James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

No early hook: Joe Sakic says Patrick Roy will be back as Avs coach


Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic told reporters (including the Denver Post’s Terry Frei) that Patrick Roy will be back as head coach next season.

Of course, this assumes that Joe Sakic gets to make that call.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like Sakic will retain such power, at least based on an account from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The Avalanche stormed out of the gate during Roy’s debut season as a head coach, defying #fancystats to land a surprise playoff berth.

They were unable to close out the Minnesota Wild in a memorable Game 7, and things have really gone downhill from there. In fact, we’ve reached that awkward point where Roy is starting to put an uncomfortable amount of onus (some might say “blame”) on star players, especially Matt Duchene.

The Avs have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and their possession stats remain abysmal.

Is that the fault of Sakic, Roy or a combination of the two? That’s a debate for another day, especially if both Hall-of-Fame players remain employed as polarizing executives.

Kings in driver’s seat for Pacific title after beating Ducks


At their best, the Los Angeles Kings play their best hockey with their backs against the wall. Really, you almost wonder if they’re better off when things are tough.

Thursday presented a challenging situation, as they faced the Anaheim Ducks in a game that could largely determine who might win the Pacific Division title.

With a 2-1 win against the Ducks, the ball is now in the Kings’ court. Simply enough, if the Kings beat the Winnipeg Jets, they’ll take the top spot in the Pacific.

Anaheim, meanwhile, closes out 2015-16 with two road games: at Colorado and at Washington.

It’s still plausible that the Ducks might take the division after all, but the Kings get to decide that as much as Anaheim.

(Whoever loses the race for the Pacific faces the San Jose Sharks, who fell 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.)

2016 NCAA Ice Hockey Championship match set: Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota


There were a ton of meaningful hockey games on Thursday, leading to even bigger ones on Saturday … and not just in the NHL.

The NCAA’s Frozen Four is now whittled down to Saturday’s ice hockey national championship game, as Quinnipiac will take on North Dakota.

Quinnipiac did so by beating Boston College 3-2 while North Dakota defeated Denver 4-2.

To whet your appetite, here are some relevant images and GIFs:

It should be a great part of one of the best nights of the hockey year on Saturday.

It’s official: Blackhawks will begin playoffs on the road


The Chicago Blackhawks don’t know where they’ll begin the 2016 postseason, but they do know that it won’t be in Chicago.

The Dallas Stars and St. Louis both won their games on Thursday, putting them out of reach for the Blackhawks. With that, Chicago is locked into the third spot in the Central Division, so they will begin the first round on the road.

It’s not the first time this team will begin the playoffs in this type of situation, but still …

So, the Blackhawks will face whichever team fails to win the division. At the moment, the Stars are technically in first place thanks to holding the tiebreaker edge, but both Dallas and St. Louis hold 107 standings points.

The Stars close out their season on Saturday against the Nashville Predators while the Blues’ 82nd contest is against the Washington Capitals.

One opponent is far more familiar than the other, yet either way, the Blackhawks face a challenge. Of course, they also know that they’ve jumped over plenty of hurdles before, ones that both the Blues and Stars must clear if they want to take that next step.

With first-ever sweep of Rangers, Isles move to third in Metro (for now)


Here are the things we know, as of Thursday night:

  • The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the top two spots in the Metropolitan Division. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, are one and two in the Atlantic.
  • The Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers are primed for a potentially dramatic three-team race for the two playoff spots that haven’t been decided.
  • For the first time ever, the New York Islanders swept their season series against the New York Rangers.

Now, sweeping the Rangers pushed the Islanders to the third spot in the Metro, but they’re definitely not cemented in that spot.

Instead, the two teams are locked at 99 standings points, only the Isles hold a game in hand over the Rangers. Want to see it visually? Why not:

via NHL.com

Now, the natural reaction for many is “Would you really want to win this race?” The third seed faces the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins while the top wild card squad takes on the Florida Panthers.

Then again, if it’s more important to finish on a hot streak, the Islanders seem like they’re doing the right thing.