Tocchet’s Canucks

By: Brayden Fengler / February 10, 2023  

Canucks fans have been able to watch Tocchet’s version of the Canucks for seven games now, with some taking place before the All-Star game and some taking place after, some taking place with Bo Horvat as a Canuck… and some without the former captain as a Canuck.

What have we learned, if anything, from the team’s response to Tocchet as their bench boss so far? How will their new coach impact the club for the rest of this season and beyond? Is everyone on Team Tank, or will we see another new coach bump that blows up that strategy?

The First Games with Tocchet

Old coach or new coach, these are still the Vancouver Canucks and their record with Tocchet remains a mixed bag. Just in looking at the Canucks first two games under coach Rick, games in which they still had their former Captain Bo Horvat at the helm, it was clear to see that this team’s issues would not be so quickly fixed by their bench boss.

In Tocchet’s first game as the Canucks’ coach, the team performed well against a basement-dwelling Chicago Blackhawks team. The Blackhawks currently sit as one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League. Vancouver won 5-2 in a messy but decisive game.

The Canucks lackluster capabilities were reaffirmed in their next game in Seattle, where a much stronger Kraken team torched the Canucks 6-1.

This game was not only Tocchet’s first loss while in charge of the team, but it was also the team’s first-ever loss to Seattle since their introduction into the league last year. The loss was hardly surprising given the overall trajectory of the two teams’ performances this season. Nevertheless, the loss felt sizable for the Canucks, and was only amplified by the sarcastic chants of “Bruce there it is” from Seattle fans.

The Canucks last game before the All-Star break had the team face off against the Blue Jackets, who are literally, not figuratively, but literally the worst team in the NHL. Tocchet and the Canucks gave the Jackets the same treatment that they gave Chicago; the old “We’re too good to lose to bad teams, but far too bad to win against good ones” routine, beating the Jackets by the same score that they beat Chicago by, 5-2.

The All-Star break was an eventful time for the Canucks, with the January 31st trade of their former captain, Bo Horvat, to the New York Islanders. This trade saw the first useful tool removed from Tocchet’s toolbox; Rick’s efforts to ice an effective version of this team will be hindered without Bo.

The next Canucks game would come against the New Jersey Devils. In this game, Tocchet heavily relied on the Quinn Hughes/Ethan Bear pairing and the Canucks went to overtime, but ultimately fell short. Following this loss, Vancouver played the New York Rangers, where despite Tocchet once again leaning on the duo, the Canucks fell to the Rangers in a narrow 3-2 loss.

That then brings us to the Canucks’ first game against their former Captain, as Vancouver faced and beat the Islanders in Thursday nights contest on Long Island. Bo Horvat had two points on the night, one in the form of a goal and one in the form of an assist. But as many Canucks fans who are well versed in the history of Canucks luck were likely surprised to see, Horvat, with his better team, did not blow Vancouver out of the water.

It was a high scoring sloppy Canucks win, but it was a Canuck win at 6-5. Noah Dobson’s goal in the final minute of the third hinted at the possibility of overtime, but Tocchet’s Canucks kept the goals against to five and left victorious. Elias Pettersson stood out as always, with 2 goals and one assist, and Brock Boeser even had himself a night for the first time under Tocchet’s regime, earning himself three apples, and a goal of his own. Before last night Boeser only had four points in total during his time playing under Tocchet.

Stand Out Stars Under Tocchet

While the team may still be floundering under Tocchet, there are a few players that have shown that they can produce under his playstyle.

Pettersson, Hughes and Miller are producing under their new coach. They have all remained as point-per-game players since the coaching swap. Miller’s plus-minus record is even positive under his new coach (+3). Although it’s not a perfect stat for capturing overall defensive ability, it is a positive considering his season total is sitting at -14.

Now, no one is thinking that Tocchet has solved J.T.’s backchecking issues already, but Miller’s reception to the new coach is encouraging. Since the club is tied to Miller for many year’s into the future, this is a good sign that Miller is taking to their new coach.

A surprising player under Tocchet is Conor Garland. Before Tocchet, he was a .6 point-per-game player, but over the last six games, he’s been up there with the three previous players mentioned and has a healthy split of 2 goals and 3 assists. Garland’s shooting percentage is also at 16.7%, compared to his season average of just under 10%. Why is this all surprising? Well, last season when Bruce Boudreau took over as the new coach of the Canucks, Garland was one of the only players that did not benefit from the “new coach bump” that the rest of the team experienced.

Garland’s numbers dwindled during his time under coach Bruce, so it’s rewarding for fans of Garland and his work ethic to see him succeeding under a new bench boss this time around.

Is It Fixed Yet?

Although a few key players are working well with this new coach, and the club has won a few games against a few bad teams, it seems the Canucks may not be in for the instant run of success that they saw with their new coach last year. In the long run, this is likely a good thing. There is no need to sugarcoat it; this team cannot afford to give management or ownership any reason to think that they are better than they are.

If Tocchet’s Canucks continue to struggle, that will only serve to highlight the holes in the lineup that need to be permanently patched. Tocchet is still figuring out this team, and this team is still figuring out Tocchet. If it takes all season for them to figure each other out, well, that would be okay. It may justify bringing Tocchet in mid-season, as it will give the club more time to build out their new systems.

Hopefully, by this time next year Rick and the Canucks will be giving us some good things to Tocchet bout. They don’t need to feel pressured to do it right now.