[UPDATE: The Canadiens have named Martin St. Louis as interim head coach.]
Things happen quickly in the NHL. Less than a year after taking over as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens and helping lead them to a stunning Stanley Cup Final run, a performance that earned him a three-year contract extension, Dominique Ducharme has been fired by the team.
The team said in a statement on Wednesday that the next head coach will be announced later in the day, and the status of all assistant coaches on the roster remains unchanged.
“We would like to sincerely thank Dominique for his work and contributions to the Montreal Canadiens organization,” general manager Kent Hughes said in the team statement. “At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change.”
The final straw for the Canadiens came on Tuesday night by getting blown out by a New Jersey Devils team that had not only lost 10 of its previous 11 games (including seven in a row), but was also playing without its best player (Jack Hughes). It was just the latest ugly loss in what has quickly become a lost season that has completely changed the overall direction of the franchise. Earlier this season general manager Marc Bergevin was fired, resulting in the hiring of Jeff Gorton to lead hockey operations and Hughes to take over as general manager.
Before the Canadiens hired Hughes, Gorton said that Ducharme would remain as the coach for the remainder of the season.
The Canadiens currently have the worst record in hockey and are on pace for the worst record in franchise history.
Offseason departures (Philip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Tomas Tatar), the unexpected season long absence to key players (Carey Price, Shea Weber), and a lack of progress from young core players (specifically preseason Calder Trophy favorite Cole Caufield) have all added up to this.
There was always an expectation that the Canadiens were going to take a step back this season. Their Stanley Cup Final run was primarily driven by an out-of-this-world performance by Price in net as he put the team on his back in the playoffs, while the unconventional divisional alignment and playoff format also played a role. Had the Canadiens not been in the North Division with the other Canadian teams there is a good chance they do not even qualify for the playoffs in a normal season, let alone go on the run they went on.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.
Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.
Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.
Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.
The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.
Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.
After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.
Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.
MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.
But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”
Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.
“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”
Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.
Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.
Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.
Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.
The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.
Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.
Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.