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 Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, and Philadelphia Flyers have the top storylines in the NHL.
Coyotes Will Play at Arizona State University for Next Three Seasons
The Arizona Coyotes announced on Thursday that it will play the next three seasons at a new multi-purpose arena on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. The Coyotes are expected to pay an estimated $20 million in arena upgrades. The building seats 5000 spectators, which will make it the smallest venue in the NHL.
“We are thrilled that we have arranged to play our home games in Arizona State University’s new multipurpose arena starting next season,” Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said. “This will be an incredible, intimate and exciting fan experience in a state-of-the-art new arena in a fantastic location in the heart of Tempe.
The move marks the first step in the Coyotes’ transition to a permanent home in Tempe, with a proposed arena awaiting approval from the city of Tempe. If all goes to plan, Arizona will begin playing games at its proposed 46-acre entertainment district beginning in 2025-26.
“The National Hockey League thanks Arizona State University for its support of the Coyotes during this transition period and for what will be just its latest major commitment to growing our game in the Valley,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Having made the full-time transition to Division I just seven years ago, ASU hockey already has an NCAA tournament appearance to its credit and now is moving into a new, state-of-the-art facility.
Oilers GM Holland Discusses Team’s Ongoing Struggles, Woodcroft Hiring
Oilers general manager Ken Holland fired head coach Dave Tippett and replaced him with Jay Woodcroft, former head coach of Edmonton’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Bakersfield Condors, on Thursday. The coaching change comes in the midst of a rocky, up-and-down season for the Oilers.
“I think we have some people that can play better than what they’ve played,” Holland said. “Then if you start to win, you start to get some confidence and some swagger. We’ve lost our confidence and we’ve lost our swagger. You’d like to play with the lead a little bit more often. Can we score the first goal more often? The solution probably has to be in the room at this stage of the game.”
Holland believes Woodcroft has what it takes to be an NHL coach and help turn things around in Edmonton. The Oilers are looking to make a run in the postseason this year, but sit six points out of a wild card spot.
“[Woodcroft] has got passion,” Holland said. “He’s got energy. He’s paid his dues. He’s been in a room with top hockey people, good coaches in the NHL. He’s run his own bench. He started out in video, and they’re watching every little thing and he’s got to bring things to the coaches. He watches details. I think for all those reasons, I think he’s an NHL coach.”
Flyers’ Couturier Undergoes Back Surgery, Out for Remainder Season
Flyers forward Sean Couturier will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing back surgery on Friday. He scored 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 29 games until sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 18, 2020, which has kept him out of the lineup since then.
“This wasn’t an issue that was bothering him coming into the year,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “He started having issues in the fall and tried to battle through. We tried to treat things non-surgically, couple epidurals to be exact, to try to resolve the issue that was there. You try to do your best to avoid back surgery if you can, but ultimately the doctor and Sean felt confident that the best way to resolve this going forward was to have this surgical intervention.”
Couturier’s recovery time is set for approximately three months, which means he is expected to be ready for the start of next season. His campaign-ending injury is a huge blow for the Flyers, who are 3-11-3 without him in the lineup. He enters the first year of an eight-year, $62 million contract extension he signed on Aug. 26, 2021, when he returns next season.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers. He lives in Toronto and is a diehard fan of the St. Louis Blues.