The daily “NHL Talk” column is your go-to for the top storylines in the NHL, with quotes from players, coaches, managers, and more. Also, listen to THW contributors talk hockey every weekday on The Hockey Writers Podcast, available on iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts.
In this edition of NHL Talk, the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks have the top storylines in the NHL.
Rask Announces Retirement After 15 Seasons With Bruins
After returning from hip surgery and playing four games this season, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask announced his retirement from the NHL on Wednesday. He played 15 seasons in the league, all as a member of the Bruins, and won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
“Today is a day that I hoped would never come. But now that it’s here, I feel I owe it to everyone to hear it from me,” Rask said in a statement. “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. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the game of hockey.”
Not only is Rask a Stanley Cup champion, he is a recipient of the Vezina Trophy (2014) and William M. Jennings Trophy (2020). He made two NHL All-Star appearances, first in 2017 and then again in 2020, and was formerly named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2014 and NHL Second All-Star Team in 2020.
“While I am sad to say goodbye to the game I love, I am so very thankful to have shared these last 15 years with the greatest teammates and fans in the best sports city in the world,” Rask said. “While these experiences were all incredible, what I will remember most about all of them is the bond that I had with my teammates, coaches and team staffs, the memories that we will always have, and the friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Canadiens Fire Ducharme as Head Coach, Hire St. Louis
The Canadiens announced the firing of head coach Dominique Ducharme on Wednesday, naming his replacement as Martin St. Louis. Ducharme’s dismissal comes after an 8-30-7 start to the season, just months after Montreal’s run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
“We would like to sincerely thank Dominique for his work and contributions to the Montreal Canadiens organization. At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change,” Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said.
St. Louis, a native of Laval, Quebec, will replace Ducharme behind the bench. The 46-year-old scored 1,033 points (391 goals, 642 assists) in 1,134 games with the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames between 1998-2015, earning him an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
“It’s a great honor for me to be named the coach of the Montreal Canadiens,” St. Louis said. “I grew up here, I was a big fan of the Canadiens. This is something that I have been preparing myself to do for about 10 years. I was able to disconnect from the pro game for about six, seven years to be able to be with my three boys and my wife. And I’m very blessed to have such a great wife that again allows me to pursue a dream that I always wanted. Thank you for the opportunity.”
Oilers Fire Tippett as Head Coach, Hire Woodcroft
In yet another NHL coaching change, the Oilers fired head coach Dave Tippett on Thursday, naming Jay Woodcroft, head coach of Edmonton’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Bakersfield Condors, as his replacement. In three seasons behind the Oilers’ bench, Tippett’s team posted a 95-62-14 record across three regular-season campaigns and went 1-7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Back on Jan. 11, when the Oilers were in the midst of a seven-game losing skid, general manager Ken Holland had this to say about speculation Tippett’s job could be on the line: “I don’t believe in it, I guess, but I also understand there are times when possibly it needs to be done or it should be done. We’re going to start to win. I believe in the coach. I believe in the team. I believe in the leadership of the team. I believe in their determination.”
Following that seven-game skid, which saw Edmonton go 0-5-2, the Oilers went 5-0-1 heading into the 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend. Since returning from the break, the Oilers were shut out by the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-0, on Tuesday and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-1, on Wednesday.
At the 2022 NHL-All Star Weekend, Oilers captain Connor McDavid had this to say about the Oilers: “I just feel like in the room everyone has their confidence back, everyone has got their mojo back. It’s a good feeling in the room right now.”
Canucks Add Granato to Front Office as Canucks Assistant GM
The Canucks added Cammi Granato to its front office on Thursday, naming her as one of the team’s assistant general managers. She joins fellow female Emilie Castonguay, who joined Vancouver on Jan. 24, under the same job title. Castonguay and Granato are the second and third women, respectively, to be an assistant general manager in NHL history.
“I am honored to join the Vancouver Canucks and the hockey operations leadership group that (president of hockey operations) Jim Rutherford and his team have assembled,” Granato said. “It’s a dream to have an opportunity like this in the city that I call home, and with an exciting young team with championship aspirations.
Granato became the first female pro scout in the NHL when the Seattle Kraken hired her on Sept. 25, 2019. A former player herself, she is a two-time Olympian for Team USA, and served as captain of her country when it won the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. She was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Cammi is a tremendous leader and has earned the respect of the hockey world,” Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said. “She has a great mind for the game and experience and influence at all levels. In her role, Cammi will oversee our player development department and our amateur and pro scouting department. Cammi’s input will also be included in all areas of hockey operations as we leverage the diverse opinions and experience of our new leadership group to build a winning team.”
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Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.