Scenes from Canucks practice: Inside Rick Tocchet’s “grade school” teachings featuring shuffled forward lines

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
1 year ago
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The Vancouver Canucks were back practicing today after a demoralizing 6-1 loss to the really-not-that-great Detroit Red Wings. Following last night’s loss, head coach Rick Tocchet said his team needed to go back to grade school to learn to defend and stop and start.
And today’s practice delivered on that, as we saw the Canucks go through some very simple drills designed to work on their defensive zone coverage. We also saw some shuffled forward line combinations, but unlike in most scenes from articles, we’ll get to those later on.
Here’s what we saw at Canucks practice today.

What we saw

First, the “grade school” drill.
In this drill, one pass is made, then a whistle blows and everything stops. Then another pass, whistle, everything stops. Then another pass, whistle, everything stops. And then another pass, double whistle and compete to score a goal. In between these whistles, Tocchet and the coaching staff were ensuring that nobody was “lost” in the defensive zone, and that they all at least knew who they should be covering and where they should be.
If the Canucks’ opponents start pausing for 2-3 seconds each time they make a pass in the O-zone, look out.
In all seriousness, Tocchet put a high emphasis on teaching and discipline during this practice, and there were some battle drills that broke out as a result. According to Brendan Batchelor of Sportsnet 650, Dakota Joshua and Quinn Hughes got into a hearty shoving match during a battle drill, and Hughes looked visibly upset afterwards.
As for those line combinations…
  • Vasily Podkolzin is getting rewarded for his solid play, and has been bumped up to the first line alongside Elias Pettersson and Anthony Beauvillier. Brock Boeser has been holding down this spot as of late, and now Boeser finds himself skating with Sheldon Dries and Andrei Kuzmenko.
  • Phil Di Giuseppe is also up and looks like he’ll be getting a turn with JT Miller and Conor Garland.
  • The defence pairings remain unchanged, and as mentioned earlier, Thatcher Demko took part in a full practice with Spencer Martin clearing waivers and reporting to Abbotsford.



What was said

Rick Tocchet talked about the thought process behind putting Podkolzin with Pettersson.
“Well, I actually liked his first three games,” Tocchet said. “I thought he struggled last game. Just give them a little different, fresh guys. If we could develop a give-and-go game in his game, cause problems around the net where Petey do his thing, I think — if you get too much east-west with Petey, that’s a lesson I played with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky the two best players I’ve ever seen, and you guys probably say the same thing, they never wanted to play with east-west guys. They want north-south guys. And same thing with Crosby and MacKinnon. You know, if we can get to develop these wingers where Petey has a north-south style of player, it’s going to make his game easier. You play with east-west guys, it’s tough, cause most teams protect the guts of the ice. So, I think Podkolzin’s the type of player that welcomes that, the gritty guy that can cause problems going to the net.”
Thatcher Demko spoke after practice and wanted to go on the record to clarify he has no desire to leave Vancouver.
“That was a little frustrating for me,” Demko said. “It’s not true, I’ll just say that point blank. I’ve seen a few things floating around but I’ve never said that, not even to my wife or anyone close to my circle. I have no idea where that started.”
Demko also talked about how he’s feeling and his timetable to return.
“Overall, just really excited to be back,” Demko said. “I think the plan right now is, obviously bearing nothing else happens in the next couple days, I’m looking to back up against Philadelphia on Saturday. And then, at that point it’ll be up to Tocc to see when he thinks I should play. At that point, it’s a coach’s decision, I’ll be available.”

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