February 11 — Comparing Coaching Changes & West Coast Watch

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

CANUCKS ADD GOLDEN EXPERIENCE: Cammi Granato, a two-time Olympian and 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee will join the Vancouver Canucks staff as an assistant general manager. Granato is the second woman to be hired by the Canucks in this role, joining Émilie Castonguay (Jan. 24) and the third to hold this position in the NHL (Angela Gorgone, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 1996-97). 

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: For the second consecutive day, a head coach found himself unemployed. Edmonton fired Dave Tippett and replaced him with Jay Woodcroft, who coached the Oilers’ affiliate Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League. After starting the season with an impressive 16-5-0 record, the Oilers have gone 7-13-3 and are out of a Wild Card spot. 

HOMEWARD BOUND: The Arizona Coyotes finally found a home, announcing they will play at the new arena on the campus of Arizona State University starting next season. Arizona will move from Glendale to Tempe until the 2024-25 season, with an option for 2025-26.

MAYBE IT WASN’T THE COACH: Martin St. Louis’ time in Montreal is off to a rather inauspicious start, as the Canadiens fell 5-2 to the Washington Capitals in the Hall of Fame forward’s coaching debut. Joe Snively sparked Washington’s offense, tallying the first two goals of his NHL career.

LEAKING OIL: On top of firing Tippett, the Edmonton Oilers announced on Thursday that they will be without Zach Kassian and Duncan Keith for the foreseeable future. Kassian will miss 4-8 weeks with a fractured jaw, while Keith is sidelined 2-4 weeks with concussion symptoms.

QUARTERFINALS, CZECH!: Although the Czech Republic didn’t record its first shot against the USA until the second period, they were tied 1-1 with the Americans after 40 minutes of play. However, the USA pulled away in the third period, winning the opening Quarterfinals match of the women’s tournament.

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

Dodge, Dip, DUCK, Dive, and Dodge

It was, in fact, a bold strategy, and it did pay off for him. I am confident in saying Trevor Zegras won the All-Star Weekend. With the Vegas crowd cheering him on during his Dodgeball-inspired shot for the Adidas NHL Breakaway Challenge, the Ducks rookie skated to center ice in Peter La Fleur’s uniform, and honestly, you need to see it. 

A Triumphant Return

Connor Brown missed time for the Ottawa Senators after suffering a broken jaw in Calgary thanks to friendly fire from Thomas Chabot. On Monday night, he returned to the ice and earned two points (one goal and one assist) against the New Jersey Devils. That may have been even better than the Louis Vitton backpack that Chabot gifted him after the injury. 

Marty St. Louis Makes His Debut

It may not have resulted in a win, but St. Louis made his coaching debut last night when the Montreal Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals. Cole Caufield scored in his new coach’s debut, snapping an 18-game goalless streak. There seems to be plenty of buzz around the hire, and the players seem excited to work with him. There is a chance that Montreal may now turn into a fun team to watch the second half of this season. 

A Tale of Two Head Coaches

On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadians fired head coach Dominique Ducharme. He was in the first year of a three-year deal, which he signed after filling in as interim coach when Claude Julien exited last February. Under his leadership, Montreal was a league-worst 8-30-7. To replace Ducharme, the Canadians turned to Martin St. Louis, who will lead the team on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

Then, on Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers fired head coach Dave Tippett. He was in his third year at the helm for Edmonton. Despite having two of the top offensive players in the NHL (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), the Oilers are currently in the midst of a slump. After a 16-5-0 start to the season, they are 7-13-3 since. The team replaced Tippett with Jay Woodcroft, who was coaching the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.

With two NHL teams making head coaching changes this week, let’s get to know the new guys behind the bench. Here are some facts about Martin St. Louis and Jay Woodcroft.

College Hockey Products

  • St. Louis is 46 years old. He was born on June 18, 1975, in Laval, Quebec.
  • At 5-foot-8, size concerns contributed to him having few NCAA suitors. After going with the University of Vermont, he became a three-time All-American for the Catamounts.
  • Woodcroft is 45 years old. He was born on Aug. 11, 1976, in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Played college hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville from 1996 to 2000. Registering 123 points in 113 games.

Professional Playing Career

  • Despite his success at Vermont, there were concerns about his height, leaving him undrafted. He signed with the Calgary Flames in Feb. 1998 and made his NHL debut on Oct. 9, 1998.
  • St. Louis signed with Tampa Bay and broke out with the Lightning in 2002-03, making it to the All-Star Game and helping lead the team to its first playoff series victory in franchise history.
  • In 2003-04, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top point scorer (94 points), won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, and helped the Lightning win their first Stanley Cup.
  • Traded to the New York Rangers in 2014, he won a gold medal with Canada at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
  • Retiring in 2015, the six-time All-Star had played in 1,134 NHL games and recorded 1,033 points (391 goals and 642 assists).
  • Woodcroft never made it to the NHL, but he did play in the ECHL, United Hockey League (UHL), West Coast Hockey League (WCHL), Central Hockey League (CHL), and German Oberliga between 2000 and 2005.
  • He saw 253 games of professional hockey action, recording 65 goals and 83 assists for 148 points.

Post Playing Career

  • St. Louis went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
  • His only prior coaching experience was as a special teams consultant for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019.
  • Woodcroft began his coaching career in 2008 when he was named an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks under Todd McLellan.
  • Along with McLellan and a couple of other assistants, he was let go by the Sharks in 2015.
  • When the Edmonton Oilers named McLellan head coach in July 2015, Woodcroft joined his staff.
  • In April 2018, the Oilers appointed him head coach of their AHL team in Bakersfield.

Second Half Preview: Pacific Division

The end of the week brings the last of our post-All-Star second-half preview series as we wrap up with the Pacific Division. An injury-marred and somewhat underwhelming first half from the favored Vegas Golden Knights opened the door for a divisional battle, but finding a viable threat has been a bit of a challenge. Now, Jack Eichel’s debut will bring about a new team identity in Sin City and likely keep them afloat atop the Pacific, but plenty remains to play out when it comes to the other playoff slots.

You know the drill by now—time to see where we are!

The Top Dogs

Vegas’ solid but unspectacular play to date has produced the weakest of the four division leaders (59 points in 48 games), so it’s no surprise that things are close at the top. In reality, the points percentage leader in the Pacific is the Calgary Flames, who trail the Golden Knights but have only played 44 games to date. 

The Contenders

There are still at least three playoff spots in play and the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, two California-based clubs at different stages of their respective youth movements, are right in the thick of things. While the Ducks get their spark from a flashy young core that includes Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras, the Kings’ treasure trove of prospects is still taking a back seat to the play of tenured vets like Anže Kopitar and Drew Doughty.

The Also-Rans

The bottom half of the Pacific might be even more fascinating than the top half. I don’t have near the word count available here to delve into the train wreck that is the Edmonton Oilers. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks will be a fascinating team to watch ahead of the trade deadline, even with GM Doug Wilson on medical leave. After a dreadful start and a sudden surge once the Bruce Boudreau-era began, the Vancouver Canucks appear to be back to not being good. And finally, the Seattle Kraken look less like the Golden Knights and more like every other expansion team ever.

NHL Standings

NHL’s Leading Scorers