Like Rod Brind’Amour, the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, new Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet played during an NHL era when the game was still more violent, no nonsense, and there was almost no chance whatsoever you’d go chat with an opposing goalie during a TV time-out.
The two actually played half-a-season together in Philadelphia, Brind’Amour on the left wing, Tocchet on the right. They both averaged a point every 1.2 games over their 20-year and 18-year NHL careers respectively. “Tock” definitely piled up more penalty minutes, almost three times more, and neither were at all slouches.
We bring up the comparison because of accountability. Despite the necessity for a bit of ‘puppy glove’ handling of the younger stars these days, the core beliefs of these two gentlemen run parallel. They’ve adapted. Tocchet says he’s an excellent communicator, important always, but they definitely both still believe in a “man’s game”.
These dudes must relish the playoffs, because still today, that’s when hockey changes.
And while the Canucks won’t get there this season, barring divine intervention, Tocchet will have an opportunity to start implementing his level of accountability. The key will be finding buy-in. It probably won’t take long to determine which players are legitimate, because whether it’s Gordie Howe’s time, Wayne Gretzky’s era, or that of Sidney Crosby, the difference between winners and losers in hockey is work ethic, chemistry and commitment.
If Tocchet somehow strays from that principal, then all is lost for the Canucks. That’s not likely to happen.
“As a head coach, assistant coaches you’ve gotta build relationships,” Tocchet said at his press conference on Sunday. “You’ve gotta be by the coffee machine and ask these guys stuff. These guys want answers, there’s a lot of “why’s” in this generation and the coaches have to have answers.”
He went on.
“I call it a partnership, coaches can’t be dictators anymore, there’s gotta be a partnership, you’ve gotta give players a voice, but there’s also gotta be some hard rules too, the way you play the game.”
More poignant were his comments after Canucks practice on Monday.
“There’s some mindsets and stuff like that, that have to be non-negotiable.”
Striking that balance; Jon Cooper in Tampa, Jared Bednar in Denver, that’s the major task at hand for Tocchet. If there are naysayers, if someone can’t handle the rules and structure, then it’s up to Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin to move them along.
The firehouse mentality on a successful hockey team hasn’t changed. It’s up to Rick Tocchet to be the Canucks chief.