James O'Brien

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30: Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche attend the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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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

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 16:  Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates his power play goal with Brent Burns #88 to take a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on April 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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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

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Seth Jones #3 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on March 31, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Blkue Jackets 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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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

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: A young fan looks on as Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins warms up prior to the game against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   (Photo by Justin K. Aller/ Getty Images)
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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.)

NHL GMs: Beware of making deals with the Devils

VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers along with goalie Cory Schneider #35 and Jannik Hansen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks watch the puck bounce into the corner during the first period in NHL action on December 26, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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This post’s main image features Taylor Hall and Cory Schneider wearing the jerseys of the teams who likely wish they got better deals from the New Jersey Devils.

Even Kool-Aid-sipping Devils superfans will probably admit that the Devils have a ways to go, which means GM Ray Shero likely won’t be shy to make more trade calls.

So, with that in mind, here’s some advice to other general managers: you might be making a deal with the devil when you trade with the Devils.

Let’s look at some recent Devils trades (from the end of the Lou Lamoriello era to Shero’s early days):

  • In 2014-15, they turned the last months of Jaromir Jagr‘s contract into one second-round and one third-round pick. During that same deadline, they grabbed a third-rounder for Marek Zidlicky.

This past deadline, they got nice production out of PTO success Lee Stempniak and then turned his expiring contract into a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder.

  • Picks haven’t always been going New Jersey’s way, but when they give up theirs, they’ve been getting guys who end up sticking with the team and strengthening the core.

Most prominently, the Devils sent a first-rounder (eventually Bo Horvat) to Vancouver for Cory Schneider. They managed to re-sign him for a reasonable price, locking up one of the NHL’s rare elite goalies. All apologies to Horvat, but that’s a big win for the Devils.

Kyle Palmieri seems like another great trade addition, albeit not on the Schneider scale.

Sending a 2015 second-rounder and a 2016 third-rounder away to Anaheim seems like a perfectly fair price for Palmieri, a player who figures to be a top-six forward for the Devils for some time.

  • Of course, this summer featured the blockbuster Taylor Hall trade.

Yes, losing Adam Larsson hurts, but the end result is another big win for New Jersey.

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No doubt, there have been some growing pains in Newark. That said, the transition from Lamoriello to Shero is looking awfully positive, and trades likely play the biggest role in that brighter outlook.

So, other GMs, practice this line when Shero or an associate calls you: “That’s a great trade offer, but let me think about it.”

Or maybe just block any call from a New Jersey area code, just to be safe.