The Vancouver Canucks hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2019-20 in the 2023-24 season, as they have a lot on the line. General manager Patrik Allvin and the rest of the front office have attempted to rebuild the blue line and add depth up front to improve their roster. If the Canucks miss out on the playoffs, the front office will have much more work to do. Additionally, Elias Pettersson is set on waiting to negotiate an extension and missing the playoffs again could negatively affect his next deal for the Canucks.
The Canucks can have a better season in 2023-24 with an improved start. In order to do so, the club needs to have a good training camp. The organization announced training camp will take place at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, BC, from Sept. 21 to Sept. 24.
Rutherford on Canucks Poor Training Camp in 2022-23
The Canucks started the 2022-23 season by losing seven straight games. Their 2-5-2 record in October 2022 made it difficult for the organization to bounce back throughout the season. The Canucks finished with a 38-37-7 record, missing the playoffs for the third year in a row. President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford commented on their tough start, pointing toward the team’s poor defensive structure and training camp.
“At this point, I would have expected better. I didn’t like our training camp and we continued into the early part of the season the same way as our training camp was,” said Rutherford. “In order for us to become a better team, we have to play with a stronger system and really be more accountable for some of the things that some of the players are struggling with.”
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Rutherford believed the Canucks needed to have a better training camp to have a better start. Therefore, the organization must have a good training camp for them to win games at the start of the regular season and create momentum. The Canucks replaced head coach Bruce Boudreau a few months after making those comments, and the organization hired Rick Tocchet, who they hoped would bring structure to the team.
Training Camp Important for Tocchet to Implement His System
With Tocchet taking over, the coaching staff needs to continue implementing his system. After Tocchet took over in January, the Canucks finished the season with a 20-12-4 record. Part of the reason for the improvement was the structure brought in by the new head coach. The Canucks biggest weakness has been their blue line, and although the club has improved their defence, the entire roster continuing to get used to the new system is important.
In Nov.2022, Rutherford said the team played a style of hockey that relied heavily on the offensive side and great goaltending to achieve positive results when they had success. However, whenever the goaltender struggled, the Canucks lost. He added playing that style of hockey isn’t sustainable over a long period of time if the team wanted to contend for a playoff spot. Part of the blame for the club’s style of play under Boudreau was their poor blue line. However, Rutherford argued an improved structure would improve their blue line.
“If we were playing in a real strong structure, it would make it easier for our defence to play,” he said. “And it wouldn’t matter who was on our defence. But right now, we don’t have that strong structure, and we need to change the makeup of our defence.”
Despite the improvement the Canucks made after Tocchet took over, the team had a lot to work on. After the regular season, the head coach commented on how the team finished the year. He said he saw positive stuff with some players as they were sticking with the system, playing hard and doing the right things, but he also saw negatives(from ‘Canucks: For Rick Tocchet, ‘uncomfortable’ factor is vital training camp focus,’ The Province, July 31, 2023).
“It’s been a mixed bag and what it comes down to is when the pressure hits our team, do players go to the spots they’re supposed to, or do they go to spots where bad habits come back in?” Tocchet said. “A team presses and we don’t have the answers for a couple of minutes and it just kind of snowballs.”
Therefore, training camp will be an important time for the Canucks to make sure their roster is sticking to the system. It is also an opportunity for players to move away from bad habits. So far, it seems Tocchet is taking the team in the right direction and has control of the locker room.
Tocchet’s Expectations Before Training Camp
Tocchet believes multiple players on the roster should show up in the best shape of their careers at training camp . He said it’s about the team’s compete level, fitness and how uncomfortable they can get as a group to achieve their goals. When asked about how important it is for the Canucks to get training camp and pre-season right, Tocchett said it is all about being prepared, committed and selfless.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about we have to have a good start. Well, that’s pressure. If we’re prepared for it, we’ll deal with it. Don’t run away from pressure. Meet pressure with pressure. Let’s, as a group, attack it instead of (being) scared of it.”
Multiple players have taken extra steps to ensure they are prepared for training camp. Andrei Kuzmenko worked hard while staying in shape. He stayed disciplined by working out on vacation while having a strict diet. Also, Brock Boeser changed his off-season training to improve his skating after two tough seasons. Additionally, players like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are returning to build on their already impressive play, while Filip Hronek recovered from his shoulder injury and made an impressive transformation over 12 weeks.
The Canucks’ top players are coming into the 2023-24 season prepared and looking to improve. Tocchet will likely take advantage of that, so the team has a better training camp and a better start.
Canucks Need a Good Start in 2023-24
The Canucks started off with seven losses in the first month of the 2022-23 season, which they never recovered from. Rutherford pointed toward a poor training camp and lack of structure for their struggles last season. Now with Tocchet behind the bench, he brings structure and is looking to have a better training camp. Multiple players are showing they want to start the season right by working hard in the offseason and taking the right steps to improve their game.