Rick Tocchet says Dakota Joshua needs to ‘pick it up’, but what does that mean?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang2 months ago
Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet made headlines on Tuesday with some very direct comments about 27-year-old winger Dakota Joshua.
“Dakota, he’s gotta pick it up,” Tocchet stated. “I’m not gonna get into some other factors but he’s gotta try to win a job. The job’s not there, there are guys breathing down that want jobs.”
The bad news for Joshua also included him not being included in line rushes with the main group at Canucks practice on Tuesday. The lines looked awfully close to what many are expecting on opening night, and to not be included is not a good sign for Joshua.
As we get closer and closer to the start of the 2023-24 NHL season, time is running out for Joshua to make a strong impression. He’s been issued as direct a challenge from the coaching staff as you will see in the NHL.
The only thing left to see is how he will respond.
What made Dakota Joshua successful in the 2022-23 NHL season?
The Canucks signed Dakota Joshua to a two-year contract just before the start of last season. It was a bit of a surprising signing as the Canucks inked him to a one-way deal despite Joshua having appeared in just 42 career NHL games at that point. This vote of confidence from the front office turned out to be a smart one as Joshua was a bonafide NHLer and quite a solid bottom-six player for the Canucks.
He finished the season with 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 79 NHL games. He was also tied for third on the team in fighting majors with four, tops among all returners, as Kyle Burroughs and Luke Schenn are now with different organizations. Overall, the season was considered a big success for the forward, and Joshua was even one of the players who seemed to benefit from Rick Tocchet’s hiring, as the Canucks’ bench boss praised Joshua’s north-south ability among other things on numerous occasions.
The hope was that Joshua could continue to build on those traits that made him successful last season — namely his tenacity on the forecheck, willingness to use his body to separate opponents from pucks, and ability to chip in with the odd goal — to establish himself as an elite fourth liner leaguewide, giving the Canucks that depth they’ve been missing in recent years.
In the summer, Tocchet spoke about how he wanted Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander to be “buzzsaw” energy guys for the Canucks, and it’s safe to say he’d put Joshua in that same category based on his play last season when Tocchet arrived. Coming into this year though, Tocchet felt Joshua needed a kick in the pants to get back to the player he was based on his performance at camp thus far.
How Dakota Joshua has stacked up thus far
Through the early part of the 2023-24 Canucks training camp and preseason, Joshua has been one of the most significant disappointments. Whether it was his lack of impact during the team’s time in Victoria or being on the ice for five goals against the Calgary Flames, it’s hard to sugarcoat Joshua’s play.
When compared to other wingers fighting for the same bottom-six spots, Joshua hasn’t just failed to stand out, he’s looked like one of the weaker options.
One player who has taken full advantage of the opportunities available before this upcoming season is Jack Studnicka. No matter if it was in Victoria at training camp or back in Vancouver in practice, Studnicka has consistently been one of the most noticeable players when on the ice for the Canucks.
It’s looking more and more likely that Studnicka will earn a spot on the opening night roster due to his recent play, potentially at the expense of Joshua.
It was no secret that the Canucks were going to have some intense competition on the wings. Despite that, Joshua seems to be playing like he already has a spot on the opening night roster locked up, something that Tocchet has now made very clear is far from the case.
How will Joshua respond to this public challenge? Only time will tell. When the puck drops at Rogers Arena on October 11th for the season opener, these comments by Tocchet will either be remembered as the start of Joshua’s downfall or the exact moment when he turned everything around.
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