NHL.

    That should be enough motivation to help him make the leap.

    And if it’s not, there’s always the leap back to Russia.

    ‘Canes extend GM Francis, who’s ‘rebuilt our organization the right way’

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    The Carolina Hurricanes locked in a key part — arguably the most key part — of their rebuild on Tuesday, signing GM Rom Francis to a contract extension through the 2018-19 campaign.

    “Ron has rebuilt our organization the right way, stocking our team and system with young players who will help this franchise compete for the Stanley Cup year in and year out,” club owner Peter Karmanos said in a release. “I’m thrilled that he will continue to see the job through.

    “The future is very bright for the Hurricanes in Carolina.”

    Francis, 53, has been on the job in Carolina for the past two years, and has done a terrific job of stockpiling young talent through the draft and via trade: Noah Hanifin, Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier, to name a few.

    Francis was also instrumental in hiring head coach Bill Peters. At the time of the hire, Peters was something of an unknown — an under-the-radar assistant with no NHL head coaching experience — but has since developed into one of the game’s more respected bench bosses.

    Peters was named the bench boss for Team Canada at the most recent world championship, and led the country to gold.

    This fall, he’ll reprise his role as Mike Babcock’s assistant for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey.

    “When you go back a couple years ago, there were a lot of questions about who we had hired,” Francis explained in July, when he extended Peters’ contract through 2019. “[Peters] wasn’t really well known, but in the two years he’s been here, he’s done a tremendous job.”

    For all the praise Francis has received during his short time on the job in Carolina, there is one area of concern — goaltending. This summer, Francis made the curious move of bringing Cam Ward back on a two-year deal, resurrecting the Ward-Eddie Lack tandem that struggled at times last season.

    It’ll be interesting to see how that move plays out.

    It’s Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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    In a lot of ways, the 2015-16 season represented more of the same for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The results were nearly identical to 2014-15, right down to finishing in the basement of the East (69 points last season, 68 the one the year before).

    Indeed, Brendan Shanahan is probably correct in saying that the Maple Leafs earned the No. 1 pick “the hard way,” or at least “earned” the higher draft lottery odds that helped them land Auston Matthews.

    The big question, really, is how long will fans be patient with the Maple Leafs taking baby steps in the right direction?

    Off-season

    Naturally, the team tried to make more a leap forward in seeking Steven Stamkos and, to a less dramatic extent, Jimmy Vesey.

    They fell short in those regards, but that doesn’t mean that management merely idled while hoping for improvements from in-house development.

    The Maple Leafs made bold changes in net, ending the Jonathan Bernier era while betting big on Frederik Andersen and also bringing in a promising backup in Jhonas Enroth.

    Beyond those big moves in net, the Maple Leafs made some minor adjustments. They handed surprising money and term to Matt Martin while taking short-term fliers on veterans Milan Michalek and Roman Polak.

    On paper, this team still looks quite a few steps away from being a playoff contender, but perhaps we’ll start to see things come together?

    A lot of that rides on the work of Matthews, Morgan Rielly and other young players (William Nylander, Mitch Marner) who may or may not make a lasting impact on the regular season roster.

    Will the rebuilding plan start to pay dividends? PHT explores the iconic franchise on Tuesday.

    Keep your head up: Hurricanes reportedly hand Raffi Torres a PTO

    VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 3:  Raffi Torres #13 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks for a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, May 03, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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    From opting against fighting the NHL’s 41-game suspension to seeing his season derailed by knee issues, there was the feeling that the league had seen the last of controversial forward Raffi Torres.

    Perhaps not.

    The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly handed the 34-year-old a PTO, according to former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward.

    It’s something the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander also mentioned on Monday.

    With Bryan Bickell added to the mix during this off-season, the Hurricanes seem interesting in adding some beef. It’s unclear if Torres is really in the sort of condition to make a mark, but Carolina’s going to at least take a look at him.

    Beware, pre-season opponents and training camp teammates.