‘Go with what you know’. That appears to be the philosophy of the Vancouver Canucks brass after firing head coach Bruce Boudreau and hiring former Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup winning assistant coach Rick Tocchet as his replacement.
Not an unusual approach in the three-degrees-of-separation world of the National Hockey League.
Boudreau, a.k.a. ‘Gabby’, never had a chance. This is what happens when a franchise hires its head coach before it hires its president of hockey operations and up-until-now figurehead general manager.
The boss man will eventually want his guy.
It’s president Jim Rutherford’s operation. He criticized Boudreau publicly after the team got off to a bad start in the fall and just last week conducted the press conference that saw him discuss different scenarios for the future of the hockey club.
One would presume he’ll step aside and let his GM Patrik Allvin handle Sunday’s press conference with the new coach, at least in trying to keep up appearances, but one never knows.
Rutherford as GM, Allvin in the scouting department, and Tocchet as an assistant coach on the bench, all won Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 in Pittsburgh. Allvin was the one carryover from when the franchise won a Cup in 2009.
From that earlier team, the Canucks have added former Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar as a defensive development coach.
Tocchet also won a Stanley Cup as a player with the Penguins back in 1992.
Former Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup winning D-man Adam Foote also joins Vancouver’s staff as an assistant coach. He replaces Trent Cull, promoted this season to NHL assistant after being raved about by the Canucks franchise as he guided an injury plagued Abbotsford AHL roster through Covid and into the playoffs last season. He’s been shown the door.
It appears assistant coaches Mike Yeo and Jason King apparently hang on.
‘Tock’ as he’s known, could see an interesting mandate. Does the Canucks franchise actually want him to win hockey games, considering the inevitable player personnel changes that are on the horizon, coupled with a desire to get the best possible 2023 NHL Draft pick.
From the coach and players standpoint, yes, they’ll want to win. Tocchet has to build his program and the players have futures to consider, many of them beyond Vancouver. It’ll be a management tank if any. Imagine if the Canucks ping pong ball lands on 1st-overall draft selection Connor Bedard of North Vancouver and the Regina Pats of the WHL.
Tocchet most recently ran the bench for the Arizona Coyotes from 2017 to 2021 before becoming a TV analyst for a season-and-a-half.
His new gig officially starts Tuesday night with a game at Rogers Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver plays in Seattle the next night.