Rick Tocchet talks J.T. Miller, team fitness level, the Canucks’ next captain, and more

Photo credit:© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
11 months ago
Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet made an appearance on the Missin Curfew podcast where he discussed a lot of interesting topics related to the team. In total, he was on for just under an hour and had a lot of good tidbits of information that Canucks fans will want to hear.
Beyond just the discussion about the Canucks, Tocchet also told other stories from his days around the NHL. He’s been a coach, player, and analyst, so he’s gotten the opportunity to experience the game from many different perspectives.
More than just pure entertainment value, Tocchet actually said a lot of really interesting stuff about his approach to coaching the Canucks and the different personalities on the team. Below are a few highlights from the discussion but make sure to check out the full podcast if you’re wanting to hear everything the head coach had to say.

Quinn Hughes’s leadership ability 

As it stands right now, the Canucks do not have a captain. Former captain Bo Horvat was traded mid-season and the team elected to finish the season without naming a replacement, instead relying on a diverse leadership group that featured several strong voices.
When Rick Tocchet arrived midseason, he really put an emphasis on young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes taking a step forward as leaders. After half a season behind the bench, the new head coach is clearly impressed with how the two have responded, especially Hughes on which he had the following to say.
“He’s projecting to that level [of being a captain]. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, we’re not in a huge rush but I can tell you and I’ve only been here for four months and from day one to 120 days later, Huggy [Hughes] has really made that trajectory to be a captain,” he said. “He’s done some things that are uncomfortable and he’s said some things that are uncomfortable that you have to do to say to teammates or a coach to put your balls on the line. That’s what captains do. It’s not just about organizing the team party, it’s about being able to put your teammates first and also go into a coach’s office and say ‘Hey Toch [Rick Tocchet], you got to back off in practice, I got this and I guarantee the next game we’ll be ready to play’.”

The Canucks’ team fitness levels

Another aspect that Tocchet stressed in this podcast appearance was the need for the team to be in good shape. That’s not a revolutionary idea, but what was interesting was his comments on training camp. For the past two seasons, the Canucks have gotten off to terrible starts and last year, poor preparation in training camp was an issue that was raised.
Tocchet stressed that he doesn’t want to use training camp as a fitness boot camp as we have seen some Vancouver coaches do in recent history. Instead, he says that his philosophy is to use that time to work on systems.
“I told our guys, we have a Canucks [fitness] standard. We’ll have a skating test but I’m not going to be doing crab walks. You’ve got four months man, you’ve got to be in shape after four months, especially when you haven’t made the playoffs,” he said. “They’re on high alert. I told them there’s going to be some standards that you’re going to have to come in but I don’t believe in killing guys in camp. I believe that if you’re in shape, we have so much to do system-wise, special teams. We have to have a good start so I don’t think killing the guys for three days is the way to go. Now if you’re out of shape, you’ll probably be in the C group and then we’re going to have to deal with it a different way.”

Tocchet and J.T Miller developing a strong relationship

One of the players who experienced a large turnaround after Tocchet took over as head coach was forward J.T. Miller. Not only did his scoring numbers increase, but Miller also started to look much more engaged on the ice. Tocchet brought more structure and stricter adherence to discipline, characteristics that seemingly brought out the best in Miller.
Miller and Tocchet have clearly developed a bond and there is a lot of mutual respect.
“J.T. Miller the other day just texted me to say ‘Hey, what’s going on’, so I’ll give him a call this week. I think you have to build those relationships,” Tocchet said. “I’ll probably fly to Pitt [Pittsburgh] to see a couple of the guys, I might go to Michigan to see Huggy [Hughes] and Dakota Joshua. I might make a few trips to see a couple of the guys.”
More than off the ice, Tocchet has been able to get the most from Miller on the ice. One thing that the American-born forward has been criticized for in the past has been his poor body language but Tocchet said that Miller was very receptive to feedback and cleaned that up quickly upon the head coach’s arrival.
“You know, he did it [had poor body language] like everyone else and I gotta admit the first three, four months I was there I didn’t see much of that from Millsy [Miller]. He turned his whole thing around and there was a stretch where he was one of the best two-way players in the league. He had over a point per game and he was shutting down the other team’s best player.”

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