Welcome Matt: Would Canucks be a playoff team if Rick Tocchet took over sooner?
The Vancouver Canucks have won three straight and improved to 16-9-2 under new head coach Rick Tocchet.
That would be a good enough pace to get them to the long-stated goal of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It also pushes them further away from North Van prodigy Connor Bedard, as their odds of winning the first overall pick in the 2023 entry draft have slipped to 3.5%.
The tank was right there before them when Tocchet took over. Injured and bad goaltending. Key players having been traded (Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn). Filip Hronek nursing an injury and not immediately available after acquisition.
Alas, the Canucks didn’t throw in the towel and from the always-do-your-best standpoint, commendably so.
They’ve now got us wondering if Tocchet had been the coach from the start of the season, would they be a playoff team?
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It’s a tough call because Tocchet still would’ve had to deal with the injury to goaltender Thatcher Demko that saw him miss nearly three months.
But would the Canucks have done better earlier in the season with his system and structure? They were 18-25-3 and lost their first seven games under former coach Bruce Boudreau.
My inclination is to say they would not have made the playoffs had Tocchet been there from the jump. Even after 10-3 month of March to improve to NHL .500 at 34-34-5, they remain 12 points back of a playoff spot.
And I don’t think you can extrapolate Tocchet’s record over 82 games. They’ve played a weaker schedule since he took over. There was only one prolonged eastern road trip, in which they went 1-2-1.
What they have done is instilled a new culture and structure that should benefit the team next year. Because once again it’s playoffs-or-bust, and they’re running out of busts.
And if there’s anyone at Canucks Sports and Entertainment who believes they would’ve made the playoffs in a full season under Tocchet, then all the more reason for hockey people making hockey decisions without ownership meddling. If Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin had had their choice of coaches, then the awful situation surrounding Boudreau’s firing could have been avoided, and the team might’ve been better off, too.