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Canucks were already eyeing Yogi Švejkovský for larger role

"He caught my attention when I first got here," said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet of newly promoted assistant coach Yogi Švejkovský.
Yogi Švejkovský talks to defenceman Noah Juulsen at the end of a Vancouver Canucks practice.

Even before Mike Yeo parted ways with the Vancouver Canucks, head coach Rick Tocchet was thinking that Yogi Švejkovský needed to play a larger role next season.

“If Yeosie was going to come back, Yogi would have been 100 per cent promoted in a bigger role,” said Tocchet. “Obviously, he’s going to take a little bit more of a lion’s share now.”

Tocchet spoke to the media via video call on Wednesday afternoon after the Canucks’ announcement of Švejkovský’s promotion from skills coach to assistant coach. He was quick to impress upon the media just how much Švejkovský had impressed him over the last year and a half. 

“He caught my attention when I first got here,” said Tocchet. “You give him a project and it’s on my table like that. His work ethic is second to none.”

"We believe in the same thing."

Something that stood out to Tocchet was the way that players, particularly the team’s leaders, actively sought out Švejkovský’s opinion.

“I watched the players around him,” said Tocchet. “They go by my office and I go, ‘Do you need me?’ and they’re like, ‘No, we don’t need you, we’re looking for Yogi.’ That impresses me.”

While Švejkovský’s role was as a skills coach, he worked directly with Tocchet on aspects of systems — specifically, how to translate those systems into practical, tangible things for players to work on and develop in practice. 

“Yogi and I spent a lot of time with each other the last year,” said Tocchet. “He knows I like wall stuff — how do you handle coming out of the corner with body position? How do you defend in this position? How do you take the puck this way? How do we tip pucks? He listens to what I like and he molds it in teaching the players what I want. Actually, it's what he believes in too — we believe in the same thing.”

This close working relationship with Tocchet made it an easy decision to promote him to assistant coach, though it didn’t hurt that it fit in with the way his boss operates.

“Jim Rutherford’s big on promoting within. It wasn’t a mandate but it was something that he really liked and he knows how I feel about Yogi,” said Tocchet, adding, “The trust — when J.T. Miller and Lindholm and those guys seek out Yogi to ask his opinion, that goes a long way in my books.

“Did I look at other coaches? A little bit, but I felt that this was the best way to go to keep the continuity of the staff.”

Švejkovský will coach the power play for the Canucks 

In terms of his role, Tocchet confirmed that Švejkovský will “take a big chunk” of the power play. It’s something he was already providing some input on last season, with Tocchet crediting him with coming up with “new ideas” and working well with the team’s top players.

“With the power play: he comes up with these different stats of what we have to get better on,” said Tocchet. “We've got to be a better downhill team and he'll have stats of teams like Edmonton, where when they miss the net or they go downhill, they're in a retrieval mode. The next guy's in a spot to come up with pucks.”

Tocchet specifically noted a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins power play goal from their second-round series against the Oilers where he got a lucky bounce for an open net but Švejkovský was quick to note that it wasn’t luck that put Nugent-Hopkins in the right spot to retrieve the puck but a specific detail of knowing where to go away from the puck.

Švejkovský won’t be alone on the power play, as Sergei Gonchar will continue to work on that side of special teams, albeit not always in person. Part of the Sedins’ larger role will also mean taking more of a hand in the power play, with Tocchet saying that one of them will travel with the team on road trips.

It’ll be Švejkovský behind the bench during games, however. Tocchet believes this group will provide the right mix to help the power play improve.

“I think adding Yogi, who’s very enthusiastic, has a lot of great ideas, with the twins and, obviously, with Sergei’s knowledge from helping me run it in Pittsburgh, we have a lot of hands on deck,” said Tocchet. “There will be a couple of guys taking the lion’s share of it.”

Canucks will look to hire a new skills coach

Promoting from within has its advantages but it does mean the Canucks will need to replace Švejkovský as skills coach. It’s a role that Tocchet sees as immensely important but not just because of skills development.

“I know Patrik [Allvin]’s on the phone about that,” said Tocchet about hiring a skills coach. “I think it’s important to have another guy, a guy that can help out when we’re on the road with the injury program, with skating — I think that’s huge. We’ll look into filling that role.”

That’s part of Švejkovský’s role that was less reported: working with players on the ice as they worked their way back from injury to keep their skills sharp and ensure they kept their conditioning for when they returned. That’s definitely a niche that will need to be filled.