Rick Tocchet dropped a gauntlet at Brock Boeser’s feet Saturday, and it represents his final chance with the Vancouver Canucks.
After failing to move Boeser by the deadline, the Canucks are stuck with him for the final 17 games of this NHL season and he’s stuck with them after his agent spent more than two months exploring a deal that never came to pass.
Tocchet called it an important closing stretch for Boeser, saying the winger needs to forecheck harder because other players are knocking on the door for more minutes. But the bigger statement was about the summer, saying he hoped Boeser wants to work with Canucks staff.
final 3 minutes all on Boeser are really interesting. Some praise. Some prodding. Lots of honesty https://t.co/KbERdfUBQL
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) March 11, 2023
That’s something we’ve been saying on this program for a long time. That Boeser may never be the fastest skater in the league, but that he must improve in an ever-quickening NHL.
We saw Bo Horvat go from a suspect skater as a prospect, to a terrific skater by his third season. We saw Roberto Luongo, as an All-Star, transform his game, get better at puck-handling and at making that second save under the tutelage of former goaltending coach Rollie Melanson.
Now it’s Boeser’s turn.
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As our Jeff Paterson has been noting for weeks now, we’ve got to stop thinking about Boeser as a pure goal-scorer. The numbers just don’t support that anymore.
Goal-scoring was his most glaring trait as a rookie and a young NHLer, but he’s morphed into more of an offensive player with 12 goals and 42 points this season, after 23 goals and 23 assists last year. And the truth is, he’s a decent offensive player who sees the ice well and creates for others.
Tocchet said he still wants Boeser thinking shoot-first, and praised his patience with the puck, which wasn’t always there as the league caught up to him in previous seasons. But it’s also clear that the Canucks head coach wants the Minnesota product to recommit to how he plays, and most importantly how he trains.
He even allowed that if it all goes well, maybe Boeser has a change heart and wants to remain a Canuck.
It’s clear that his contract made a trade difficult this season. And that may well still be the case in the offseason, unless the Canucks are willing to retain money on his $6.65 million US salary.
“He’s got to be better,” Tocchet said. “Whether he goes somewhere else or stays here.”