Canucks: Rick Tocchet's endurance with Andrei Kuzmenko is operating out

After a fourth scratch, is there actually a manner ahead?

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There are some things recognized about Andrei Kuzmenko and the Vancouver Canucks.

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He likes it right here, the group likes him and so they signed him to a giant contract extension.

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Dueing Kuzmenko’s first season in Vancouver he scored at an unprecedented fee. He wasn’t going to problem 40 targets once more, however he did stand an excellent likelihood of being a 20 to 25 purpose scorer.

How may you not be, skating on Elias Pettersson’s wing?

When he first signed with the staff in 2022, Canucks GM Patrik Allvin made it clear this was a participant he’d had on his radar for a very long time. He believed that Kuzmenko may push his recreation to an NHL tempo.

And in his first season, even accounting for the overheated success Kuzmenko managed across the internet, his skills had been ok for the NHL.

However scoring masked the issues in his recreation.

Along with his scoring down, these flaws now stand out.

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There’s little question of Kuzmenko’s scoring skills: his means to get pucks up and over goalies from very quick vary final season was exceptional, as was his means to tip pucks fired towards the online from the skin.

Take away these skills, although, and he struggles within the recreation. His angles on pucks aren’t environment friendly.

Reaching everyone from the productive Elias Pettersson, to the struggling Andrei Kuzmenko, has been Rick Tocchet’s high activity. Picture by Jeff Vinnick /NHLI by way of Getty Photographs

Kuzmenko is just not an adept skater. The NHL’s Edge knowledge suggests he’s one of many slowest, least explosive skaters within the NHL — a problem to beat.

All this, earlier than he’s in comparison with Nils Höglander.

He’s additionally not the instinctual forechecker like Höglander, who had to determine learn how to make his pure expertise work. And with credit score to him and his teaching employees, Höglander’s buzzing.

Kuzmenko, to his credit score, has by no means been shy about enjoying in site visitors. Within the KHL, he used some nifty artistic instincts to seek out scoring alternatives.

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He pushed his scoring to a brand new gear final 12 months, however even a lot of that was luck. The bounces went his manner, however he additionally was in good positions from which to attain.

This league by no means rests. These could also be the perfect gamers on the planet, but when there’s a solution to preserve gamers from success, opponents will discover it.

The message from head coach Rick Tocchet has been clear: Kuzmenko’s work off the puck wants enchancment. He must be predictable on the forecheck. If he’s first up the ice, his linemates want him to do the job.

Kuzmenko is aware of learn how to bury his scoring probabilities — but when these chances are high arduous to return by, he has to discover a new manner. The best way groups adapt on defence is a continuing problem.

Tocchet’s endurance has clearly come to an finish.

Tocchet desires Kuzmenko to play more durable, to do extra, to beat what’s in entrance of him, and that’s why he was a wholesome scratch but once more in Nashville Tuesday.

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“Simply making an attempt to win a recreation tonight and I felt this was the perfect lineup,” Tocchet mentioned forward the Canucks’ 5-2 defeat of the Predators.

In what can be a troublesome matchup, Tocchet thought Phil DiGiuseppe introduced extra to the desk. DiGiuseppe is a lesser scoring expertise however a superior forechecker. And puck possession is a precedence for Tocchet.

Kuzmenko can discover a manner ahead, however Tocchet’s not going to attend.

The season is lengthy. It’s gruelling. There’ll absolutely be additional alternatives, however they received’t final ceaselessly.

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