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THE MOJ: Of course, the worst has (predictably) happened, the Canucks are good again

Is management going to buy into this late-season resurgence, or is major surgery still on the way?
Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, front left, and general manager Patrik Allvin listen during a news conference after the NHL hockey team announced Tocchet’s hiring, in Vancouver, on Sunday, January 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

It’s so Canuck.

With a 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves winners of 10 of their last 12 games heading into Tuesday night’s tilt against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena.

The hot streak has basically nullified any shot the Canucks had at winning the NHL Draft Lottery with the team now having a 3.5% chance of securing the number one pick. The Canucks at one point were in the 6.5% to 8.5% range when it came to their odds.

With the chances to draft a generational talent in North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard continuing to dwindle, the frustration mounts with some Canuck fans.

Yet there is another side that sees the improved play under new head coach Rick Tocchet as a harbinger of things to come.

In fact, those camps are almost split down the middle if you were to believe the results of a twitter poll that former Canuck netminder Eddie Lack posted on the social media platform.

Lack, now a real estate agent in Phoenix, asked his followers earlier this week whether they were sad because the Canucks didn’t know how to tank or excited about the team’s performance and its prospects heading into next year.

Nearly 4,000 individuals took the time to vote with 55% replying that they were sad while 45% responded that they were excited. I know it’s not exactly an Angus Reid poll but it is an interesting way of checking the temperature of Canuck fans.

People talk about the so-called ‘coach bump’ where a team’s play improves under a new head coach and that has been the case with Tocchet as the hockey club has produced a 16-9-2 record since his arrival on Jan. 24.

The Canucks have played with more structure and discipline under Tocchet as the team has only allowed three or more goals twice in their last dozen games.

The penalty kill has shown some signs of life as well as the Canucks have not given up a power play goal in their last six games while killing 18 penalties in the process. To tell you how bad that unit has been all year long, the team is still dead last in the league in that department with a 70.8% success rate despite its improved play as of late. You have to go back to the 1978-79 Colorado Rockies to find a more woeful penalty kill as that team finished at 70.6%.

Yes, these are positives but before you go online to purchase season tickets there are other factors that have to be weighed.

The organization didn’t leave Bruce Boudreau out to dry for a couple of weeks before his dismissal because he didn’t bring the fellas Starbucks each morning.

The Canucks did what any team would have tried to do – they gave Tocchet a nice safe landing zone.

It was pointed out on several occasions when Tocchet was hired that the Canucks would have one of the softer schedules moving forward.

Of the 10 wins that have occurred during this 12-game stretch, only four have come against teams that currently reside above the playoff bar.

While Boudreau tossed the dice with Spencer Martin and Collin Delia between the pipes on a nightly basis, Tocchet has been the beneficiary of solid goaltending due to the return of Thatcher Demko.

Demko suffered a groin injury in a December 1st game against Florida and didn’t return until February 27th against Dallas. Since coming back, Demko has compiled an 8-3 record with a .921 save percentage in 11 games.

The current run has been entertaining but Canuck fans have seen it all before and are now skeptical when it comes to spring success with a team that’s out of the playoff hunt.

Perhaps the biggest concern for many is how the organization views this successful run.

Canucks President of Hockey Operation Jim Rutherford told the media on January 16th that ‘major surgery’ was needed on the roster.

Does the recent success change that belief?

Or does “Dr. Rutherford” still go to work?

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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