Vancouver Canucks, Rick Tocchet

By NHL Standards, Canucks Tocchet As Honest As They Come

While former Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau was honest, in a more jovial manner, he was still slightly more guarded than Rick Tocchet, who openly speaks his mind. He chops up sentences here and there, leaves off words, maybe out of subconscious caution or simple hurriedness, who knows, but his straight talk is consistently refreshing.

He took responsibility for taking a bench minor late in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken, a penalty that prevented the Canucks from having a net-empty, 6-on-5 attack in the final minute. He got popped for complaining too vehemently about a non-call.

“That was me, that’s my fault,” Tocchet said postgame. “I thought (Brandon) Tanev, well he did, he left his feet on the charge, it was a charging I thought, he left his feet and I wasn’t too happy. I can’t, regular season I probably wouldn’t, I want to give our team a chance. I shouldn’t take that penalty, but I was pissed at the ref and should have kept my mouth shut. It won’t happen again, put it that way.”

Following the previous Canucks preseason match against the Kraken on September 29th, Tocchet was honest and open about the opponent, expressing to Vancouver Hockey Insider his appreciation for the way Seattle played.

“They all play the same way, if you look at their line-up, they’ve got 28, 29 solid NHL players,” Tocchet told us. “I don’t even think there’s a weakness on that team. It’s a good team and it’s a good lesson for us, how we’ve gotta play.”

Defuse Canucks Talk

In a small media market that’s infamously negative, known for rumour-milling, maybe Tocchet has found the best approach. Lay it out there. Make it clear. You can’t make crap up or try to read between the lines when there’s very few lines to read between.

As an experienced TV panelist and analyst talking hockey when he wasn’t coaching, Tocchet knows what’s BS from both sides of it. Many of us know what’s being alluded to when an NHL coach or general manager tap dances around a topic, but move along knowing to leave it alone. Even when being blatantly lied to, we know the lie is there for a reason and we accept it, especially as it relates to injuries.

That’s one area we should expect to see Tocchet remain a bit guarded: When it comes to a player’s health.

Otherwise, the coach sounds like these obvious coaching misdirections are simply not part of his approach, because ultimately, a hockey game shouldn’t be treated as top secret rocket science.

The Joshua Example

Tocchet didn’t mince words when it came to the early training camp performance of Canucks forward Dakota Joshua.

“Dakota, he’s gotta pick it up,” Tocchet stated on September 26th. “Quite frankly, I’m not going to get into some of the factors, but he has to … he’s gotta try to win a job. The job’s not there, there’s guys breathing down, that want jobs, and whether it’s a message or not, there’s a lot of other factors I’m not going to get into, but yeah, he’s gotta pick it up.”

He then honestly updated his thoughts on the player’s performance following the Canucks next game. Joshua didn’t have a problem with it.

“I’m trying to answer the call, doing what I can, just taking it step-by-step and building towards being a player that the coaching staff wants me to be,” Joshua said on October 2nd. “Improving every day, getting better, and getting the most out of myself every day. Obviously he wasn’t happy with the way I started camp but you can’t go back and change that now, so it’s just moving forward and getting better every day.”

What that experience does is set the bar as to how the coach may communicate things, how open things will be, and what players can expect. Tocchet was similarly open about his evaluation of Vasily Podkolzin, recently sent down to Abbotsford.

Establishing behaviour and expectations is crucial. Obviously not every coach is the same, and at this point Tocchet has established who he is and players now know what to expect.

The media does as well. And it’s refreshing.

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Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.