The Stanchies: The legend of Rick Tocchet grows once again after Miller’s benching
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
I know the joke is sitting right there.
We all see it. I know we do.
It’s just begging us to let it cross past our lips, so it can born into this world:
“I guess the Canucks dressed up as a good hockey team this season, eh?” as your Uncle gives you a charitable dry chuckle, your 8th attempt at a joke that night finally, kind of, sticking the landing.
The thing is, the Vancouver Canucks might actually be a good hockey team right now.
No, for real, I just wrote that without using a wink emoji. I promise you.
I honestly had a healthy five minute debate about whether I should write “The Vancouver Canucks are a good hockey team” with or without a question mark to lead this article. Then Quadrelli yelled at me about his strict bedtime, and I started writing again.
The point is, the Vancouver Canucks have not played like this since the shell of the 2011 team trotted out in the 2012 season to win one last President’s Trophy purely on Stanley Cup aspiration fumes.
Sure, the Benning Era had its moments…buried somewhere between Micheal Ferland haunting an entire city and a bubble run that inspired…more things that haunted an entire city.
And yes, it’s still very early on in the season, and if there is one thing Dan Russel taught me when I was younger, it’s that you should never get too excited about early season starts and potential dream jobs.
But Rick Tocchet has this roster playing some downright solid hockey.
And sure, maybe a 5-2 win over the middle-of-the-road Nashville Predators doesn’t feel exactly like a difficult test. But you have to admit that this is exactly the type of game the Canucks would have found a way to lose in years past.
Who amongst us can’t vividly remember a game in which the other team made life hard for the Canucks and they simply folded as the game went along? Sure, they’d get a goal from Pettersson or a second assist on the power play from JT Miller, but as the game continued, the Canucks would simply float away, like a plastic bag about to be featured in an Oscar-winning movie.
Not this team, though. Not on Tuesday night.
Instead of shutting down when the Nashville Predators made life in the neutral zone messier than your latest break up, the Canucks bounced back in the third period in a big way. There was no better example of this than when JT Miller, without a doubt one of the Canucks best players this season, was benched for a couple of shifts at the end of the second period.
Why was he benched? Because the old JT started to slip in. The angry JT. Not Jimothy Timothy, no no, this was Jake Turducken, the guy who takes three penalties, has an aversion to back checking, and yes, is constantly talking about poultry-based recipes.
Well that got put in check real quick when Tocchet skipped Miller’s power play shift near the end of the second period. Then once more when Rick skipped JT’s final shift of the period.
Yes, Tocchet was swinging his accountability hammer right at Miller’s furrowed little brow.
And you know what?
It actually worked.
To Miller’s credit, Jimothy Timothy played better in the third period.
He didn’t pout.
He didn’t pull out his cell phone to call up Colin Delia and scream at him.
He simply worked the bench door like a boss and then went out and scored a goal in the third period.
JT Miller seems like the kind of player who does better with structure, because fun uncle Bruce never had a handle on him. Supportive but Strict Step-Dad Rick? He’s got JT Miller buying in big time.
It feels like eons ago when we last saw the team play with this kind of structure, a team that is able to grind out wins against both good and bad teams.
So yes. It is still very early. And as anyone who has watched the Canucks play their entire life, we all know they can find the most incredible ways of crashing back to earth.
But with Rick Tocchet running the show, you have to admit, it gets a little bit easier to believe that maybe things actually have changed for the better around here.
Want to make some gif money? Let’s do this.
Best work in progress
I am going to be straight with you, the highlight package doesn’t get sexy until the third period, so you have to stick with me through this grinding foreplay until we get there. To the Predators’ credit, they played a solid defensive game of hockey for two periods, generating chances like this:
The amusing part of that play is Tyler Myers sees a puck, and instead of skating like he just picked up a golden mushroom and he wants to try and move up to first place, he actually smacks his stick down as if to say, “No, not now” and then backs off.
It’s a remarkably restrained play from a man who is more well known by his name of Chaos Giraffe over his real name of Tyler.
But back off he does, and he plays the odd man rush as best he can before losing a foot race, whereupon he takes a penalty.
The rewarded penalty shot led to Laim Foudy dropping what I can only assume was an audition tape for Dance 360 (on UPN), as he drops to a knee, but forgets to tag his man, and has to save face by trying to still pull off a dangle:
The point remains, however, that these Predators will kill you if you give them a chance, which seems like a tag line for a PBS nature show during sweeps week.
For those of you who remember sweeps week.
Best swapping chances
One of the highlights for the Canucks this season has been the play of their defence. Which is odd, because, for years, it has been downright putrid.
No offence to Oscar Fantenberg, but dependability has been an issue for this team’s rearguards over the last decade.
The returns on the newly formed defensive corps have been quite good, however, which I will now prove using science and the following three gifs.
First up we have Filip Hronek cutting off a clearing attempt and flicking a backhander on net that Elias Pettersson merely whispers “soon…soon.” at:
Then we have Ian Cole absolutely shutting down a zone entry with a nice leg kick and taking it down the ice with a pass over to Anthony Beauvillier, whose likes include long walks along the Seawall and mishandling passes:
And to end this hat trick of gifs, we have Filip Hronek jumping up into the play and snagging the puck from a board battle, before flicking it over to Quinn Hughes:
No goals were scored, but it has been many seasons since we’ve not only seen the Canucks generate chances like these throughout the lineup, but also not do so at the expense of playing defence.
We’ve talked about it in the past, but while the Canucks might not be world-beaters, they did try and raise the bar all throughout the roster. The end result so far is a team playing solid hockey throughout, much in the way you tried to save your dinner by adding more cheese to it. It might not work long term, but in the meantime, everyone is raving about it.
Best putting in the work
As my friend and co-worker Jeff (I am contractually obligated to call him that) points out, the Canucks were not playing particularly great hockey. I honestly do give a lot of credit to the Predators, as they seemed to summon the spirit of the early 2000 Minnesota Wild to try and put me into a coma.
That being said, the Canucks still generated chances here and there:
Andrei Kuzmenko didn’t have the most flattering game (like when you wear a blue shirt with red jeans), but he still made some nifty passes, like the one shown above.
Did Elias Pettersson score? No, he did not.
But I assume he did whisper, “Soon….soon.” as he unleashed the shot.
Best keep on grinding
When the Canucks wear the Skate jerseys you know I am going to find ways to use as many gifs as possible. Skate gif money just lands differently, you know?
First up, we have Conor Garland, a man whose name I have written a thousand times, yet I still get a sliver of doubt about how many n’s to put in his first name:
If you’re like, “Hey Wyatt, these are a lot of clips of people pressuring on the forecheck leading to turnovers,” then you my observational friend have discovered how two periods of this game progressed.
Which again, kudos to the Canucks for fighting through it and still finding ways to create scoring chances. That turnover led to a post and a pretty juicy rebound and forced Lankinen to make a theoretical save.
But the Predators were pushing back as well, and they caused turnovers that led to solid scoring chances as well:
Kuzmenko gets stripped of the puck and before you know it, Thatcher Demko is forced to make a save.
The final shots were 29 to 27 for Nashville, but the true tale of how the first 40 minutes went is the fact Nashville generated 12 high-danger scoring chances to Vancouver’s 3.
But because I write for this market, I didn’t post a ton of Nashville gifs. I simply informed you of this via the written word.
This is what we in the business call a veteran-savvy move.
Best just for Lafferty
So hey, Quinn Hughes might be good at hockey:
Lafferty gets credit for the goal because the puck goes in off his dome, but the fact he’s creating chaos in the crease is more than enough reason to give him full credit for opening the scoring.
But yes, Quinn Hughes is once again playing like FPS Doug this season, generating chances and dancing all day. I think we all realized Quinn Hughes would try and elevate his game when he got the captaincy, but I don’t think many of us realized just how far his game would evolve.
His skating looks like it’s on another level this year. And yes, we’ve all thought about his edge work during a long hot shower here and there, but Quinn has seemingly laser-focused in on generating dangerous shots on net. No longer is he the Muffin Man, sending in harmless shots from Drury Lane. Now he looks like a downright shark out on the ice, dodging by people and getting off very hard shots on net.
The only thing I can think of that would be more exhausting then trying to chase Quinn Hughes around the ice is trying to explain to people they have to wait for people to leave the Skytrain before they can board.
Best glimpse of a world we rarely see
There was a brief part of the game where the Predators thought they might win this game, and it’s when they scored two goals against the Canucks top pairing.
Yes, you read that right, Tyler Myers was involved in neither of the goals scored against the Canucks on Tuesday night.
Even more strange? It was an errant pass from Quinn Hughes that led to the first Nashville goal:
People often ask me why I might point out mistakes from certain players over others, and the answer is usually because it’s based on their career. If a guy throws 99 perfect passes and fumbles the 100th, it’s pretty easy to give them the benefit of the doubt.
If someone is out there getting 28 passes picked out of 60, it’s a lot easier to opine that maybe defence just isn’t this guy’s bag.
So yes, Quinn Hughes made a pass that was picked off and rammed down their throats. But you’re going to trust Quinn Hughes in that position every single time. Sometimes things happen in
Best was it all just a dream
The Predators then struck again mere moments later on what was a pretty slick goal from the Predators:
Not only did they set up a perfect screen in front, but Coquitlam’s own Dante Fabbro also out-waited Philly Di Giuseppe before unleashing a perfect wrist shot, once again reminding us that nothing good ever comes from Coquitlam, especially not the Coquitlam Express. Editor’s note: The City of Coquitlam hosts the Lights at Lafarge Lake every year. Featuring over 1,000 lights, the 1.2-kilometre pathway around Lafarge Lake is decorated with sparkling holiday lights. There are usually illuminated archways to walk under, Christmas light reindeer to admire and various themed areas throughout the park. The event is Metro Vancouver’s largest free outdoor Christmas light display, so take that Wyatt.
The end result was the Canucks were playing kind of like hot garbage, with some token resistance, and looked like they might be in for a long night.
The Eastern Media was right. He’s just sort of bumbling along like hockey’s version of Charlie Brown, always just narrowly missing that football.
Best how to get detention by JT Miller
JT Miller got his first two penalties of the game when he not only got called for this hook, but also said something naughty enough to the officials that they handed out a double minor:
I assume Hank Sedin was beaming with pride at his ol’ chicken wing maneuver being used so expertly by Forsberg.
The end result was the officials taking away a penalty when they evened out one of the penalties by calling this hook on Pius Suter:
This now ends your class on Game Management.
Best but the frogurt contains potassium benzoate
Elias Pettersson over in the corner whispering “soon…..soon.”
Best new song for a new era
The goal song has to change.
You know it. I know it. We all know it.
And not because it’s bad. I quite enjoyed the off-the-beaten-path nature of it when they started rocking it.
But this is the Quinn Hughes Era. The man deserves a new song that, when we hear it, we sit back and smile and think, “Oh yeah, Quinn Hughes.”
Because you know what? Quinn Hughes is pretty damn good at hockey.
Also, this time Elias didn’t whisper ‘soon,’ he whispered ‘now.”
One of the themes of the goals tonight is just how much team play goes into them. These aren’t just smash and grab side missions in Grand Theft Auto, these are main storyline goals where you get a backstory and everything.
On this goal, watch Ilya Mikheyev land the perfect flyby screen on the Predators goaltender. It’s the Snapchat message of screens.
Watch Quinn Hughes go full Pirlo and push the puck up the ice with pace. I don’t know if we have ever seen him look stronger and more confident with the puck than he has this season.
Then finally, we have Elias Pettersson going full swagger mode and just waltzing down West 41st Avenue before sending this puck right into Revera Crofton Manor.
Just a delightful goal from a team that is proving to be quite plucky in the year 2023.
Best not quite over yet
With that said, the Canucks still had their struggles.
Ian Cole, who honestly has played quite well for the Canucks, ran into a shift of two turnovers:
The first turnover is the more egregious one because only a handful of defenceman in the NHL should have the confidence to look down the middle of the ice from behind their net and think “yeah, I can pass this right through there.”
The second turnover he’s on his backhand and I assume he’s afraid of throwing the puck over the glass for a penalty, so he goes once again near the middle of the ice. If he gets a delay of game penalty there, then he’s in The Stanchies winning “best boo boo” and who wants that, really.
Luca Sbisa won that once and some say it ended his career.
Best grindr update
I will say that Hronek and Hughes did a very good job shutting down this offensive attempt:
And I will also say JT Miller is incredibly lucky that when he stopped backchecking, the guy he let go to the front of the net all alone didn’t get a pass.
JT Miller earned that benching, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Best proof of high danger chances
Nashville did end the game with 16 high-danger chances, so while Elias will get a lot of credit, and Hughes will get a lot of credit, and JT and Tocchet will get credit, we must not forget that Thatcher Demko is a key component to so much of this hot start for the Canucks:
The problem with Demko, and I firmly use problem in quotation marks, is he’s so damn stable in net that he never makes things look difficult.
If that’s Dan Cloutier, he’s hyper-extending his knee to make a kick save before flopping around and throwing his blocker.
With Demko, he makes everything look so simple and easy that even on the hardest of saves you’re not even sweating them. You start to take Demko for granted, and before you know it, you’re in couples therapy trying to put everything back together.
Best ‘Stume Advice
JT Miller’s third penalty, which led to his benching, was on this play:
To be fair to JT Miller, it didn’t look like high sticking. His stick rode up an arm, and it looked more like his head connected with Josi’s visor than anything, but by this point, Miller was being Auger’d by the officials, so they were on high alert.
I also pointed out his lack of back-checking in that previous gif on the Hughes defensive play to showcase that overall, Tocchet had a very strong case to be sending a message to JT Miller.
We would use comments from JT Miller to dive into this further, but he wasn’t made available post-game for comments.
You can sense me arching an eyebrow from here, right?
Best starting to come together
The Canucks ended the period strong, and one of the nice things about Kuzmenko is even in a game in which he’s struggling, he’s still able to partake in plays like this, where he drives hard to the net and generates a rebound for EP40:
The fact Ilya Mikheyev has looked so good with this line this quickly only leads you to ponder what it might look like when he shakes off all the rust. It feels like a line that can really do some offensive damage to teams.
Best how much do you bench?
With JT Miller getting put in a timeout, the Canucks went out and did this:
Once again, this is another example of a team goal.
First up, we have Andrei Kuzmenko dancing with the puck, drawing in a defender, then finding an open Elias Pettersson.
Then we have EP40 faking the one-timer, causing the Predator defenceman to go into a shot-blocking animation, thus preventing him from closing the distance to Elias.
Then we have Brock Boeser sneaking in front to set up the screen.
Then we have EP40 biding his time until the goalie commits to the left harder than a politician of your choosing and absolutely sniping the puck home.
Then we have JT Miller on the bench, assumingly muttering lyrics to Adelle’s Rolling in the Deep.
A lot can happen in ten seconds of NHL action.
Best chemistry lesson
Speaking of Mikheyev, I feel like Kuzmenko wants to play so well for him. Every time Kuzmenko passes to Ilya, it feels like it has more speed and accuracy on it:
I used to doubt EA Sports and their chemistry system, but now I’m starting to believe, because that is quite clearly +5 to speed and accuracy on that pass.
Best clips for the East
Despite Pierre LeBrun, James Mirtle, and Greg Wyshynski proving me wrong about Eastern Media bedtimes, I still want to post this for the rest of them:
That right there is why Elias Pettersson is one of the best defensive forwards in this league. His ability to not only read that the Predators were about to do a no-look dump in along the boards, but also then to jump up and turn that into a breakaway pass to Carson Soucy?
That’s the good stuff right there. Forget CBD gummies to relax. Just put that bad boy on loop because nothing seems more calming in this world than EP40 on defence.
I’ve already written about the legend of Rick Tocchet this season, and it’s only going to get bigger if this sort of stuff keeps happening:
Yes, that’s the recently benched JT Miller cashing in during four on four play in the third period.
Yes, that’s a bullet of a wrist shot from Brock Boeser, who seems to have regained his power.
Yes, that sound you hear is a bunch more people jumping on the Rick Tocchet hype-train.
And who can blame them, really? In a league long riddled with separate rules for star players and grinders, watching Tocchet sit one of his best players this season (and let’s be crystal clear about this, JT Miller has played fantastic hockey this season) and handing out accountability?
That shit SELLS in Vancouver.
The fact JT Miller scored right after is just icing on the cake, but the fact Tocchet even did this in the first place is the sort of thing that people are going to absolutely love.
And it’s hard to argue that JT Miller won’t benefit from it. We saw his play kind of waiver under Bruce Boudreau, and it feels like he’s the kind of player who excels with structure. The kind of Alpha Male Gorilla who respects another Alpha Male Gorilla cutting him off at the pass and making sure he plays solid, defensive tree climbing or whatever sport it is gorillas play.
(My knowledge of gorillas comes from the movie Congo, so I assume they come in two forms: Very very nice ones, and then the ones who smash your head together with two large rocks.)
Winning makes everything better, and you could put a clown behind the bench and if the team went 20 games over .500, people would applaud his juggling skills as the reason the team won games.
But you get the sense that even during hard times, Rick Tocchet is going to be able to manage this market just fine.
Best in his own words
This guy is winning this market over, and hard.
Best cinematography goes to…
Bravo Sportsnet, bravo.
Now that’s how you cut to a commercial.
Best unarguable fact
Best getting your boys back
With JT Miller out of the dog house, the last thing his boy PDG would want is a lazy no-look pass resulting in a goal against.
Which is why I’m convinced Phil Di Giuseppe bore down and made sure to back check on this play:
Brilliant piece of back checking coupled with that little one-handed shovel pass that he chases down himself when he realizes no teammate can get to it.
There is a reason PDG is a Tocchet favourite, and it’s because of plays like these.
Best what year is it
The third period kind of ended up being a fun back-and-forth of offence (I’m sure much to the chagrin of Tocchet), but the end result was the Canucks walking away with the best chance:
There have been rumblings wondering if the bottom six has to provide more offence, and while EP40 and his hat trick got all the press, Pius, Garland, and Joshua all had their moments in this game.
Feels like it’s a matter of when not if a bottom line wins a game for the Canucks in the near future.
Best lend me your hats
And to top off the game, here’s Elias Pettersson getting a hat trick and several hearty “way to go, kid” head shakes:
Also, free hats.
Never forget the free hats.
I know the Canucks used to keep the buckets of hats from each hat trick at one point. I wonder if they still do that.
Or did Covid take that from us, too?
Best added value
I thought you weren’t supposed to sample your own product.
Best and now for no reason whatsoever
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Best almost but not quite
JT Miller needs to be the guy who gets the hat trick for that title.
Best what a wonderful world
Demko is that guy who respects the past.
From his Kirk McLean gear tribute to the Gino Odjick tribute on his mask, this is a guy who honours those that came before him.
Best Halloween jersey Botch
Rob Williams doesn’t agree, but he doesn’t count.
You know what, this makes me want to see the Canucks rock purple hockey pants with those jerseys.
Would you believe there was a time people were absolutely livid he was snagged on waivers?
Best let’s be clear
OK, like, taking them out to a restaurant kind of reward? Making sure they snag good reservations at The Keg on Granville Island?
Or making a trade of future assets to try and bolster the roster based on a 9-game sample size?
It has to be The Keg thing, right?
Best he ain’t wrong
Screw it, go with them full time.
Quinn Hughes Era.
New goal song.
New prime jersey.
Best second career
And finally, I want to give a shout out to Frankie Corrado, who is managing to carve himself a niche in the media game.
Funnily enough, he was one of the players I covered in the minors when I broke into the business, so I always kind of kept tabs on him, if for anything else, to invite him to play Dungeons and Dragons one day.
And while he ended up with the curse of being a right-handed defenceman, which meant teams held onto him for dear life even at the cost of rarely playing him, he still managed a great run of getting paid to play hockey.
Fast forward to today, and he’s still involved in hockey, this time from the other side of things. He’s out there in media doing spots for major outlets, and it’s wonderful to see.
And you know what, I love what he’s doing. He’s having fun with it and bringing a bit of that lighter side to sports coverage that you know yours truly loves as well, but with the added bonus of the fact HE KNOWS SO MUCH ABOUT HOCKEY.
Even his breakdowns on his laptop is great branding:
I saw that and was tempted to send him screen capturing software, but you know what? This is more unique. This is more him. It’s fun and very insightful.
So we shall end this Halloween with a celebration of anyone out there who carves out a second career for themselves.
Goodness knows it can’t be easy trying to figure out a new identity and career for yourself, so kudos to Frankie Corrado.
Even if he failed this city in the playoffs in 2013.
Nobody forgets Frankie.
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