Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Rick Tocchet is not happy with the Canucks, and neither is Ian Cole
3 months ago
If the Canucks were one of the contestants on Squid Games, they’d be sweating fairly heavily right about now. Green jogging suit on, slowing down to a light walk, nervously wondering if the doll’s face was about to turn around and gaze upon them. Watching a couple of people at the back of the line catching up to them ever so slightly. Wondering when they can start running towards the finish line again.
It’s not that their season is over, or that it’s time to panic, but after watching two listless performances from the Canucks, the latest in the form of a 4-3 loss to the visiting Seattle Kraken, you can’t help but wonder if this is more than simple fatigue.
Granted, their schedule has not been easy. It was clearly made by someone who visited Vancouver once and swore a blood oath against the city after they tried driving across the Lions Gate Bridge in rush hour, playing their own torturous version of red light, green light.
And maybe Dom is doing a touchdown dance as the Canucks’ PDO hurtles back down to earth. Watching as Thatcher Demko’s high danger save percentage stops requiring a complex physics formula to even understand how it got so high in the first place. Watching the Canucks’ lack of 5 on 5 production coming back to bite them solidly on the rear end, with nary a whimper from the team.
With all of that said, it is just two games. And we all knew the Canucks weren’t going to win every single game this year, despite what some Twitter people try to tell you. You also couldn’t set up a better bounce-back opponent for Vancouver than the San Jose Sharks on Monday. They lose that game, and maybe you need to dig your towel out of the closet as you try not to panic.
What we do know is that this is a very solid test of the Canucks’ depth. Depth that has not done well the last few games, marked most noticeably by people pining for the “good old days” of Mark Friedman, as Noah Juulsen continues to struggle to win over the fan base almost as much as he’s struggled to move the puck.
And if an injury to Carson Soucy exposes the team’s defence to this extent, then clearly a move has to be made by Patrik Allvin. I’m not saying he has to, but if this season is one management really wants to lean into, and if the Canucks’ struggles continue into next week, you have to wonder if he will find a way to add another warm body to the backend.
Is that in the form of an Ethan Bear? Well he certainly would help with creating zone exits, something the team could use some help with. Quinn Hughes can’t be asked to do every single thing for this team. Well, I guess they can ask him, but you risk running him into the ground before the season is even halfway through.
Is that in the form of a trade with another team, such as Calgary? As always, that comes down to how much the Canucks want to mortgage the future in order to lean hard on a roster that hasn’t proven it’s ready for prime time just quite yet. It’s not unproven like season six of The Crown levels just quite yet, but if a ghost appears at some point to forgive Nathan Lafayette for hitting the post, all bets are off.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine Allvin simply sits back, makes no moves whatsoever, and instead starts surfing through Travis Kelce’s tweets to see which one he vibes with the most. Crazier things have happened, but everything about the management of this team has screamed “We think we’re ready to take a leap” heading into this season, and the owner of the team isn’t exactly known for his patience. Champagne problems, yes, but slowing the car down because he wants to see a game plan long term? Doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of it.
And watching this city embrace this team and enjoy hockey again, you could hardly blame them for getting caught up in wanting to maximize their returns on the year. Whether it’s cash motivations or they truly think you just need to get in and see what happens, the start to this season has made the playoffs feel pretty darn attainable. As always, it comes down to how much they are willing to pay to achieve it.
Because if nothing else is done, it is quite hard to imagine Noah Juulsen surviving another week on this team, much less eight of them.
Let’s make some gif money, shall we?
Best visualization of optimism
Yes, Andrei Kuzmenko, last seen getting drilled in the face with a shot from Rip Wheeler, returned to the lineup for Saturday’s game. It was never a matter of if he’d be smiling, but how much he’d be smiling.
Turns out, it’s a lot.
I feel like if Kuzmenko ever played the role of John Wick in a movie, and he did that scene where he says yeah, he’s thinking he’s back, he’d just be grinning happily at the camera the entire time. They’d try that scene a hundred times, begging Kuzmenko to stop smiling, but he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.
“Why I stop smiling? I happy. I get to do Hollywood movie. I big movie hero. Who has time to be sad?”
Dead pet scene? Grinning.
Losing fingers? Grinning.
Wondering how a blind assassin had to use doorbell sound cues to defeat three bad guys earlier in the movie but can now suddenly kill about 200 people from various angles and heights and not miss a single shot? Slightly confused, but still grinning away.
He’s the happiest player in the NHL. Hands down.
Best question with no answer
I’m not sure how Crazy P exists in the world of hockey, staring you in the face, angrily demanding you scream in rhythm with him, but that’s where we find ourselves.
I’m going to do the ol’ spoiler alert right about here and tell you that the Canucks’ first period was their best of the three, save for the last 10 seconds of the game. It’s like having a sandwich of mud, crab juice, and mountain dew, except a couple of slices of Cobs bread are clinging on for dear life, trying to keep this thing edible.
The game actually started out as a bit of a tease, with both teams trading chances like it might be a high-octane affair, complete with Run D.M.C. blaring out of the speakers anytime one team filled up their uber meter:
Both goalies were up to the task, with the Pizza Man Phillip Di Giuseppe getting the best chance of the bunch.
I will say that when a team is winning, everything feels perfect. That 3rd liner in the top six? His grit and work rate complement everything beautifully. He really sets the tone for that line.
When a team is losing? Players like PDG suddenly seem very one-dimensional. People start wondering how they can add more talent to the roster in order to drop him down the lineup.
It’s not faulty logic, either. Tanner Pearson was a hell of a guy, but it always felt like him being a monster on your third line was the sweet spot for him, rather than a door-to-door insurance salesman.
So platooning a 30-year-old journeyman whose career high was 17 points in his rookie season on one of your top six lines for the entire season? That’s going to be a tough sell during the stretches when this team falters. That’s all I’m saying.
Best it was the best of times
JT Miller flat out knows how to score points. However you want to break down his career to look for faults, whether you want to dive into 5 on 5 production, the defensive side of his game, secondary assists, or that time you saw him in Starbucks and you think he might have sneered at you because he thought you were Colin Delia, but it also could have just been a sneeze, and it’s also very possible it wasn’t even JT Miller anyways because why would he go to the Starbucks on Cornwall, the end point is the guy produces points at a very high rate, end of story:
That puck looked like it barely crossed the line, which is how I describe any joke I tweet that gets me into trouble. Barely crossed any lines.
But cross it did, as the overhead view appeared to show a quick glimpse of white to everyone but Kevin Bieksa:
The NHL awarded the Canucks the goal, which surprised some people, but then I assume an official winked at Vancouver’s bench and said “Watch out for the high sticks later, boys”, as I assume Loki figuring out time slipping created odd situations like this all over sports.
How many times have we had this conversation, you ask? Good question. Very good question.
Best Nintendo Power Glove
Hey, JT Miller generates points. Nobody is arguing that.
But this team overall is leaning so heavily on powerplay production that I don’t even have a good TV reference lined up for it yet.
It’s like The Office not realizing how good Robert California was.
It’s like Taskmaster being the number one show people recommend to me as the funniest thing they’ve ever seen and I can barely get through an episode without wondering if I’m the one being pranked.
It’s like Urkel leaning on his catchphrases too heavily.
Yeah, that last one works. Let’s go with that.
Best trying their best
Despite being at or near the top of the points leaders this season, concern around Elias Pettersson’s play continues. You know you’re a superstar when people are like “Yeah, he’s good, and he’s on pace for another 100 point season, but I can’t help but feel like he could hit 200 points if he wanted to.” I imagine Henrik and Daniel Sedin have very sympathetic text exchanges with EP40 on a weekly basis.
The argument does have merit, though, as Elias Pettersson is not showcasing the dynamic shifts he had at the start of the season. He is so incredibly skilled that he could probably have a solid 50 point season playing on a broken leg (take THAT Greg Campbell), but we just haven’t seen those shifts from him where you wonder if he’s more of a Thor or more of a Captain America.
Still, he is managing to create scoring chances like this nice give-and-go with Ilya Mikheyev that ends with a good chance for Filip Hronek:
That one almost plays out like the 1987 Canada Cup Winning goal, in that it involved passing the puck to the trailing player and ignoring the guy headed to the net, but mostly because I just wanted an excuse to post the clip of that game:
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Big. Things. Are happening. Oh boy. Everything. Is happening. Everywhere.
Best all the small things
It’s true. The Canucks’ hot start ensures that other teams will actually game plan for them. They’ll look at the tape and try and find ways to stop their prolific offence, unlike in years past when the opposition would start their EBUG in net and try and sneak one of the owner’s kids into the lineup to “go bar down on that Spencer Martin fella.”
To the Canucks’ credit, they played Seattle hard in the first period, and none stood out more in that regard all game long quite like Nils Höglander. Seen practicing with Rick Tocchet earlier in the day, one wonders if a tip he picked up was the kind that would make Fat Joe proud:
He’s fighting for a spot in the lineup, and on Saturday night, he pretty much locked in his spot for Monday if the world is fair and just. The battle Nils shows in that clip was on display all night, as he battled for every puck, and made strong moves to the net whenever he could. If you could create the complete opposite of the way Jake Virtanen played, this would be it.
Winning battles was something Filip Hronek did well on this zone entry attempt, as he engages physically to get the puck, and ends up taking down his man:
And of course, Elias Pettersson was also making plays in his own zone, as is tradition:
All of which is to say that talk of the Canucks needing to learn how to play tired? They looked like they had it under control for the first period.
Best Noooooo-ah Juulsen
Noah’s bad night started when he took a tripping penalty, complete with a glimpse of a not-mad-but-disappointed Rick Tocchet pacing behind the bench afterwards:
Full disclosure, I had no idea what the GMPA meant in that tweet. I was thinking it might be some new internet slang I was unaware of so I had to do some research to make sure it wasn’t something racist or over the line.
First I checked Urban Dictionary, where I was shocked to find no entries whatsoever. Even the most innocuous words can have intensely sexual meanings on UD. However, GMPA came up clear on there.
Then I checked Baby Gronk’s page to make sure he wasn’t the latest GMPA. No go there.
Then I googled it and saw Guaranteed Mortgage Package Agreement and thought hey, maybe fans are really leaning into housing metaphors, and this is all about how you can’t rely on Noah Juulsen, because the bubble could collapse at any moment. Is his new nickname The Big Short? I can get behind this.
Then I realized the tweet was missing a space, and GMPA stood for GM Patrik Allvin.
This has been a trip down my cerebral cortex.
Best chaotic indifference
Were it not for one stumble in the third period, people might still be accepting of Tyler Myers.
The Chaos Giraffe? He has been missing for days. Gone are the wild forays down the ice, and in their place is someone slamming the poke check button repeatedly.
Is he setting the world on fire? No. But that is a good thing for CG57.
Want to watch him calmly follow the puck, not run out of position, repeatedly try and use his stick length to interrupt plays, before finally closing the gap and clearing the puck on the penalty kill? Oh I know you do:
Want to watch what happens when Brandon Tanev takes a run at Groot?
Myers didn’t even move on that one. He just calmly stood in place until the puck was moved to the boards, then he dutifully went back to his job patrolling the back-end.
He’s one package of frozen carrots away from getting his own valley at this rate.
Best grinding in the club
There is going to be a lot of talk about the Canucks having to get greasy in games like this, and while I fully agree with this, we do have to give a shout out to the fourth line’s forechek:
Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua’s pursuit of the puck ends up with a high danger scoring chance for Ian Cole, and that’s what the Canucks need to see more of from the entire team, especially in games when the power play isn’t given many chances.
Garland remains this mystery of a player, much in the same vein as Mason Raymond was, wherein some people insist on telling you they are much better players than you think they are. It causes endless internet fights as people battle it out, with both sides viewing the other as dumb dumbs, but I do have to say I like me some Garland. His puck pursuit is one of the best on the teams and he is constantly in the face of the opposition making life hard for them.
Does that translate into his contract being worth it? Not when he’s in the bottom six and unable to carry a line by himself. You don’t pay that much money to a winger to facilitate Dakota Joshua.
But it also remains to be seen if Garland will be given a chance in the top six, where his effective 5 on 5 production might help out.
Either way it’s just nice to have a player around again that causes a bunch of people to yell and scream at Drance over.
Best give it away give it away now
The Kraken scored their first goal on a sloppy joe of a goal when a bad line change left the point unprotected:
That’s about a beer league line change as you’re going to see in the NHL, with players almost scrambling to get off to avoid a potential minus.
The end result is the Canucks defenders collapse so low that it leaves the point looking so very inviting, which is just what Seattle does when Beniers sets up Oleksiak for the goal.
You can’t blame this on defensive depth, Juulsen had nothing to do with this one. That’s simply the kind of mistake tired teams make, which is something Tocchet won’t be pleased with.
I think my favorite part of the goal is Brock Boeser hustling back to cover Eberle, only to turn around and see nobody whatsoever covering the point, and then spinning to watch the puck go in, ending with him shrugging his hands as if to say “wtf man”.
Bad changes can kill you in hockey, a sentiment Rick Tocchet was not afraid to address after the game.
“Awful changes, awful changes you know, changes lose you hockey games, lose you playoff series. You know, you [have got to] change properly. And we didn’t.”
Best your best players have to be your best players
JT Miller produces offensive chances, we know this. Quinn Hughes produces offense as well. We know this too.
This clip showcases JT Miller using the wraparound animation (aka the Kirk McLean kryptonite), as well as Quinn Hughes firing a pass from down low right over to the Pizza Man, who you can’t help but wonder if he’d be better suited on the third line (see it’s happening already, I was legally obligated to write that line of inquiry):
And I know JT Miller’s controller can disconnect at times on the back check, but if Rick Tocchet wants an example of a tired team making winning plays, it would be JT’s effort on stuff like this:
That’s him penalty killing, creating a zone exit out of sheer will power, then diving to clear the puck down the ice.
That’s a Jimothy Timothy play right there.
Best just the magical tip
Remember those high stick warnings?
Here we go:
Jordan Eberle managed to get a piece of the puck, and honestly, it looked pretty high, especially on this second angle:
But since the NHL likes to hide half the cameras it uses from public view, for all we know there is a perfectly level camera shot showing that this was not a high stick.
Or it was a high stick and Tim Peel was calling in a favor.
All we know for sure is that the goal counted and the Canucks found themselves fighting from behind for the first time on the night.
Best Norris type stuff
After the Canucks were down a goal, Seattle had them neutered pretty hard. Shots were being blocked, plays were being broken up with ease, it truly felt like the Canucks were simply waiting for the powerplay to solve their problems.
Luckily for Vancouver their captain might be kind of good at hockey:
We talked about it last game, but for someone to go from a “meh” scoring threat at the point to a “hahah those idiots actually left him open on the point?” has been incredible to watch.
And yes, Hronek is back on the apple wagon, as once again him and Quinn Hughes pass the puck back and forth with ease, drawing in defenders, and giving each other lots of space to work with.
It’s not heartburn you get when you watch the Canucks, it’s pain from watching Quinn Hughes anytime he has to try and create magic with an AHL call-up. I know Hronek is setting himself up to be the next gigantic contract failure, ending with him getting a fun animal nickname, but it sure is pretty watching him play with Quinn.
Best when worlds collide
Anytime I can mix wrestling and hockey, you damn well know I’m going to take it.
Best of the bunch
Nils was the Canucks best forward on the night, whether it was because Tocchet motivated him, or because he wanted to win the vaunted “appeared in the best gifs” award I hand out via carrier pigeon:
Size doesn’t seem to matter to Nils when he gets in the zone going full Wolverine on people. He just charges to the net around or through anything in his way, one of which ended up hitting the crossbar.
Did you just here someone shout “It’s Tricky!”? That’s because Höglander’s uber meter was full and he busted out this hard charging move to the net:
Elise could never.
Best worrying trends continue
Remember those sad moments last year where the Canucks would flock together like lost birds, aimlessly chasing the puck in their own zone? It looked beautiful in its coordination, but it often led to moments like this, where the puck would end up in their own net:
The Canucks forwards never collapse down low again, as they get caught up trying to figure out who to cover. So while Seattle is moving the puck around with aplomb, Lafferty is the only forward coming back, leaving two men for Hronek to deal with. Seattle takes full advantage of it and manages to tap in their third goal.
Sloppy. So sloppy Adam Sandler could sing a song about it.
This will not make Rick Tocchet happy. He is in danger of leaning away from not-mad-but-disappointed mode straight into just viscerally angry.
Best a wild Chaos Giraffe appears
Seattle then promptly made it 4-2, thus ending any idea about heroics. Well, unless you’re Höglander. We’ll get to that in a minute:
Tyler Myers falls down on a puck retrieval allowing Jordan Eberle having all the time and space in the world to make the pass to Beniers, which is bad enough.
But now you add in Brock Boeser and Ian Cole taking wider turns than Bo Horvat in overtime, and you’ve got yourself a goal against.
Both Brock and Ian peel out to give Tyler Myers an outlet for the puck on either side, that’s pretty clear, but they don’t do any shoulder checks or look at their blind spots, and before you know it, this game was being put away.
Again, this game was a nice mix of not getting bounces but also the Canucks not doing themselves any favors, on either side of the ice.
Best at least he did that
I don’t know how much to award Juulsen for getting revenge on McCaan after being the one to anger McCaan in the first place, but I have to give him some kudos for making it look so bad ass:
Noah straight up shoves Jared to the ice and then looks at him like an insignificant ant. Huge bad ass vibes on that play.
Best of the reckoning
The problem with AHL d-men in the lineup? They will provide AHL defense:
I feel like the Canucks plan is to put as many defenseman on the ice that have a number in the 40’s, in the hopes the other team constantly thinks Quinn Hughes is on the ice so they back off and attempt fewer things.
Akita Hirose gets burned pretty bad here chasing down the puck carrier, giving up a two on one that Tyler Myers amazingly doesn’t use as an opportunity to barrel roll into anyone’s legs.
Not a good night for the defense.
Best university student tradition
You know who earned a goal on the night? Nils:
Any time Nils scores and I can tweet passive aggressively at Cam Robinson, I am going to take it.
But with 10 seconds left, there is no way the Canucks were going to come back-
OK you know what, that was an effing fantastic play from JT Miller on the faceoff. The dude just knows the path to producing points.
Did Nils score? No, but the fact JT was able to push the puck over to Höglander to skate into? Brilliant play.
And to top it off, the Canucks managed one last chance off the next faceoff:
The Canucks evening this game up like this would have been almost too surreal. That for sure would have woken us all up and made us realize we were in The Matrix.
But as it stands, the Canucks lose their second game in a row. Against two teams near the bottom of the standings.
Now that game against San Jose on Monday starts feeling a lot more important than it did a week ago. Ask Ian Cole, and he knows the Canucks need to be better.
“You know, good teams don’t go on losing skids, right. And, you know, good teams don’t lose two games in a row. And we did that. So, you know, we need to make sure that we stop this right away. We can’t let this turn into three, four, five losses.”
Best accountability crib
DDP knows you need accountability. And while sometimes you need to round up the wagons and hold the line against the outside world by having Travis Green explain that this is a tough league to win in, there is something downright refreshing about a hockey man owning it.
Which is why Rick Tocchet might be The Stanchies MVP on the season. He didn’t hold back after the game when discussing what went wrong.
“There’s a lot of different reasons why we lost that game tonight. our changes were awful, long shifts. You can’t you can’t that’s 500 Hockey can’t win that way…You know, both teams played, you know, there’s no excuses. They played as many games as us in those days. They were a little bit hungrier on pucks. Basically, that’s really the game.”
Fatigue is something that is talked about a lot, but that is also something Rick was quick to call out.
“Our D we’re getting a little tired and you need your wingers to snap into people and I felt they were a little slow snapping into people because you know, there’s four or five guys that just weren’t ready to win a battle. I was trying to find somebody who was going.”
Certainly our happy Russian Kuzmenko would be spared from the ire of Rick Tocchet-
“Kuzzy’s got to start to play a little harder.”
To be honest, I could listen to Tocchet give a post-game presser in a loss any day of the week. It’s an easy thing to deflect and hide and evade questions about losses, but Tocchet? He dives in like a frustrated House explaining an obvious diagnosis to his team.
You know what happens you ask most coaches about playing with fatigue? You get the Green level “hard league to win in, but we have to find a way to do it.”
What does Tocchet say when asked about playing tired?
“When you’re tired, you just got to play, you just got to be really smart. You know. You’re out there for 30 seconds, you get the red, get it in deep. You know, get one guy safely off, get another guy, you know, standard structure. And then on the fourth goal, we make a switch then we leave the guts. You know, we’re usually pretty good team getting the guts to the ice and we’re leaving that guts of the ice open. And then that’s when goalies have to play post to posts. I hate when goalies have to play post post. So you got to protect the guts of the ice even when you’re tired.”
And it appears that sort of attitude is spreading throughout the team.
Remember Alex Edler? Getting him to say his name was a painful process.
Now? We have Ian Cole breaking down the game at the microlevel just like his coach. Here he is on what went wrong in the game:
“Oh, man you know, there’s you know, breakouts could have been cleaner through the neutral zone could have been cleaner. We didn’t we weren’t getting through the new film with speed. We weren’t getting pucks in and we didn’t have sustained pressure in the ozone too much. So I mean, you can go from one to the rank down to the other that wasn’t good enough. And it was forwards. It was D it was everybody. So you know, that’s, that’s on all of us to be better. And, you know, we need to you know, take a step back, look at it figure out what was was not good enough and fix it right away. You know, fatigue should never be a factor. Yes, there’s a lot of hockey games. Yes. time zones, travel all that but, you know, it’s just the NHL, there’s there’s no excuses, like, Oh, I was tired. gotta figure it out.”
I didn’t think a team could make losing games feel inspiring but Rick Tocchet might have darn well done it.
It’s the Strombone rule. If you own your losses and mistakes, this market will respect the hell out of you for it.
Best new rating
With Faber leaving, we lost access to the formula for the DAWG rating. Leaving us with the HOT DOG rating.
Solid 8.9 on that bad boy.
Best jersey Botch
Ok, maybe the DAWG ratings are in the Stanchies one last time.
That is a bold jersey choice.
This is a Hall of Fame jersey Botch that only gets better with time.
But nothing beats a signed Andrew Ebbett jersey.
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