Happy Valentines Day, beloved readers! The NHL was back to business as usual last week. Coaches were hired. Coaches were fired. There was a retirement, a suspension, and an announcement of a — shall we say unorthodox — arrangement between a team and an arena. It’s all covered in this week’s Snap Shots.
1. Brad Marchand Suspended for 6 Games
Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was suspended for six games last week for his actions in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming the most-suspended player in NHL history. Marchand punched Pens’ netminder Tristian Jarry in the head during a stoppage of play — Jarry was on his knees after making a save — and then later hit Jarry in the head with his stick while the linesman was escorting him off the ice. You can view Marchand’s latest antics in the above video.
This is Marchand’s eighth suspension. He will forfeit $448,170.72 of his salary. Here is what Marchand told Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic about his latest transgression:
“Was it stupid? Of course it was stupid. I’m not denying that. I absolutely should not have done it. But suspension-worthy? I don’t think so.” (source)
So, the guy who has been suspended eight times in his career does not think that punching a goalie in the head, and then following up with a slash to the head for good measure, is not worthy of a suspension? This is coming from a guy who has also been suspended for:
• Elbowing (2 games)
• Low-Bridge Hit (5 games)
• Slew-Footing (2 games)
• Clipping (3 games)
• Spearing (2 games)
• Elbowing — again (5 games)
• Slew-Footing — again (3 games)
Notice that all of these suspensions were for willful violent acts — not for “hockey plays” that went awry, like a check that (accidentally or not) hits an opponent in the head, or a bodycheck that becomes boarding. If you elbow, slew-foot, or — in the latest case — punch a guy in the side of the head and it isn’t a fight — those are all pretty intentional acts.
Marchand is now the most-suspended player in NHL history and has lost a total of $1,419,568.33 in salary over the course of his 13-year NHL career.
2. Tuukka Rask Retires
Even more news out of Boston this week, as longtime Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask announced his retirement on Wednesday after a short-lived, four-game comeback. Here is his full retirement announcement that he posted to Twitter:
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 9, 2022
It is always unfortunate to see any NHL player retire before they are ready too; I think we all wish our favorite NHLers would get the “Lanny McDonald” or “Ray Bourque” ending to their careers, where they win the Stanley Cup in their late 30s or early 40s, and then skate off into the sunset and retire as a champion.
But many times, a player retires because he can’t do what he once was able to do, as in Rask’s case. “Over these last few weeks, I’ve realized that my body is not responding the way it needs to for me to play at the level I expect of myself and that my teammates and Bruins fans deserve,” he said in his statement. Rask re-injured himself on January 24 and hadn’t played since.
Rask spent his entire 15-year career, from 2007-08 to 2021-22, with the Bruins, and retires as the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (308) and saves (14,345). He is second-all time in Bruins history with a 2.10 goals against average, behind Tiny Thompson, who posted a 1.99 GAA from 1928 to 1938.
Hopefully, Rask stays involved in hockey, either as a coach or team executive.
3. Habs Fire Ducharme, Hire St. Louis
Also taking place last Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Dominique Ducharme and replaced him with Martin St. Louis.
Ducharme was promoted from assistant to head coach midway through last season when the team fired Claude Julien. Over parts of two seasons, Ducharme compiled a 23-46-14 record, though he was 13-6 in the 2021 postseason, when the Habs made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
St. Louis, who is serving at the Canadiens’ head coach on an interim basis, has no head coaching experience at any significant level: not the NHL, the minors, major junior, or collegiate. He did serve as a special teams consultant for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019….and that’s it. Really odd that the Canadiens would hire a guy with no experience unless they really have no intentions of retaining him when the season is over.
4. Oilers Fire Tippet, Hire Woodcroft
There was another coaching change last week! The Edmonton Oilers fired Dave Tippett and replaced him with Jay Woodcroft this past Thursday. The Oilers have five wins, six losses, and two overtime losses since the start of 2022. Their last two games under Tippett were particularly bad, first losing 4-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights and then 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks a night later.
Woodcroft has consistently worked in coaching since 2006-07, when he was a video coach with the Detroit Red Wings. He moved up through the coaching ranks as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks and Oilers, before taking over head coaching duties for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL. Last year, Woodcroft guided the Condors to a Calder Cup Championship, so this seems like a good time to let him prove that he belongs in the NHL. Woodcroft was brought up on an interim basis, as was Dave Manson — his assistant in Bakersfield since 2018. Manson replaces assistant coach Jim Playfair, who was also fired.
Since the coaching change, the Oilers beat the New York Islanders on Friday 3-1. Woodcroft has his work cut out for him, as the Oilers are set to play five games over the next seven days.
5. Coyotes to Play at College Rink
Perhaps the strangest news last week was when the Arizona Coyotes announced that they will play the next three seasons in a facility owned by Arizona State University. The ‘Yotes could not work out an extension with their current venue, Gila River Arena, in Glendale. So, they have to play somewhere during the next three seasons until they can build their own rink. That somewhere just happens to be a newly-constructed multisport facility owned by ASU in Tempe, AZ.
In summary, an NHL team will be renting ice from a college team.
Let that sink in a minute.
Also, ASU’s facility is a lot smaller. Gila River Arena seats up to 17,125 for a hockey game, while ASU’s new rink will seat about 5,000. According to ESPN, the Coyotes have averaged around 11,000 fans in attendance per game this season.
But when asked if the Coyotes would lose a lot of ticket revenue at the NHL All-Star Game earlier this month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that there were some projections where the Coyotes would actually make more money playing at ASU instead of Gila River Arena.
“This will tell you why they need a new arena: We’re not sure they’re going to be a material difference between their revenues at ASU than where they’re at a level at Glendale,” Bettman said. “In fact, under one projection we’ve done, we think they may do better.” (source)
Maybe because they can charge $30 for a beer at their temporary rink? Otherwise, selling 5,000 tickets instead of 11,000 tickets seems less profitable.
Bettman also stated that the NBA’s Phoenix Suns had no desire to share their facility, Footprint Center, with the Coyotes, and that the ASU arrangement is a temporary fix until the team can build its own arena.
The Coyotes will still practice at their own facility, Ice Den Scottsdale. Their agreement with ASU is for the next three seasons (2022-23 to 2024-25) with an option to extend the deal by another season. You can read the full press release here.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■