James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Sakic sheds some light on Roy departure, Avs’ coaching search

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If you were expecting a lot of spicy comments from Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic after Patrick Roy’s staggering resignation, you’re out of luck.

(You also probably haven’t come across a lot of stuffy press conferences.)

One can sniff out the little nuggets of half-truth during these strange times, mind you, but there isn’t a ton of steak or sizzle. (Click here for full audio via the Avalanche.)

You can probably boil down the combination of confusion, spin and contradiction in this tweet from NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika:

Seriously, try to take some of these comments at face value without furrowing your brow:

Eh, whatever.

Maybe Sakic and Roy are still good friends. Maybe they weren’t ever really friends in the first place, but rather colleagues sharing mutual respect.

In the grand scheme of things, their relationship only matters much as far as occasional Avalanche tributes/reunions are concerned.

The most important questions have to do with what’s next, and with the Avs still picking up the pieces at the moment, it’s not surprising that things are still pretty vague.

Maybe the most crucial bit of information about the “immediate” coaching search is that Colorado is unlikely to promote anyone from within, at least to be head coach:

Otherwise, they’ll take as long as they need to, with a goal if not a deadline for that decision.

It’s difficult to handicap such a race for a gig thanks to the hot-potato-timing of Roy’s departure.

Which coaches are even allowed to interview for a possible job in mid-August versus shortly after a season? Who can even wiggle out of a contract if the Avs are interested? Would it just go down to coaches who don’t have a job at all?

Roy put the Avs in a tough spot here; there’s little sense denying that.

Credit the Avalanche for not being nasty about it publicly. In the long run, this could very well be a boon for the organization, but they’ll need to mend some short-term wounds.

Sharks’ secondary marks look hungrier, angrier

via San Jose Sharks
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The San Jose Sharks rolled out “secondary marks” this week, even though they’re not using them on any jerseys during the 2016-17 season.

/scratches head in confusion

Here’s how the team worded it:

The secondary marks will be incorporated into the look and feel of the new campaign for 2016-17. They will be used in a limited number of marketing applications this season. The new marks will first be used in the Los Tiburones jersey giveaway that all fans in attendance to the Sharks game on October 29, 2016 against the Nashville Predators. See more at sjsharks.com/promotions.

The marks will not be replacing the current logos; they are to be used in addition to the current logos. They will not be used on the 2016-17 jerseys.

OK, then.

Check out those secondary marks:

Here’s that “Tiburones” sweater:

The team notes that Terry Smith designed it, which is cool since he created the original Sharks logo.

A quick look at the Sharks’ current duds as a comparison:

So, basically the tweaked logo is an angrier, hungrier Shark that hasn’t had a chance to munch on a hockey stick yet? It certainly isn’t a Buffaslug-level departure that would likely offend many fans, although you never know.

It’s a touch odd that they’re not really doing a whole lot with it, at least next season, however. Perhaps the Sharks are dipping their toes in the water before diving in with a new design, so to speak?

(H/T to Fear the Fin.)

If aging Kings seek hope, they only need to look to the Sharks

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This is part of Los Angeles Kings day at PHT…

Look, the Los Angeles Kings are more or less stuck with what they have.

In some ways, that’s not such a good thing.

Dustin Brown bitterly gave up his captaincy, but his onerous contract is still on the books through 2020-21. Jeff Carter is 31, sometimes a scary age for a sniper. Marian Gaborik probably counts as “an old” 34, considering his troubling history of injuries.

The team is dragging along some problematic contracts, especially if you’re among those who believe that Jonathan Quick is overrated.

So, yeah, there are some problems.

On the other hand, the Kings only need to look to the team that booted them from the first round to see how quickly negative buzz can turn to a deep playoff run.

Many in the hockey world largely gave up on the San Jose Sharks, possibly expecting the team to blow up by trading aging stars like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. While the team was a pre-season favorite for ages, they weren’t atop many lists for 2015-16.

Perceptions seem a lot sunnier in San Jose after their surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, older players and all.

Let’s take a look at a few other reasons for optimism in Los Angeles:

  • They’re not that old: Sure, there are signs of fatigue, but plenty of guys are at or near their prime ages.

Drew Doughty, somehow, is just 26. Anze Kopitar has plenty left in the tank at 28. Jake Muzzin remains worthy of more accolades at age 27, while Tyler Toffoli still has room to climb the ranks of forwards at 24.

Most of the team’s key players are veterans, but not GRIZZLED veterans.

  • The West isn’t necessarily at its best: Look, the Western Conference is still foreboding, yet it’s taken a slight step back.

The Blackhawks seem to suffer a painful loss or two every off-season. St. Louis made some tough free agent decisions. The Stars are paying more than $10 million for paltry goaltending, and so on.

It’s not outrageous to picture a scenario where the Kings win that battle of attrition.

  • They find a strange way of sneaking under the radar: Let’s not forget that the Kings ranked third in the Pacific Division heading into the playoffs before both of their Stanley Cup victories.

They went years without making the playoffs (2002-03 to 2008-09), went two straight postseasons in which they were booted in the first round, then won their first-ever Cup.

Their only division title was the Smythe, everyone. This is a team that’s at its best when it isn’t quite the favorite.

***

Do these ideas erase all the misgivings about the Kings? No, but the point is that stranger things have happened in California.

Without Roy, NHL coaching is more reasonable … and less interesting

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As ludicrous as the timing of Patrick Roy’s departure really is for a coaching search, be happy for Colorado Avalanche fans. By most accounts, Roy’s coaching leaves a lot to be desired.

While you can debate that notion, there’s little denying this much: the NHL isn’t as interesting without Roy.

Yes, the Avalanche might technically be a little more exciting with a coach who can better utilized what is still a talented – if flawed – core. (Imagine speedy, sublimely skilled Nathan MacKinnon playing in an attacking style like that of the Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins, for instance.)

Even so, in an increasingly cookie-cutter league, Roy was an oddball. For those of us who enjoy the wackier side of the game, his departure is a great loss.

The Avalanche are “immediately” searching for a new coach, a process that will no-doubt be challenging considering the context. One challenge they’re unlikely to surmount: finding a stranger coach.

Will any team dominate the bottom of possession stats quite as consistently as Roy’s Avalanche did over the years?

Who will evoke Roy’s former coach Marc Crawford in screaming at Bruce Boudreau with only the glass to separate the two bench bosses?*

Who will boldly empty his net during times when other coaches would merely cross their fingers for an opportune power-play to bail them out?

At least we should take solace in the Jack Adams Award continuing to feel like a flavor of the month trophy, though:

With scoring down, goalies adopting nearly identical techniques and teams slowly – often begrudgingly – giving analytics at least a token glance, the NHL feels like it’s slipping toward homogenization.

We’re likely to see fewer and fewer outright maddening decisions as hockey’s executives gradually become more sophisticated.

That’s mostly a good thing, but sometimes (particularly during the dog days of 82-game seasons) we’ll miss the comic relief/madness of Roy’s dying breed.

* – OK, OK, the answer is “John Tortorella,” but still … the numbers are in decline.

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: