Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Using Rick Tocchet’s system to identify five value adds for the Canucks via trade
By Tyson Cole1 month ago
On January 22nd, 2023, the Vancouver Canucks relieved beloved head coach Bruce Boudreau of his duties and replaced him with current coach Rick Tocchet. Since then, he has earned a very successful 52-23-4 record and has the Canucks in sole possession of first place in the NHL.
With a 66% winning percentage in his short tenure with the club, it’s clear the system Tocchet has brought over is paying off.
In an interview with the Dropping the Gloves podcast, Canucks forward Conor Garland expressed the importance of having his coach come in before the end of last season.
“We had Tocchet come in halfway through the year last year and implement his system, and I think something underrated was we had that 30 games to get caught up,” Garland explained. “A lot of us understood the system coming into camp. So that was a huge advantage for us coming into the season and getting off to a good start.”
The majority of this group has responded well to the system change. With one obvious wrinkle, but this isn’t a story about Andrei Kuzmenko. So, let’s compare the systems.
Comparing the Systems
Under the Bruce Boudreau regimen, he liked to play a more run-and-gun style of offence. He encouraged his players to bring out their offensive creativity, which in turn led to the team being vulnerable to an abundance of defensive disadvantages.
It’s evident that Rick Tocchet’s style of play has a sizable focus on defence first. He implements a pressure system with a heavy forecheck to make the team much tougher to play against.
From the eye test, it’s clear the Canucks are playing better this season, but let’s put some numbers behind our eyes.
The numbers here show that the team has clearly bought into this Tocchet system, and it’s translating on the ice.
During the final hail mary of Boudreau’s time in Vancouver, they generated a substantial amount of scoring chances while conceding even more at 5-on-5. But since Tocchet has taken over, the Canucks have actually increased their rate of scoring chances while dramatically reducing how many they are allowing.
Under Boudreau, the team allowed 30.08 SCA/60, compared to only 26.7 SCA/60 with Tocchet — a difference of a whomping 3.38 less since the change.
The high-danger goals/60 has gone up, while the high-danger goals against has gone down. Usually, when the team defence improves this much, it likely comes with some offensive regression. That’s why seeing how both have improved is truly remarkable and a sentiment to the club playing as a team and not as individuals.
Hits taken would typically be a nothing stat, but I found it to be quite interesting in this scenario. The basic definition for this stat is the amount of times a player is on the receiving end of a hit.
But where are most hits received?
In today’s NHL, we rarely see open ice hits anymore. Most hits are taken either along the boards or where I’d like to think, down low when forwards are forechecking in the offensive zone and in the corners.
The hits taken have improved marginally when looking at Boudreau’s numbers last season and comparing them to Tocchet’s time as a whole. If we look at just the numbers this year, the hits taken jump up drastically.
There are nine Canuck forwards who’ve played for both Boudreau and Tocchet — six of those nine forwards saw their hits taken/60 increase, for a grand total of 4.7 hits taken/60 more under Tocchet this season than Boudreau last season.
This further proves that the forwards have bought into the physical style of forechecking that Tocchet prefers to play.
Now that we’ve looked through the numbers and have seen players increase in all of these categories, what players may be available for the Canucks to add that excel in these stats that might be great value-adds to the lineup?
With the recent play of the Lotto line, it’s clear they need to stay together. In that case, the Canucks need to add a top-six forward, more preferably, a second-line centre. While those don’t grow on trees, I’ll highlight some applicable forwards who could be a value add for the Canucks forward group.
Here’s a list of good value adds based on the team metrics that the Tocchet system seems to value:
Morgan Frost has five goals and 14 points with a +10 rating in 12:16 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. He’s above the Canucks average in both SCF/60 and SCA/60.
Now I’m not too sure how willing the Flyers would be to move Frost, as he’s a young asset that fits the age group of their roster. Although Flyers head coach John Tortorella has already made him a healthy scratch this season — Frost may have fallen out of favour with his coach.
Frost plays centre, and is used to playing in the top six and on a cheap cap hit. His ability to limit scoring chances game would fit a Tocchet style system well, but his playmaking ability would bring some new life to the Canucks second line.
Jack Drury has six goals and 15 points with a +6 rating in 9:51 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. He averages slightly less than the Canucks average SCF/60 but FAR below the SCA/60 average. Drury is not scared to get into the forecheck as he averages nearly two hit taken more than the team average.
He’s not your typical household name, but considering his bottom-six role, Drury could continue to impress with a chance higher up in the lineup. He has one year left at RFA status on his $925,000 contract, making him a very cost-efficient addition. The Hurricanes have been looking for a sniper. If only the Canucks had a struggling winger who needs a change of scenery…
Ryan Hartman has nine goals and 16 points with a -1 rating in 13 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. He averages more SCF/60 but has a higher SCA/60 than the Canucks averages.
His high amount of SCA/60 can be credited to his maneuverability throughout the lineup. Hartman has been the top-line centre for the Minnesota Wild over the last few years — until the emergence of Marco Rossi this year, which has demoted Hartman to stints in the bottom six.
Joel Eriksson Ek’s name has been circulating, but it never made sense why the Wild would want to move on from him. Perhaps the rumours were about the wrong Wild centre.
Eeli Tolvanen has nine goals and 20 points with an even rating in 13:01 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. He averages above the Canucks SCF/60 average and right just above the SCA/60 average.
The definition of a power forward is a player with a big frame who isn’t afraid to use it and also has a lethal shot — that description is Tolvanen to a tee. He averages more than double the Canucks hits/60 average and just under the Canucks hits taken/60 average.
With only one year remaining on his $1.45M contract, the club could use him as a physical rental or decide to extend him and finally give him a home after what’s been a bit of a difficult start to his young career.
Philip Tomasino has five goals and 11 points with a -6 rating in 10:50 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. He averages well above the Canucks SCF/60 average while staying around the average in Canucks SCA/60. Of these five players Tomasino has the highest hits taken/60 with an average of 6.5/60, which is much higher than the Canucks average.
He was the Nashville Predators’ first-round pick in 2019 but has failed to carve out a role for himself. Tomasino has struggled to even make the lineup, as he’s only played 38 of the team’s 47 games this season. When Tomasino does make the lineup, he typically plays in a bottom-six role.
It would be interesting to see how he would play in an elevated role, given his willingness to go into the gritty areas and not be afraid to get hit. His high-level playmaking ability would be a great addition to the Canucks top six in the final year $863,000 contract.
The Vancouver Canucks are having a magical season. The new system is working and almost everybody has played better under the Rick Tocchet system. It does seem like it is time to go all in.
Recently extended President of Hockey Operations, Jim Rutherford, said to the Athletic’s, Pierre LeBrun, “I think as we speak, if we were able to add another top-six forward, that would give us a better chance.”
And he’s right. If the Canucks are going to have a chance at a deep run, a top-six forward is a needed addition. While the Canucks have superstars, maybe that’s not the type of player that is sought after. Consider a player a little more under the radar who has impressive underlying numbers, as mentioned above.
Did I miss anybody?
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