VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are eager to begin a new chapter with Rick Tocchet.
Tocchet replaced Bruce Boudreau as Canucks coach on Sunday, less than 16 hours after Boudreau fought back tears behind the bench and in front of the media following a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Tocchet led his first practice on Monday, and he admitted he won’t have enough time to implement all the changes he wants to make to the playing system before his first game at the helm of the Canucks, Tuesday against the Blackhawks of Chicago at Rogers Arena ( 10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNP, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW). But his players appeared open to taking a different approach, having lost 10 of their last 11 games in regular time.
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“It’s no disrespect to Bruce”, assured the striker JT Miller. “I had a good relationship with him and it’s a shame to see him go, but at the same time we are professionals and I think Bruce would understand that from today we have to move on. Forward and start to think about the foundation we want to build for this team. We want to look our best and get a fresh start right now.”
These fundamentals must include defensive improvement. The Canucks are 31st in the NHL in goals-against average (3.96 per game) and last in shorthanded performance (65.9 percent). Vancouver is sixth in the Pacific Division, 14 points behind the Colorado Avalanche and the fourth seed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in the Western Conference, although the team is 11th in goals-per-game average. battle (3.28) .
Fixes will take time, and the Canucks don’t have many with three games in four days heading into a nine-day break. They will visit the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday before hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Tocchet started Monday with a team meeting where he released videos explaining to his players what he wants to change. Then, during a short training session, he focused on speed and intense battles at the back of the territory. Tocchet and his new assistants, former NHL defensemen Adam Foote and Sergei Gonchar, also spoke one-on-one with select players.
“Attitudes are important in hockey,” Tocchet said. There are the strategies and all that, but the players have to have a voice and it has to be a partnership. But when it comes to mindset, there are things that are non-negotiable. »
The defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson know what to expect after playing under Tocchet with the Arizona Coyotes from 2017-2021.
“He’s an energetic guy who brings structure,” Ekman-Larsson said. He wants a lot of rules and he wants to be hard on us. Tocchet wants us to play with a lot of speed, work harder and smarter. We will skate a lot more and be less static. It will help our group. »
Tocchet believes that improved defensive play will come through more predictable plays.
“Everybody has to know where the puck is going,” he explained. Even regular skaters look fast when you play a little more predictably. That doesn’t mean, not being creative, but knowing where the puck is going, knowing who your player is on the counter attack. Who plays online? How do you keep the opponent on the periphery? Things like. »
The Canucks don’t have the answers to those questions yet, and they’re on track to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season. They are on their third manager in two seasons as Boudreau replaced Travis Green on December 5, 2021.
“I wouldn’t say that’s what Bruce didn’t bring to our team, but that pretty much sums up our style of play,” Miller said. Sometimes we show that we can limit turnovers, rebound well and put defense first. Every time we make it difficult for opposing teams, it’s because we generate more offense. […] When we fight, our level of fighting spirit is lower, so today’s focus was to get the legs moving and inject some fighting spirit into our training session.
“Working hard, being tough and skating are things that are very controllable, regardless of who the coach is. »