James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Shock and Roy: Twitter reacts to Avs’ big change

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Most of us – probably Colorado Avalanche management included – reacted to the news of Patrick Roy’s resignation with something between a “Huh?” to a “What what what?”

Once everyone on social media had a chance to collect their thoughts, there was a bevvy of amusing comments and even the occasional words of wisdom.

Remarkably, even one person seemed to think that the Avalanche are worse off without Roy pulling the strings as head coach:

Yes, BryanC314 appeared to be in the minority there.

Let’s take a look at some of the most amusing and interesting reactions to Roy’s resignation, then.

The pulling the goalies early division

One of Roy’s lasting strategic influences involved emptying his net in very bold ways.

As much as his strategies often seemed to balk at analytics, many believe that coaches don’t pull their goalies soon enough in most cases. It’s a lot like NFL head coaches being too squeamish about going for it on fourth down.

Still, the scheme really prompted a lot of humor:

Referencing his Montreal departure

That notorious final game with the Habs got plenty of play, too:

Misc.

Now, some generalized observations:

(Ouch.)

Finally, what might be the best tweet of the bunch:

Roy on his ‘philosophical differences’ with Sakic, Avalanche

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For quite some time when people wanted the Colorado Avalanche to make changes, it seemed like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy were a package deal.

That … obviously wasn’t the case. At least not toward the end of the line.

The hockey world is still coming to grips with the startling, out-of-left field resignation of Roy as Avalanche head coach. It’s becoming clearer that Sakic and Roy didn’t see eye-to-eye on the direction of the team; the main thing in dispute is the bitterness between the two.

It sounds as though the Avalanche were only slightly less blindsided than the rest of the hockey world.

The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle pointed out that the Denver Post mentioned Sakic wasn’t immediately available to comment because he is on vacation.

Moments before this post was going to go up, the Avalanche finally punched up this terse statement:

“Patrick informed me of his decision today,” said Avalanche executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic. “We appreciate all he has done for our organization and wish him the best of luck in the future.”

“We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately,” continued Sakic.

There’s plenty of discussion regarding the relationship between GM Joe Sakic and his former teammate Roy, with every indication being that they had a falling out:

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun caught up with Roy, providing more background on the situation. As you might expect, there’s a mixture of something approaching the truth:

Along with the usual “Don’t read too much into this, people who are reading a lot into this …”

Denver Post reporters Terry Frei and Mike Chambers filled in some of the blanks regarding specific “philosophical differences.”

The bottom line is that the Avalanche need to pick up the pieces. PHT will have more on this fascinating, bewildering development as today rolls on.

Aside: Does the “philosophical differences” line remind anyone else of those sad moments when bands break up? Roy might as well have cited creative differences instead.

Couture dishes on top defensemen, from tattoos to knocking out teeth

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When a hockey post springs up at The Players’ Tribune, it’s always worth a look, and not merely because you’re often getting unique perspectives from active athletes.

The best moments come when you get a little peek behind the curtain, when you get a feel for locker room banter and moments behind the scenes.

Logan Couture trotted out the toughest defensemen he’s ever faced back on August 4, and the list is strong, from obvious picks (Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty) to slightly less famous names (Roman Josi).

Really, though, the esoteric details are the highlight.

For instance: yet another reason to be amused by Brent Burns:

Fun fact: Burnzie got his first tattoo when he was 11 years old. It’s a Canadian flag with two hockey sticks going through it. And his dad took him to get it.

As great as Couture’s analysis of Burns’ traits might be, that tattoo bit is especially fantastic.

The Sharks forward doesn’t just shed light on one of his most talented teammates. His “fun fact” about Mark Giordano sounds quite painful, actually:

Fun fact: Giordano knocked the exact same tooth out of my mouth in back-to-back seasons. Both times were in San Jose off a face-off in the same circle. Both times, the refs didn’t even call a penalty. The second time, I went up to Gio at the end of the period and said, “Man, you got me again. Same toof.”

(Bonus points for “toof.”)

Couture also singled out some of the best two-way centers in that post, and his “Elite Centers 101” post from January is worth a read.

The Players’ Tribune needs more Brent Burns talk, though, honestly. Can’t get enough of that guy.

It’s Columbus Blue Jackets day at PHT

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Much like last summer, the Columbus Blue Jackets are coming off of a disappointing season where they failed to make the playoffs.

While they seemed to swagger through the 2015 summer, particularly in going big to get Brandon Saad, the atmosphere has been pretty meek for Columbus.

How could you puff your chest out after spending quite a lot of money only to finish second-to-last in the East?

Sergei Bobrovsky dealt with injury issues again – to the point that the team hired a specialist to try to fix him and others – but Columbus didn’t have the same health-related excuses in 2015-16 as they did in 2014-15.

Off-season recap

This past regular season brought about an off-season’s worth of big moves, with John Tortorella becoming their new head coach and Seth Jones replacing Ryan Johansen as one of the faces of the franchise.

For better or most likely worse, the Blue Jackets are largely stuck with the group they assembled heading into last season. (Seriously, that salary structure is scary.)

It’s difficult to get too excited about this group heading into next season, from their fragile goalie to a forward group that lacks a first-line center.

The team did make waves with one off-season move, mind you, surprising many when their Finnish GM didn’t take a highly touted Finnish prospect. Instead, Jarmo Kekalainen selected Pierre-Luc Dubois, a decision that will be revisited for years to come.

So, there are a lot of negatives, but it’s not outrageous to imagine this team making big gains, possibly even grabbing a playoff spot.

Bobrovsky’s had health issues, yet he’s still a guy who can make a difference. There are nice young pieces in Jones, Saad, Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner.

Today we explore the many facets of a team hoping to turn things around after some tumultuous times.

Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t deny it: He wants his starting job back

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While Marc-Andre Fleury enjoyed his day with the Stanley Cup, he discussed his goal of usurping Matt Murray, the goalie who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to that latest glory.

OK, that maybe sounds a little sinister, but the point is that Fleury wants “his” net back.

He admitted as much to NHL.com.

“I love Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are my team; I want to stay with them for the rest of my career,” Fleury said. “I had some good conversations with management after the season. Nothing is written in stone. I want to come to camp ready to win my job back. I have to get back to the same level of play and help the team, win games.”

Shortly after Murray fueled the Penguins’ title run, people asked Fleury about his future in Pittsburgh, a question he put off.

There’s always the chance that a trade could happen out of the blue, but at the moment, it looks like Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is sticking to his plan to begin the 2016-17 season with both Fleury and Murray on the roster.

While the Pens received calls about Fleury, trading him would be difficult.

His $5.75 million cap hit wouldn’t be the easiest thing to absorb, and his limited no-trade clause means he can reject a move to 12 different teams.

Let’s not forget that the Penguins won a Cup with Fleury in the net, too (in case that save against Nicklas Lidstrom slipped your mind).

As valuable as Murray is, the circumstances may give Fleury a real chance to make this either a platoon situation or even wrestle the No. 1 gig back.

Long story short, this story might go on a little longer than some might expect.

(H/T to The Score.)