Is lean and mean going to be Brock Boeser’s key to success for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2023-24 NHL season?
That’s certainly the veteran winger’s belief.
“I changed gyms and tried something new,” Boeser revealed to reporters Wednesday after a hard “informal” skate at the University of B.C. with a dozen or so of his teammates.
“I’ve been working really hard and started in the gym a little earlier. I’ve been skating hard.”
Boeser said the new trainer has NHL experience and had him and his workout partners doing different lifts than he’d done in the past.
There’s still two weeks to go until the official beginning of Canucks training camp in Victoria, but Boeser and many of teammates arrived back in Vancouver a little early, having heeded the urging of coach Rick Tocchet to get themselves ready to go in a group setting in their home city in the weeks, rather than days, before the start of camp.
“We all know how we started last year and we can’t have that happen this year. So I think it’s really important that we’re here and I think we’re all excited to get going,” Boeser said.
The Canucks had a disastrous start to the 2022-23 season and never found a groove in the first half of the season. Head coach Bruce Boudreau was fired because of the team’s struggles, just over a year after he’d taken over the squad from Travis Green, who was fired in early December 2021 after the Canucks got off to a similarly poor start.
Both seasons, the Canucks finished on a high note, winning more than they lost, but could not climb out of the standings hole they’d dug for themselves and missed the playoffs.
Boudreau found success in the 2021-22 season thanks to strong goaltending and high-flying scoring from the likes of J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson. Rick Tocchet replaced Boudreau, and found similar results.
The belief this year is that Tocchet’s approach, which leans a little more on personal discipline, will help the team get off to a better start.
On a personal level, a hot start for Boeser will be good for himself as well as the team.
He went into last year’s training camp on a mission, vowing to finally score 30 goals. Then he broke his hand on the camp’s third day.
He pushed to return but then his surgical scar opened back up and he was sidelined again, having to wait for the scar to close.
It was a miserable start to the year for the highly paid winger. It took 12 games for him to score his first goal and he had just five goals at Christmas. And off-ice his frustrations grew to the point where his agent, Ben Hankinson, was given permission to talk to other teams to see if there might be interest in trading for Boeser.
He also struggling mentally after the death of his father, Duke. At the beginning of the season, he said he’d found some inner peace, knowing his father wasn’t suffering anymore and that his mom wouldn’t have to carry the burden of caring for him 24/7 anymore.
But as struggles set in for Boeser, not being able to play, let alone score, he realized how big his father’s absence was weighing on him.
His teammates could call their dads after their games and talk about how things were going. He could no longer do that, he pointed out to Postmedia last April after being nominated by the Vancouver chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
“That was the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome,” he said.
But by the season, even having scored the second-lowest goal total of his career, he believed he had finally found himself again.
Off the ice, he and his family have found peace over his dad’s death.
That will help a lot this season.
Still, to be the player he believes he can still be, a top-tier sniper, something had to change. And being fitter, or at least fit in a different way, may be the answer he’s looking for.
“I think we’re all just sick and tired of having these expectations and not following through and Tocc came in here and keep pushing us, even though we weren’t in the playoffs. He kept pushing us each and every day and it’s important to come in better shape,” he said.
One thing Boeser says he does know for sure: no more promises on goal targets.
“I think you know I’m not gonna sit here and promise you anything anymore,” he joked.
“I just got to take it day by day and prove myself to not just you guys but to my teammates and the city.”
Canucks’ Tucker Poolman not expected at training camp: Report
Canucks prospects: Lekkerimaki starts pre-season strong in Sweden
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: For up-to-the-minute B.C. news and the latest on the Canucks, B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, add TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up sign up for our free Canucks Report and other newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $3.50 per week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Province, The Vancouver Sun, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Province | The Vancouver Sun.