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Rick Tocchet’s great expectations for Dakota Joshua have been key to a 20+ goal pace

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
Dakota Joshua is scoring goals like the Dickens.
Late in Tuesday’s matchup against the New York Islanders, Joshua stripped the puck from Mathew Barzal and fired it the length of the ice into the empty net for his 11th goal of the 2023/24 season.
Remember back in March of 2023 when Rick Tocchet expressed his strong belief that Joshua could be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL?
Many at the time took that as little more than a coach pumping his player’s tires via a little hockey hyperbole. But with 11 through 40 games and 41 games left on the schedule, Joshua is actually on pace for 22 goals this year.
It’s clear that both Tocchet’s belief in Joshua and the way in which his coaching style matches Joshua’s playstyle have been central to the 27-year-old’s somewhat sudden explosion in production. But a closer examination of their mutual story reveals that it’s not really belief at the core of their relationship, it’s expectations…and high expectations, at that.
Things haven’t always been roses between the two. Tocchet made that 20-goal prediction right at the tail-end of the 2022/23 season, but for whatever reason, that didn’t inspire Joshua to come out the gates raring to go for 2023/24.
He arrived at Training Camp 2024 a little out of sorts, and soon drew the ire of Tocchet for a lackluster performance in on-ice sessions. That continued on to the preseason, where Joshua was infamously on the ice for five goals against in an exhibition-opening 10-0 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Joshua’s final statline for the preseason was five games, zero goals, zero assists, two penalty minutes, and a -5. He only managed four shots on goal.
The Canucks, as a whole, had a fairly poor preseason, going 2-3-1 and ultimately being outscored 20-11 by their opponents. But it was Joshua’s performance that got specifically called out by Tocchet.
“Dakota, he’s gotta pick it up,” Tocchet told the media. “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.”
For a lot of the line rushes thereafter heading into the regular season, Joshua was skating as a healthy scratch. For a time, there was even some speculation that he might wind up cut in favour of someone having a stronger camp, like Jack Studnicka.
In the end, Ilya Mikheyev’s delayed return and Teddy Blueger’s preseason injury saved Joshua from that potential fate. He stayed on the roster and in the lineup for the October 11 season opener against the Oilers, and even notched a goal in the 8-1 victory.
But Joshua didn’t put up another point through eight more games in October. Then, for November 2’s matchup against the San Jose Sharks, Tocchet made Joshua a healthy scratch.
The Canucks won 10-1 with Joshua watching from the press box.
But the patented Tocchet timeout was not to last.
Two nights later, against the Dallas, Tocchet took Studnicka out of the lineup and put Joshua back in, citing the physicality of the Stars as his primary reason.
Joshua picked up an assist and landed seven hits in 12 minutes of ice-time on route to a 2-0 victory.
Tocchet made sure to heap plenty of praise on Joshua and his “straight shooter” mentality in the aftermath.
Getting back to belief, what happened thereafter is something that truly had to be seen to be believed.
Since the healthy scratch, Joshua has scored ten goals and 19 points through 31 games, including 12 points in his last 12 games as of this writing.
Over those same 31 games, Joshua has thrown 99 hits, good for third in the entire NHL over the same span and trailing just Jeremy Lauzon and Tanner Jeannot.
Now, Joshua sits firmly as an important cog in a dynamite third line alongside Conor Garland and Teddy Blueger, and the thought of ever taking him out of the lineup has become unfathomable.
And, as we said at the outset, it all comes down to Tocchet, and his great expectations for Joshua.
That 20-goal prediction back in March 2023? That was a statement of expectation.
But so too were the “pick it up” comments back in September. Tocchet expected Joshua to show better in the preseason, and Joshua didn’t, and Tocchet let it be known.
It’s not hard to guess where these expectations come from, really. They don’t make them like Tocchet anymore, but as he looks out at the Canucks on the ice, there’s just no way he doesn’t see a little of his own playing style reflected in Joshua.
The healthy scratch in November was obviously another moment in which Tocchet’s lofty expectations for Joshua were not being met. But the Canucks coach kept the messaging clear even then. He didn’t make grand and dramatic statements about his disappointment; instead, he spoke to his expectation that Joshua could and should be better.
And since then, he has been.
Why was Joshua out on the ice late defending a lead against the likes of Barzal?
Because Tocchet’s expectations for Joshua have only grown, now to the point that he genuinely sees Joshua as one of his best and most reliable options, even in a high-pressure game situation.
And Joshua responded by stripping Barzal and firing the puck into the yawning cage for his 11th goal of the season.
That’s been the story of Tocchet the coach and Joshua the player. Great expectations are laid down, and then those great expectations are eventually met.
Both Tocchet and Joshua, as well as the entire Canucks organization, have benefitted greatly from how well it’s all worked out.

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