Well, Rick Tocchet’s first press conference as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks has come and gone.
On Sunday, general manager Patrik Allvin and president Jim Rutherford sat alongside Tocchet as he met with the Vancouver media for the first time. A number of topics were covered in the 45+ minute press conference, which you can watch in its entirety by clicking here.
We’re going to try to give you the most important information from the press conference as it pertains to the coaching change. And with that, let’s break down this presser.
On Boudreau’s situation
Right off the bat, Rutherford was asked about the way Bruce Boudreau’s firing was handled. Here’s what the president of hockey ops had to say.
“Leading up to this decision about a month ago, Patrick and Bruce and I had a meeting. We talked about where the team was at. We had some of our top players having very good seasons but the bottom half of the team seems to have declined even to the point of some of our younger players — Podkolzin, Höglander, and these guys — and that was a concern about how do we go forward and get all these players on board and playing to their potential?
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“So we had that meeting, we talked about a bunch of things. I talked about the schedule where we were at, and said that we would really like to get through the year with Bruce as the coach and then make a decision at that point, and we’d like to see some progress. Two weeks later, we have a follow up meeting, part of the due process, walked through a bunch of things again, and there wasn’t any improvement in the areas that we were hoping for. So then it got to the point where Patrik started to zero in on it and felt at that point we had to make a change.
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“Now part of this process — and I will apologize to Bruce for this — is probably in my interviews over the course of the season, when people ask me a question, I’m probably too direct and too honest. And so that goes back to my comment about the team playing with structure, more structure, and things like that. I’ve done that my whole career. I’ve tried to be honest, I’ve tried to answer the best I can. And sometimes that affects certain people. And in this case, it probably did affect him. And I’m sorry I did that, and I’ve learned from it. So I decided that I need to separate. I’m not going to talk about the team. I’m going to let Patrik and Rick Tocchet talk about the team and just stay away from those things. But unfortunately, it’s turned out the way it did. Nobody takes great pride in this. I’ve known Bruce for a long time, he’s been a friend, and I feel very bad about it. And if I’ve offended anybody in the process I apologize personally on behalf of the Canucks.”
Tocchet’s focus
It should come as little surprise that Tocchet wants to clean up the Canucks’ goals against numbers both at even strength and on the penalty kill.
“You can’t win this game if you’re gonna be at the bottom of those categories,” said Tocchet. “And with that, there is structure. There’s some hard rules to keep the puck out of your net without sacrificing offence, don’t get me wrong, but you know, that’s one thing we all know has to get cleaned up here absolutely.”
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One thing seemed to be made clear about the press conference today, and that’s that Tocchet is being brought in to implement good habits to a team that has plenty of bad habits. Tocchet talked about how he wants to lean on players like Conor Garland, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Luke Schenn — players he had in Arizona — to help him run drills, but also that he wants Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to be the players that lead by example and set the standard for everyone else.
Tocchet was also asked about keeping players accountable, and was asked specifically about how he hopes to get more out of JT Miller.
“Yeah, like I said, I don’t want to be the guy coming in and trashing anybody, but I just don’t know if you can play guys — those type of guys — that many minutes, 24, 23 minutes, and I don’t think that’s what we’re looking to do here. I think JT’s put in positions sometimes where he’s pacing himself when I watch [him] out there. His passion for the game is there, and I’m anxious to work with him… He’s definitely a player that can really help your club.
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“I was an emotional player. There’s different emotion, you know? It’s okay to have emotion on the bench and tell your linemate ‘let’s go’, but I think on the ice you’ve got to be careful with your body language. If you’re upset, it doesn’t mean — and I’m not just talking about JT — I’m just saying with your body language, you can’t stop bodychecking because you’re mad at something, that’s one of my rules.
“It’s okay to be emotional, but you have to have the right emotions, so just channel it. And that’s for every guy, not just JT, I think every guy, not just JT, I think a locker room in general has to have that.”
Ahead of taking the job, Tocchet was told flat out by Allvin that this isn’t going to be a quick fix. As much as one possibly can given the circumstances, Tocchet knows what he’s in for.
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As for his goal for the rest of the season, Tocchet made it clear he’s not here to try to help bump this team into the playoff hunt in what’s shaping up to be a lost season.
“Just the culture, the teaching, the structure. Where players know when they leave the rink they know where they stand, stuff like that,” said Tocchet when asked what he hopes to accomplish in the short-term. Tocchet also added that he wants every player to improve under him by the end of the season.
All in all, Tocchet used the word structure a lot today, and talked about how he wants the Canucks to play less “river-hockey” under his watch. Tocchet also said he talked to his good friend Travis Green quite a bit before taking the job in Vancouver.
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What we learned
Without rehashing all the quotes, here’s what it felt like we can take away from Tocchet’s introductory press conference:
  • Tocchet wants to run four lines almost equally and lower the ice time of Quinn Hughes, JT Miller, and the rest of the Canucks’ heavily relied upon “top guns”.
  • Tocchet wants to put players like Pettersson in “positions to succeed”, and while he didn’t flat-out say he doesn’t plan on using Pettersson in a matchup role against the opposition’s best, it sounds like for the most part, Pettersson won’t be in a matchup role right from the get-go under Tocchet.
  • Tocchet said he needs players other than the top guys killing penalties. This may be a good way to limit Miller’s ice time, but Tocchet may quickly realize that Pettersson is this team’s best penalty killer if he tries to move away from Pettersson on the PK.
  • Tocchet says Mike Yeo is going to get a lot of autonomy, and that Travis Green is a big fan of Jason King.
There was lots more said in today’s long press conference, which you can watch in its entirety by clicking here.