From the top of hockey operations to how its farm team trains and plays, the Vancouver Canucks maintain they’re all aligned heading into the start of the new NHL season.
President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said the difference between this season and the previous one, besides last season’s addition of Rick Tocchet as head coach to replace Bruce Boudreau, is the communication between all levels of the hockey operations group.
“We have a group that is together now, and aligned in a sense of how we want to do things, how we want to play,” he said. “I like our staff. Abbotsford (Vancouver’s AHL affiliate), they play the same way as the Canucks play. The same system.
“Guys when they get called up here, they aren’t taking two or three games to figure out how to play … it gives all the players a better chance at being successful.”
Rutherford, general manager Patrik Allvin and Tocchet spoke to media ahead of the Canucks training camp, starting Thursday in Victoria.
Tocchet, Rutherford said, hosted a coach’s seminar in Whistler a few weeks ago, with Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton also in attendance.
Colliton shared input too, highlighting the togetherness between the coaches at both levels, Rutherford added.
The message of alignment was shared by Allvin, who said coaches and management “speak the same language.”
The Canucks finished 38-37-7 last season. They started with seven straight losses, two in overtime, eventually losing 14 of their first 23 games of the season.
“The start is a big thing around here,” said Tocchet. “I told the players: ‘Don’t worry about the start, worry about the first day of camp, then we’ll go from the second day.’ I know it’s a cliché, but I believe in that. One step at a time, one brick at a time.”
Vancouver failed to make the playoffs for a third straight year, prompting questions about how this year will be different for a team that says it’s still in the rebuilding process.
“There’s still work to be done. We haven’t even qualified for the playoffs yet and we’re trying to clean up some things,” said Rutherford. “To be very to the point: the changes that we made, we have a playoff team if everything goes right.”
But that would mean avoiding injuries and players losing form at inopportune times, Rutherford said.
The Canucks will enter training camp with no players signed to professional tryout contracts, with the focus on developing their own young players.
“We talked about a couple names, but we also feel that a lot of young players deserve a chance,” said Allvin. “The way they performed in Abbotsford last year, last week in Penticton, we were very excited about some of the young guys, and we want them in a position to succeed here.”
The Canucks will spend four days in Victoria for training camp, with Tocchet saying his focus will be on educating players.
“People overblow a hard camp,” he said. “It’s an educational camp. It’s system, it’s battle drills, it’s off ice workouts. It’s all calculated.
“I’d be dumb to run the guys into the ground the first three days.”
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tucker Poolman will start the upcoming NHL season on long-term injured reserve as he continues to recover from migraines.
Allvin says the team is supporting Poolman in his recovery. Poolman, 30, signed a four-year, US$10-million contract with the Canucks before the 2021-22 season. The migraine issue limited the American defenceman to 40 games in his first season with the Canucks.
Poolman has six goals and 17 assists over 163 career NHL games with Winnipeg and Vancouver.