Welcome to scenes from morning skate brought to you by NHL betting odds site Betway!
Today marked the first practice of the Rick Tocchet era of Vancouver Canucks hockey. We know what you’re here for. Here’s what we saw from today’s Canucks practice.
What we saw
Before practice began, Tocchet took a warmup lap alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It seemed like a long but pleasant conversation between the two ex-Coyotes.
Today was a long practice with Tocchet’s time rather limited before the Canucks face off against the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow evening.
The Canucks worked extensively on their defensive play, with newly hired defensive development coach Sergei Gonchar taking a very hands-on approach with the defencemen. He won’t be here every day, but any day the NHL legend is on the ice is a good day for the Canucks’ defencemen.
And now let’s break down the line rushes:
Keep in mind that these are day one line rushes and are subject to change, but Tocchet’s philosophy of wanting to run four lines and limit the ice time of his top guns appears to be present with this lineup.
- Quinn Hughes was paired up with Tyler Myers instead of his usual partner Luke Schenn, who found himself alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
- JT Miller is back at centre, and it will be interesting to see how long of a leash and how critical Tocchet is of Miller’s deficiencies that kept him from playing consistently playing centre under Bruce Boudreau.
- Sheldon Dries and Jack Studnicka find themselves off of the fourth line and into the top nine, as Tocchet appears ready to implement his run-four-lines philosophy right from the get-go.
What was said
JT Miller spoke about what he hopes to see his team do each and every night. Miller’s tune certainly hasn’t changed from before the coaching change.
“I don’t want to speak in a sense of what Bruce did and didn’t bring for our team, but it’s our game in a nutshell,” said Miller when asked how things could be different under Tocchet. “Some games we show we can play direct and limit our turnovers and track back and really defend first. Like every time we make it hard on other teams, we seem to have more offence. It’s amazing how that works.
“It’s nothing different. You know, when we struggle our battle level comes down. So I think today was around moving our legs and moving our feet and getting some battle and physicality into the practice. But it shouldn’t matter who our coach is to care and to work hard and play physical and skate. You know, those are things that are very controllable.”
Rick Tocchet understands the situation at hand and is ready to get the Canucks playing a more structured game. That being said, he’s also aware that he can’t throw too much information at players — many of whom just met him for the first time today — on day one.
“I was happy, I thought the pace was good,” said Tocchet. “You know, first day, I’m sure guys’ heads are spinning, anxiety and stuff like that, so I really wanted to just worry about the pace and some work stuff. I didn’t really want to get too much into system stuff, but it was good.”
Tocchet also talked about his focus of building relationships and “partnerships” with his players.
“It’s huge,” said Tocchet. “I’ve talked to as many guys as I can but it’s still not even scratched the surface. That’s why you bring in Sergy and Footy [Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote], those guys are going to be some foot soldiers for me — they’re already doing relationships as we speak.
“It’s all about relationships in this game. Yeah, X’s and O’s and all that stuff I get, but players have a voice, you know, they should have a voice and it should be a partnership, but there’s some mindsets and stuff like that, that have to be non negotiable. And I think these guys understand that in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve explained to them that as much as we’re gonna be a partnership, and you guys are gonna have a voice, there’s some stuff that are non-negotiable stuff that they’re gonna have to make sure that they adhere to the team, to be a team.”