Canucks Have 3 Good Options if Head Coach Boudreau is Fired

It appears it’s not a matter of if, but when head coach Bruce Boudreau is fired. This after a monster season in 2021-22 that saw the Vancouver Canucks go 32-15-10 with him behind the bench following a slow 8-15-2 start under Travis Green. But that was then and this is now, and the Canucks are struggling to keep their heads above water in 2022-23 with the same coach that fans lovingly chanted “Bruce there it is!” after every goal/win last season.

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After a public tongue-lashing by president Jim Rutherford on Sportsnet 650 about the Canucks’ lack of structure under Boudreau, the team could be staring down yet another coaching change less than a year after Green was fired. With that said, here are three candidates who could be taking over as the Canucks’ third coach in two seasons.

Rick Tocchet

Currently working as an analyst on TNT, Rick Tocchet is very familiar with Rutherford and Patrik Allvin as he was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins for three seasons from 2014-2017, which included two Stanley Cups. Before that, he served as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the latter half of 2008-09 and into 2009-10. Most recently, he was behind the bench of the Arizona Coyotes for four years until they mutually parted ways after the 2020-21 season.

Assistant coach Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet’s familiarity with the current management group might give him a leg up for the head coaching job in Vancouver (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Holding a record of 178-200-60 as a head coach and with 438 games of experience, Tocchet’s teams are usually known for their solid defensive structure and hard-working style. Akin to how he played during his tenure in the NHL which saw him log 1,144 games, 952 points, and 2,970 penalty minutes, they are also very tough to play against. While his teams never saw a lot of success in the regular season or the playoffs (making it to the second round only once), they always played with intensity and never took a night off. That’s exactly what the Canucks need right now, so I am not really surprised that his name has come up in the rumor mill already.

Mike Vellucci

Another coach with ties to the Penguins, Mike Vellucci’s name was also mentioned by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman on a recent episode of Donnie and Dhali. An assistant coach alongside Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh after a successful stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Charlotte Checkers that saw him win a Calder Cup in 2019, he would be the equivalent of a Green hire. A coach that has had a history of success in the AHL and Canadian Hockey League (CHL), but has no experience as an NHL head coach.

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Before Vellucci took over the Checkers in 2017-18, he led the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for 13 seasons, winning a championship in 2007 and missing the playoffs only once in 2007-08. Like Green, he has a lot of previous success in the junior leagues, so it remains to be seen if he can translate that over to the NHL. He has been learning from the best in Sullivan for the past three seasons and has been in the conversation for head coaching jobs in the past – most recently in Philadelphia, where he had two interviews – so it’s not like this hire would be out of left field. He has also coached previous NHLers in junior including one J.T. Miller, who played one season under him in 2011-12 when he scored 25 goals and 62 points before graduating to the AHL with the Connecticut Whale.

Jeremy Colliton

This would be an easy one considering Jeremy Colliton is already under contract with the Canucks and is only an hour down the freeway in Abbotsford. Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks might disagree, but I think he did a pretty good job in the NHL as a young head coach. He might have been in over his head with the roster he was given and the off-ice issues that plagued the team, so I am giving him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his lack of success at the NHL level. By all accounts, he has a bright hockey mind and an eye for detail, so he could potentially be a good fit in Vancouver.

Head Coach Jeremy Colliton
Jeremy Colliton would probably be the easiest replacement at this point of the season (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Colliton might only be an interim solution until the Canucks cast a wider net in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean he can’t impress enough to grab the full-time job in 2023-24. He already knows the players and the organization, so he could be the easiest to promote at this point of the season. Bringing him up would also eliminate paying Green, Boudreau, and a new external coach all in one year.

Canucks Could Just Go With Yeo or Cull Until the Offseason

The Canucks might also just ride out the season with Mike Yeo or Trent Cull. Considering the strength of the 2023 Draft and the fact that they might have a chance at the uber prizes of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, or Matvei Michkov, Rutherford and Allvin could feel it’s better for the franchise to “tank” and hope to snag a top-5 or top-10 pick.

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American Thanksgiving is the first benchmark to see where your team is at, and right now the Canucks are not in a good spot playoff-wise. While it’s unfair to place the entire blame on Boudreau, it appears he will be the one falling on the sword for the team’s struggles so far. Now, we wait until the inevitable happens and he’s let go for one of the above coaches. Unfortunately, for Canucks Nation, it appears the end of the year will mark yet another coaching change. Hopefully, this next one will stick around to see some playoff success and a return to NHL legitimacy.

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