Unless one believes the Canucks will go the equivalent of 26-and-9 the rest of the season to get to 93 points and a possible playoff bid, then this season ‘is what it is’ at this point. It’s an opportunity for new head coach Rick Tocchet to instill his messaging, his work ethic, and to help management evaluate which players are the real deal.
Tuesday night was a good start against a very poor Chicago Blackhawks team that hung around until the latter stages of the third period. Despite being outshot a whopping 48 to 14 on the evening, the visitors stayed in it at Rogers Arena until Canucks forwards Dakota Joshua and Sheldon Dries scored 34-seconds apart to untie matters and put the game away with eight minutes remaining.
Captain Bo Horvat added an empty netter for his 31st goal of the season and the 5-2 final.
“It was really nice,” Joshua (pictured) told Sportsnet postgame. “Obviously it’s been a long week for everybody in the organization. So to come in and get ‘Tock’ that first one was big for us and now we’re looking to get some momentum off it and keep it going tomorrow.”
It will definitely be a step up down the road on Wednesday night against this year’s Seattle Kraken club, vastly improved over their inaugural season and sitting in third place in the Pacific Division, 18 points ahead of the Canucks, with a heap of games in hand compared to the teams they’re chasing.
The one catch: the Canucks have owned them. Vancouver is 6-and-0 all-time against the start-ups. The match should be feisty.
Canucks Tick Tock
Tocchet has plenty of time to get his message across. The reality of the club’s situation is clear to ownership and management. This is about instilling commitment and focus, the type Tocchet played with during his 18 years in the NHL as a winger.
Night one as the new Canucks coach was a success.
“The players bought in,” Tocchet said postgame. “And it’s been some tough circumstances the last few days (with the firing of his predecessor Bruce Boudreau), there was a lot of emotions, head spinning, I thought these guys did a nice job. They went through a lot of systems, not so much systems stuff, but longer meetings than I like, and for them to take it in and play good … I thought it was, I commend the players.”
There’s absolutely no pressure on Tocchet for the remainder of the 2022-’23 season. He can set up the club for future endeavours. The pressure begins in the autumn after his first training camp.
In the meantime, management will move out who they see unfit to keep and the club will try to strike a balance between feeling good about its direction while landing the highest possible NHL Draft pick in the summer.