The Stanchies: Boos, woos, and double Kuz in game one of the Vancouver Canucks’ Rick Tocchet era

Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 year ago
Rick Tookit Tocchet has the unenviable task of not only taking over after one of the messiest divorces in NHL coaching history, but also trying to take over a team in a market that doesn’t really want to see a surge in points from the home team.
In the Year of Bedard, Rick Tocchet coming in and potentially helping the Canucks surge out of the bottom 10 to settle in nicely in that 11-14 spot — “Home” as we call it around here — is the sort of Sisyphus-ian nightmare that Vancouver seems locked into for eternity. As if constant rain and arguments over bike lanes weren’t enough, the main event for most Canucks seasons have now turned into mid-season press conferences as management tries to explain the plan.
“What compete Farhan showed today, he really worked the corners!”
“Yeah but did you see Rutherford stand him up and not back down! That’s playoff press conferences baby!”
“Look at Drance laughing in the face of his opposition! He’s such a troll, I love it.”
“Did anyone see Allvin today? I felt like I didn’t notice him once tonight.”
This is what Tocchet has signed up for. A market that doesn’t really want to win games, but with bosses that desperately want him to. How else do you explain them waiting until the perfect time in the schedule to guarantee Tocchet has the easiest starting point? The Canucks’ 5-2 win over Chicago certainly played out that way, as Vancouver won handily in a contest that wouldn’t have been close had it not been for Delia letting in a couple of soft goals.
The thing is, if Tocchet comes in and loses a bunch of games and coyly flirts with the Connor Bedard sweepstakes from afar, it only shines the spotlight even brighter on the fact that the team’s main problem lies with the roster. If Tocchet comes in, wins some games against weaker opponents, maybe Demko comes back and shores up the goaltending, suddenly you’re back in your safety territory of “get in and anything can happen!”, the rallying cry for anyone struggling to come up with a feasible plan to fix things long-term.
Because firing Bruce wasn’t the issue, you see. It was how it was carried out that was the problem. No one is saying Bruce was the answer here. You could bring in any coach you wanted right now, you could find a way to create the world’s perfect coach out of the best Chatbot AI program you could find, and honestly, what is it going to change? A few points in the standings? Losing games 3-1 instead of 5-1? Beating the bottom five teams in the NHL?
The issue is this team isn’t good enough. And hasn’t been good enough for close to a decade.
So while I go into the Rick Tocchet era with open arms, if for no other reason other than it will be something new to write about, I just feel like he’s in a really tough spot. The best case scenario for Tocchet is maybe he teaches some good habits to the Canucks. Maybe he helps improve the penalty kill, or gets JT Miller to stop making a “handful” of mistakes. Maybe Sergei Gonchar or Adam Foote can help give pearls of wisdom to the part of the roster that desperately needs it the most.
But the reality is, the solution to this team’s problems has always been the roster. As Casey Printer’s once sagely told us, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Which means Tocchet is going to have to be around for a couple of years before he even has a chance of building up his coaching resume to move past those Arizona years.
Which is a tough spot for any coach to be in.
Best checking in with old friends
I just imagine someone walking up to me in my current job, and talking loudly to a friend so I could overhear it.
“Man, the worst part about that movie was it was almost as bad as Wyatt’s customer service when he worked at Blockbuster, am I right?”
The online world is just a bizarre place where decorum is merely a passing thought.
Talk smack online, I get it, we all do it. But why do you take that extra step to tag the man?
You don’t see me tagging Eddie and talking about that time he blew the huge lead against the New York Islanders, do you?
Best ok wait
Best starting at the top
It feels pretty clear there has been one constant theme running throughout this organization as it continues its descent into being run worse than that Swiss Chalet near you that closed down a couple years ago.
I mean look, do I find it amusing that the Canucks are essentially writing future seasons of Succession for free? Of course I do, I’m human like the rest of you. I’m as excited as anyone to try and figure out who the Tom of the Canucks owner’s family is.
But do I want to envision a future where it’s 2031 and I am writing an article about how, sure, the Canucks are currently paying 12 coaches after missing the playoffs yet again, are finishing 18th in the league after a late-season surge, but maybe after OEL’s buyout comes off the books, new head coach Luke Schenn might be able to turn things around? Of course not. This is the nightmare scenario that runs through my head every night. Of someone on Twitter posting “Give it time, you have to give them time to fix this,” as I scream into the void.
Where was I?
Oh yes, gif money. Let’s go make some.
Best making friends with the media
Rick Tocchet knows what I want, and it’s Collin Delia doing one of three things:
  • Carrying large amounts of fruit to the stadium
  • making chaotic saves in net in which at least three limbs are going in opposite directions
  • he gets scored on and freezes in place, turning into a mime who is resting his elbow on a table
That’s it. That’s all I ask from a Canucks coach.
Best let’s get it started in here
While you’re watching Bo Horvat barrel roll through your screen, both making me gif money and using up your data, we do need to reflect that one game against the Blackhawks isn’t enough to draw firm conclusions from.
So thinking “JT Miller is locked in!” or “OEL is back!” or “Kuzmenko will never stop scoring!” are observations you shouldn’t lock in just quite yet. It’s a balancing act of trying to figure out the dead cat bounce of a new coach, the fact you’re playing Chicago who wants to tank so hard it’s scary, or the fact that hey, maybe Tocchet can improve this team.
We’re going to be sifting through the dirt for the next month while we try and get a handle on things.
Best look good feel good
Curtis Lazar is delightful to watch because he skates hard, throws hits, and he always gives it his best:
Even if his best is two points.
Unfortunately his line has also been on a downswing the last month or so, making the people talk wistfully of the Motte/Lammikko/Highmore days, aka that time there was a fourth line that played well for a two week stretch.
I will give the Canucks credit in that it did feel like they were being crushed under the weight of the Bruce Boudreau drama. This game against the Hawks, a game that should be an automatic win for any team, felt like something the Canucks would have found a way to lose last week.
In terms of effort and edge to their game, the Canucks clearly looked like a different team than the one being told that everything was going to be okay during the Bruce divorce because it meant they got TWO Christmases instead of one now.
Best ill-timed toss
Not Another Teen Movie (which doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being incredibly well-written and acted) made a point about how there is a time for someone to start a rousing clap that gets the entire room to join in; you’ll know when the time is right, because you’ll feel it.
The same could be said for a jersey toss. You need to feel the room and know when the time is right.
Throwing a jersey on the ice in an attempt to stop a Jarome Iginla shot from going into the empty net in a game 7? Correct time.
Throwing a jersey a couple of minutes into the game on a routine dump in right in front of the referee? Incorrect time.
I don’t think fans should be throwing items unless it involves Hulk Hogan turning his back on a company or The Cunninghams betraying their morals against the Bollywood Boyz, but I honestly don’t care too much if a jersey is tossed vs a beer cup or whatever.
Some people act like it’s a flag being tossed and you’re disgracing some sort of national object of reverence, but if people want to waste their money throwing their jersey on the ice, have at it.
The end point is even John Garrett was ho-hum about it on the broadcast. You didn’t pick your spot. You blew it. You lined up Zeke at centre and got trucked.
Best some things never change
The Canucks had three straight power plays to start the game and didn’t score on any of them, but JT Miller made a very slick pass over to Bo Horvat who almost went backhand where Mom keeps the old batteries she never throws out for reasons:
Petr Mrazek faced 47 shots on the night, turning back the clock to 2016 when he had a 27-win season with a sparkling .921 save percentage.
Yes, there was a time when Mrazek made it appear that he might be the future in Detroit.
Best hold your horses
The thing is, you should never boo this kind of pedigree. It’s honestly insulting. Why would you ever boo people that have done so much in their industry? People that have accomplished more than you ever will? You should be grateful they’re even in Vancouver, let alone the fact you get to witness it happen. You should be on your hands and knees thanking the heavens above that they’re here.
The amount of disrespect Nickleback gets is just very frustrating.
Best impressing the boss
If you go to the YouTubes and look up Tocchet’s name you’ll find a variety of fights filmed with a Nite Brite. You’ll also see Jofa’s attempt at jaw protection.
So it reasons to stand that he’s an old school guy that appreciates an old school approach to the game. Which means Sheldon Dries was the first guy to tickle that old school magic when he dropped gloves for running Mrazek:
Connor Murphy tussles a little bit before the linesman blocks the hard cam, so we can’t tell if Dries landed a huge right cross to end the fight, but it feels like it’s safe to assume that’s exactly what happened.
Afterwards Luke Schenn, the guy who looks after the bunkhouse, made sure Chicago know they weren’t in for an easy night of battles:
Luke Schenn got a penalty on the play, but it was because he had a plan. A plan that nobody saw coming. He called it: Operation: Long shot.
Best almost had it
Oddly enough, teams don’t necessarily game plan to stop Luke Schenn breakaways, but maybe they should after tonight:
Don’t believe it was the plan all along? Luke Schenn begs to differ.
“I was in the box with Drieser…I told him, I said, it’s going to happen, I’m coming out of the box here, getting a breakaway, and I’m going top glove. It all worked out except the top glove part.”
That breakaway had that feel to it I assume my team does when I get a breakaway, where everyone is just really proud of me for getting one in the first place, so scoring doesn’t really matter.
The best part is that breakaway looks 57% nicer in the Skate jerseys.
Also, science tells us Luke Schenn skates 35% faster in them, too.
Don’t believe me? Then tell me the last time Schenn got a breakaway.
Exactly. I rest my case.
Best new world order
On a night in which Luke Schenn got a breakaway, it makes total sense that Elias Pettersson would lay out one of the biggest hits on the night:
I would attribute this to EP40 trying to impress the new boss, but the fact of the matter is Elias has been sneaking big hits into his game all season long. I feel like anytime a narrative comes about something he can’t do, out of pure spite he sets out to prove he can.
“Oh you don’t think I can recite the entire monologue from Hamlet in under a minute, in Latin no less, while scoring on a breakaway? Watch me.”
Best utrum esse an nōn esse oporteat, illud est quaerendum
The thing is, Petr Mrazek time travelled from 2016, we’ve been over this, he was once a very good goalie for a short period of time:
The Canucks poured on the shots in the first period, and truth be told, probably should have been up a goal or two from the power plays alone.
That being said, that Connor Garland shot was kind of what they were offering up all period, so this wasn’t like you were watching the WCE levels of offensive wizardry. Like, when you watch a Sabres game or Bruins game (dry heave), you see so many nice offensive plays with passing and dekes and players making good reads, etc.
This was just a very workmanlike effort, which hey, it makes sense. And give them credit for producing it because honestly, we haven’t seen enough of that this season. This team just doesn’t have the skill to really get fancy with the puck in the offensive zone. It’s either EP40 going off, or Bo Horvat rushing down the ice or tipping a shot. That’s the main engine of the offence at even strength.
Aside from that you get maybe a Garland stop shorting at a red light, and getting a decent shot off on net, or Quinn Hughes looking like he just failed his mid-term while he dangles down the ice.
Best foreshadowing
Rick Tocchet name-dropped Patty Kane as a guy the Canucks need to learn to shut down and it just felt like a slightly dated reference.
“What’s next, is he going to get into the ins and outs of shutting down a Brett Hull one-timer?” I chortled to myself.
Well, consider myself shamed:
Patrick Kane scored to put the Blackhawks up 1-0, and you really have to feel for a franchise that has had to suffer through the Toews/Kane era. One can only hope they manage to land Connor Bedard because no sports team should have to go through what Chicago has for the last three seasons. You can’t help but feel bad for them. Imagine not knowing when your next three Stanley Cups victories will happen?
Also, please note that Delia did the thing where he freezes after he’s scored on like Mei dropped her ultimate on him.
“Freeze! Don’t move!”
Best the chicken or the egg
I had a spirited debate with Drance about whether this was because Chicago is Chicago, and we ended in a tie.
Best mending fences
Has it come to the fact I am applauding an OEL shot that looked like it meant business? Yes. Yes it has:
Everyone on the team had a fantastic Corsi (Riley Stillman was a monster on the night, which kind of sets the tone for this), but I will say OEL’s shot looked better on the night than it has in months, and he didn’t make bad pinches, nor was he walked around in any major fashion.
Again, it’s the Blackhawks. We need better competition and more games to see if Tocchet can indeed juice this roster. But for one night, yes, OEL looked pretty ok.
Best slow motion dramatics
This is like an infomercial where someone tries to answer their cell phone while drinking a glass of water and before you know it they’ve fallen down the stairs and their kids have to make a decision about life support, all because they didn’t buy the pot that had a lid that locks in place.
Best trade bait
“Will they or won’t they??” doesn’t just extend to Bo Horvat, it also extends to Luke Schenn and Andrei Kuzmenko. Three assets that they could reap the rewards from should they decide to make a trade before the deadline.
We all know about Horvat, a top six centre who can score with his shot or in front of the net. That’s the Viagra of the deadline, nothing gets old hockey men going quite like that.
But Kuzmenko is a winger, so the interest will be harder to gauge. He’s a winger who will want to cash in as a free agent next season, and he’s had the luck of riding shotgun with Pettersson, which means he gets that sweet EP40 bump.
That being said, the dude can flat out play. He can still produce on his own, and unlike some players in the past who have lined up with EP40, he can go to the front of the net and score:
The thing about Kuz is he can take a hit if he needs to be, but he is the definition of work smarter, not harder. No one on the team can magically appear out of nowhere to tap a puck in the net, or dangle the puck in a phone booth for a few seconds in front of the goalie and put the puck past him.
I honestly get the feeling he is a player the Canucks want to keep, but should they try and move him at the deadline, they should have plenty of buyers lined up.
Best chasing that gif money
Best let the man make a meal
Dakota Joshua started the season off strong (at one point he was voted the safest player in the league), but as we noted earlier, his play has dipped in recent months.
So whether it was the Tocchet bump, or simply playing against Chicago, Joshua had himself a hell of a game.
You know what goes over in this market? Dumping Patrick Kane like yesterday’s trash:
He just absolutely runs through Kane and draws an instigator penalty when Max Domi has to fight him, as is tradition.
Best it could be better
The Canucks’ power play did go 0/5 on the night, but you know what, I think it was because Pettersson took an old Edler stick by accident:
It’s not often you see EP40 misfire like that.
Best you gotta stop that
You all know I enjoy Delia, but even I know 3rd string goalies have a shelf life where if you play them long enough, stuff like this starts happening:
Not that elite goalies don’t let in goals like this on occasion, but it’s been very clear that the Canucks’ goaltending has been very poor with Demko being out long term, as you simply cannot ask a Delia/Martin combo to keep a team like the Canucks afloat for months at a time.
The good news is nobody farted when the goal went in, thus saving us from having to send in Quads to solve the case again.
Best looking at the real issue
Best welcome to the Kuzmenk-show
I assume Kuzmenko’s agent sends daily fruit baskets to EP40 (which Delia then steals), because as good as Kuzmenko is, how nice must it be to play with Elias:
Elias skates to the slot, then abruptly cuts back and dangles around two Blackhawks, then finds Kuzmenko all alone in front of the net.
Now, Kuz being wide open is a skill set of his. A lot of players would have just stood there, jaws agape, taking in the Elias show. But Kuz knows when all eyes are on Elias, no eyes are on him, so he busts through double coverages down low and gets in position for the deft tip.
It’s honestly an incredible combo to watch, and part of the reason I wonder if they’ll try and keep Kuzmenko is to keep Pettersson happy.
Best putting up numbers
The Canucks might need to keep AK96’s parents in town all of the time.
Best comes with a price
Best sticking to the assignment
Vancouver had a rough month, but man alive, Chicago knows how to lose with conviction. Accidentally get a 3 on 1? Shoot that sucker high and wide:
Get a dapper clapper on net? Aim for the post and out:
MacKenzie Entwistle is a real person who exists on an NHL team. Chicago dressed him, despite sounding like the name of a tree in Lord of the Rings.
Sam Lafferty is a real person who exists on an NHL team. Chicago dressed him, despite sounding like a spell used in Hogwarts, one that makes you giggle.
Jason Dickinson played almost 15 minutes of ice time for the Chicago Blackhawks.
You can be like “what about Sheldon Dries, though?” but that man had 62 points in the AHL last season.
Chicago is committing to next-level tanking.
Best correcting a handful of mistakes
JT Miller openly talked about how a handful of mistakes had kind of defined his season. That being said, this was a good game from JT Miller. This back-checking effort from JT really was like 2019 JT:
Hustle and determination leading to a zone exit? That’s the good stuff right there.
Best putting on a show, kind of
The Canucks offence, which as noted is pretty blue-collar, had a couple of times where I perked up and went full Training Day on it:
“Okay, all right” I said as I watched what the team was attempting to pull off.
Mikheyev zone entry, pulls up and sauces it backhand across the rink, before Miller taps it back to the point and heads to the net to receive a pass back?
That’s art right there. That is not something you see from this team every day. That’s just plain fun hockey.
Again, I have to repeat myself.
It was against Chicago.
And what makes any team look like the mid 80’s Oilers?
Time and space.
What does Chicago give up so much of?
Time and space.
It does have me very intrigued about how they’ll look against tougher opponents, which is a nicer thought process than “I wonder what other national outlets are writing about the Canucks senior management today.”
Best tough to see
Kerry Fraser says this is a clean play:
Tough to see where that stick makes contact with Kuzmenko. Was it his skull, or his cheekbone? Or his jaw? Either way, no call was made on the play.
Did that stop Kuz? Of course not. He knows one thing, and that’s when EP40 gets the puck with that look in his eye, just head to the net:
He almost got his hat trick goal by going full KGB and appearing out of nowhere to once again almost tap in the puck.
They have a yards after catch stat for the NFL, and I really want an “inches to the net” stat for goals scored. I feel like Kuzmenko has incredible value for proximity to the net and the goals he scores.
Best hoping for the best
There has not been a single “Why is JT Miller like this?” video clip in this entire article, and it feels nice:
This is the Jimothy Timothy I have seen before, one who can be a force in the offensive zone, and can pitch in on defence.
This is the guy Rick Tocchet is going to have to summon up each and every game for that contract to work.
Best knowing the end-game
The Canucks took the lead for good after another Blackhawks failed odd-man rush:
Dakota Joshua simply skates hard to the net and cleans up the trash. That’s a good fourth line goal right there.
The best part about it, though? Was Max Domi angrily cross-checking Dakota in the back, flinging Dakota on top of his own goalie, and resulting in Mrazek sliding backwards and absolutely obliterating his nuts on the post:
Call me crazy, but it’s probably not the best idea to hit an opponent on top of your prone goalie.
Best wanting it more
When does a team look like the mid 80s Oilers? When you give them time and space:
If you had told me that Connor Garland would make a no-look back pass behind the net to Sheldon Dries, who would then go between his legs to score a goal, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second.
Then when you added the context of “Against Chicago”, I totally would have believed you.
Still, that’s a nice goal, and is a perfect example of a guy who can go at top levels in the AHL being in your lineup vs a tree that walks slowly and defends the Shire or whatever.
Best going for gold
Hey, the team looked good, it did.
Bo Horvat almost got his Bumpin’ goal:
And then he almost got his end to end snipe job:
For GMs watching this game, you got to see Bo getting off high danger chances in his two prime spots on the ice.
Best laid plans
And to top it off? Bo Horvat got his other specialty, as well: The empty netter insurance goal:
The Canucks dominated Chicago, end of story. We’re not going to read too much into the victory, but you know what, after what felt like a year of arguing about Bruce Boudreau’s handling by the Canucks, there was some relief that on Tuesday night, it was just a regular night of winning hockey in Vancouver.
Yes, Bedard and all that, but in a vacuum, it was a solid night of hockey.
Best warning
Best checking in on the kids
Nils Höglander eyeing up a roster spot next season with goals like this.
Klimovich eyeing up an NHL All-Star spot with moves like this, dear god.
Best handling the market
I was talking to my buddy on my podcast, and I said the way to get this market is with jokes and self awareness. It was a blueprint laid out by Roberto Luongo, and honestly, I think Tocchet will handle things just fine here.
Never forget, at one time Luongo was clearly defensive when he arrived in Vancouver, and it felt like watching your divorced parents argue when he did media scrums. Once he figured out to laugh at things? He had this market eating out of his hands. One little “My contract sucks” and all of a sudden it was a lot easier for people to laugh about it, rather then busting out their calculators and angrily entering in numbers.
We saw Rutherford bristle at the conference when it was dared suggested he might have been in the wrong, and that just sets this market off. Own up to it, though? And people in this market are more forgiving than you think.
Tocchet is in a real tough situation here, so for him to come in and joke about the reactions and roll with the punches? He’s on the path to getting the fan base on his side in no time.

Best DAWG pound

How did Tocchet impact the DAWGs?
Dries – 107.21
Joshua – 102.77
Kuzmenko – 100.49
Mid tier:
Lazar – 98.80
Schenn – 96.47
Burroughs – 95.76
Pettersson – 81.80
Lower tier:
Miller – 70.50
Garland – 69.61 (nice)
Studnicka – 55.42
Mikheyev – 55.00
Dermott – 49.22
Horvat – 46.60
Boeser – 45.84
Bottom tier:
Myers – 36.50
Hughes – 27.81
Ekman-Larsson – 0.80
It’s good to know that even with change, OEL can still somehow summon a sub 1 DAWG rating.

Best living the life

Patrick Johnston answered the Delia fruit box mystery, so I have now tasked him with finding out the answer to the next burning question:
Did Curtis Lazar have a bite of this hamburger?
Best jersey Botch
Best homemade crafting
Put those in the Team Store, and assuming you don’t price them at $750, and they sell like hot cakes. Simply glorious.
Best fit
Sports reporters don’t exactly have the nicest fits, I’ll be the first to admit it. When I wear a plaid shirt and a toque to a scrum, I feel like I’m dressing up.
So credit to Faber for raising the game in the post-game pressers. Rumour has it a player walked by and mouthed the words “Nice fit.” when they saw Faber.

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