NBCSPORTS.com's Jason Brough noted despite the fact an announced crowd "of just 11,697 showed up to Jobing.com Arena" last Saturday for Hurricanes-Coyotes, Coyotes President & CEO Anthony LeBlanc indicated that he is "seeing signs of progress." LeBlanc appeared on KTAR-FM on Wednesday and said, "Our next home game on December 27 against San Jose is going to be a sellout. So, the fact that we’re finally starting to sell out against some of these rivals in California -- that’s a good sign." He added, "From a paid attendance perspective, we’re up somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 percent year over year; sponsorships we can’t even compare to the previous years -- things are going so well for us" (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/19).
BURKE AT WORK: In Calgary, Wes Gilbertson reports Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke's short list of candidates for the team's vacant GM position "will likely include three to six names." If the Flames are "granted permission to chat with all of the hockey minds on Burke’s radar," the search process "could be completed in 30-45 days." However, Burke "would be willing to wait until summer, if necessary, if he doesn’t get the green-light to interview a potential replacement during the season." Burke added that he "won’t be updating the hockey world on his every move" during the search. Burke: "I don’t think it’s best for the hockey club that this turns into a blow-by-blow and a list of candidates. I intend to say as little as possible about who the candidates are and when we might talk to them and what our timing is here" (CALGARY SUN, 12/20).
PIRATES' BOOTY: In Pittsburgh, Bill Brink noted the Pirates' payroll in '13 "rose for the third consecutive season," finishing last season at $74,608,266. That represents "a sizeable increase" from $61.3M at the end of '12, $51.8M after '11 and $44.1M after '10. Despite the increase, the Pirates "ranked 25th out of 30 teams in payroll this past season." Brink: "By all indications, the Pirates payroll will continue to increase" in '14 (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/19).
STRETCHED SOX? In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wonders if fans are "supposed to celebrate the Red Sox’ ability to stay under the luxury tax." The team in '13 "came within $225,666 of cracking" the $178M threshold, which is "good payroll management." Shaughnessy: "But is it the official ceiling for the Sox? Would they nix any deal -- no matter how much it would help the team -- to stay under the luxury-tax threshold?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/20).