Can Tocchet turns things around?

It’s been less than a week since Bruce Boudreau was replaced by the Rick Tocchet as the new Vancouver Canucks coach.

Fans haven’t exactly responded well to the decision to change leadership with fans brandishing signs like ‘We Stand With Bruce’ or the ‘Bruce There It Is’ chant making its way to social media.

The Canucks faithful have responded negatively to Tocchet’s arrival feeling that Boudreau’s departure was unfair.

But, the truth is that this is one of the worst seasons for the Canucks in their 52 years of operation. Perhaps it was time for a change.

Nothing surprising

Head changes shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and it predominantly follows a poor performance.

Take the likes of the NFL for example, the Denver Broncos sacked their coaching staff this season after only winning 5 of their 17 games.  

NHL fans are passionate about their sport and club fans are diehards to the end. Tocchet is not exactly green but he has a lot to do to win over the fans.

Under Boudreau’s tenure

December 6, 2021, VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA: Vancouver Canucks new head coach Bruce Boudreau smiles as he attends a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (Credit Image: © Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via ZUMA Press)

When Boudreau became coach of the Canucks in 2021, it was a year after one of their best seasons in five years.

The Canucks had dropped out of the Playoffs at the Conference Round, losing four of seven games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 Semi-Final.

In 2021, the Canucks had failed to hit the Playoffs 23 – 29 – 4.  

While the Canucks would miss the Playoffs once again in the 2021/22 season, Boudreau managed to help the team achieve 40 – 30 – 12.  The team managed a seven-game winning streak.

Facing the truth

This was the worst ever recorded start to a season for the Canucks. The 2022/23 season started bad with seven straight losses.

The last time this happened has been in three previous occasions and with three or more games in a skid. These took place in the 1976/77, 2001/02 and 2009/10 seasons.

March 9, 2022, VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA: Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser lines up for a faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Credit Image: © Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via ZUMA Press)

Getting back to now, Canucks currently have 11 wins, 7 Overtime Wins, 3 Overtime losses and 25 Losses. That’s on top of 39 points, ranking 12th in the Western Conference and a scoring potential of 154.

The team has barely been able to build a streak greater than three games. That’s only happened three times this season.

Team problems

Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

While the coach will fall on the sword and take responsibility for the poor performance, this season has been a difficult one for disharmony inside the team too.

Questions have been raised about the capability and the attitude of players like Brock Boeser, Luke Schenn, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Bo Horvat.

Back when Horvat was unhappy, questions were raised about who would replace him as Canucks captain.

Star players Boeser and Horvat have expressed their interest to be traded out of the team and questions were also raised about the capability of Ekman-Larsson and if he would be scratched from the team.

Was Ekman-Larsson just another over-paid defenceman?

Enter Tocchet

Tocchet entered coaching off of an esteemed career playing Right Wing for teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.

He took his first full coaching role with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008, after serving as assistant coach with Colorado Avalanche in 2002/03 and Phoenix Coyotes in 2005.

Rocchet would work with Lightning for two seasons before a seven-year absence and a return with the Arizona Coyotes in 2017/18.

Arizona Coyotes’ head coach Rick Tocchet, centre, gives instruction to players during first period NHL pre-season hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Shaping up

Now this is interesting… if you remove Boudreau’s performance with the Canucks in this season and last and you compare it with Tocchet’s, you’ll find that the older coach has a better record.

Boudreau coached the Washington Capitals four times to the Playoffs (between 2007 – 11); twice in the Conference Quarterfinals and twice in the Conference Semifinals.

Likewise, he helped the Anaheim Ducks reach the Playoffs four times between 2012 – 16 and twice with the Minnesota Wild between 2016 and 2018.

The 2019/20 season was the only season that Tocchet managed the Arizona Coyotes to the Playoffs where they dropped out in the First Round.

Tuesday’s test

Tocchet’s first game with the Canucks will be against the Chicago Blackhawks. Canucks currently lead the Blackhawks by 32 game wins compared to 28. Tocchet’s first test as Coach starts here. Will he make it?

What’s more, there’s some questions for him to answer during the early stages of his tenure…

Can he win over Horvat and Boeser to stay with the Canucks?
Will he get them to the Playoffs or will it be a case of preventing further damage to the team’s performance in the second half of the season?
Can he win over new talent?

What questions would you ask of Tocchet as a fan?

Posted on: 24 Jan 2023