James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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It’s Arizona Coyotes day at PHT

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This has been a difficult journey, yet optimism is in the air in the desert.

If nothing else, it’s easier to see a bright side after 2015-16 than it was after a humbling 2014-15 campaign. Yes, the Arizona Coyotes still have a long way to go, but it’s been a while since they’ve seen so much light at the end of the tunnel.

Most obviously, the Coyotes enjoyed some great early impressions from forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. When you factor in star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, there’s some quality talent in the present to go with all of those futures.

It’s enough to soften the blow of less-convenient facts like four consecutive seasons with a playoff berth.

Off-season

Even with those flashes of brilliance in 2015-16, it’s this summer that emboldens positive outlooks.

Change is in the air for a franchise that, if nothing else, is at least seeing its arena and ownership issues fade from the foreground to the background.

Ridiculously young GM John Chayka didn’t just raise some eyebrows in taking over; he’s already made some bold moves to accelerate Arizona’s rebuilding process.

Alex Goligoski was wooed into town, giving the Coyotes another fleet defenseman to complement “OEL.” Chakya also made some moves to acquire Jakob Chychrun, an interesting prospect who once seemed to boast top-five draft potential.

The Coyotes already boasted a farm system bursting with talent, and players like Domi are showing that all that potential can come to fruition. The likes of Dylan Strome and Chychrun may not be very far behind.

The smart money is on the 2016-17 season featuring continued growing pains. Even so, other franchises are likely feeling these young Coyotes’ footsteps.

So, odds seem high that Las Vegas NHL team will have ‘hawks’ in name

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Uh oh gang, we may no longer be able to refer to the Chicago Blackhawks as the ‘Hawks.

(Everyone does that, right?)

Sports Logos.net and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Carp report that Bill Foley, owner of Las Vegas’ NHL expansion team, has the option of using three hawks-oriented names: Nighthawks, Desert Hawks and Red Hawks.

Carp also reports that two other names “are being processed” but haven’t been disclosed. He believes that Nighthawks might be the winner.

(Yes, in case you’re wondering, Nighthawk was the name of a not-particularly-beloved superhero. Marvel pumped out a series, according to a cursory Google search.)

Carp also notes that the NHL prohibits the use of gambling terms in the team name, so don’t expect Foley to have an, erm, ace up his sleeve.

Baertschi will live in a cage to raise money for animal charity

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Sven Baertschi says “I hope I can get out,” and he’s not talking about the Vancouver Canucks organization.

(Sorry, that joke was low-hanging fruit.)

No, as NHL.com reports, the Canucks forward is staying in a kennel with his girlfriend Laura Calvert on Friday until they raise $4K for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

It’s not the first time he’s helped out a charitable cause, from kids to critters.

“We do a lot of stuff here with people and children’s hospitals, and it’s an awesome thing to do,” Baertschi said. “But we can’t forget about our best friends. [Animals] are a big part of our lives. … There are cats in need. There are dogs in need. And sometimes people forget about it. So we’re trying to bring awareness to local dog shelters and all these animals that are left out in the world.”

Baertschi’s Twitter feed is dog-heavy, even by Twitter terms. Though, by the looks of his pup “Bear,” it’s tough to blame him.

Dawww.

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.)