7 reasons why the Vancouver Canucks were so successful this season

The Vancouver Canucks surprised many during the 2023-24 campaign. We look at the reasons why and if they can do it again next season.
The Vancouver Canucks surprised many this year.
The Vancouver Canucks surprised many this year. / Derek Cain/GettyImages
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3) The Impact of a Coach

The biggest struggle for the Canucks’ coaching staff is their hair — or lack thereof. Coaching an NHL team is easy compared to that.

Nobody was surprised to see Rick Tocchet run away in Jack Adams Award voting. He did what others couldn’t do in his position: get the most out of almost every player for a sustained period of time. Many have praised him for the way he connects with his players, talking about life outside of hockey just as much as on-ice performance.

X’s and O’s are an integral part of a coach’s role too, and that’s something the Canucks did exceptionally well this year. It was especially evident in the playoffs, where they became the first team to ever hold Connor McDavid shotless in a playoff game, among other things.

Tocchet was also known for his ability to stick to his game, regardless of the score. This led to several improbable comebacks and it almost made a difference in Game Seven.

What shouldn’t be lost here, too, is the impact of the assistant coaches. If you’ve played hockey at any organised level, you’ve probably seen two things from assistants: ultra-specific examples of things to improve and a tendency to play good cop when the head coach goes bananas.

It also helps when everyone behind your bench has Stanley Cup rings, not just as coaches but also as players. In fact, the eight members of the Canucks’ coaching and player development staff who have played in the NHL have logged just 1,437 games less than the entire 23-man roster combined — and they have their names on the Cup many more times.

Needless to say, there’s no question these guys command respect within the locker room, and it showed in the standings.

4) PDO Machine

If you didn’t know what PDO was before the season, you definitely do now. Analytics experts criticized the Canucks to no end in the first quarter of the season for “unsustainable” margins of shots for versus shots against, but once again, the Canucks proved their doubters wrong.

This goes back to coaching structure: If there was no significant chance of scoring in a potential shooting situation, players were under strict orders to hold onto the puck and find another option. The most significant result of this was that the opposing goalies often never got a feel for the puck, leading them to be cold when high-quality shots came through.

Eventually, the Canucks’ PDO did regress to the mean as the experts had predicted, but it didn’t stay there because it was never meant to.