An amusing moment amid the madness remains with Brock Boeser.
A year ago, the troubled Vancouver Canucks’ right-winger wasn’t in a good place.
He pledged to score 30 goals, but a fluky training-camp injury and struggles to heal a surgically repaired hand sent him on a trajectory of ineffectiveness and indifference. He didn’t score in his first 11 games, had just nine goals at the NHL All-Star Game break and finished with 18.
Boeser’s agent had permission to broker a trade because it appeared a change may be required to get his client’s head and game in the right place. He was tied to several rumoured scenarios and worked with a life coach to keep composed.
So, when Boeser boarded a flight to get away from it all during the team’s break, he could have broken into laughter.
“Bo Horvat was on the same flight to Disney,” Boeser recalled with a chuckle of two forwards with an uncertain future figuring that Florida was the right refuge. “We both just didn’t know what was going on.
“It was obviously a long year and good to get away.”
Three days later, Horvat was traded to the New York Islanders and Boeser wasn’t moved at the NHL trade deadline. He was relieved, grateful and consumed to become a complete player. He worked relentlessly with a new trainer and off-season fitness regimen to improve strength and quickness.
The results have been beyond remarkable on the league’s top team.
A career-high 30 goals and better game management have Boeser in a very good place. He heads to the All-Star festivities in Toronto — Thursday draft, Friday skills competition and Saturday game — with teammates Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, Thatcher Demko and head coach Rick Tocchet. The focus will be on fun and then maintaining a season-defining run.
“Yeah, it’s a lot better,” said Boeser, who turns 27 on Feb. 25, and is on pace for 50 goals. “Obviously, it’s easier when the season is going well. I feel the hard work paid off and I’m in a good place mentally. I’m also not satisfied, which is a good thing.
“You don’t have a lot of years in this league and I’m learning that. It’s my seventh year already, which feels crazy. I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
Boeser is also the longest-serving Canuck.
“I would say that’s pretty weird,” he laughed.
Boeser also stole the show at the 2018 All-Star weekend as a wide-eyed rookie. It wasn’t weird. It was wonderful.
He cashed in by winning the skills’ competition (US$25,000), being on the winning All-Star Game team (US$100,000), and received a Honda Electric vehicle as MVP. That triggered a US$212,500 contract bonus.
Here’s our weekly Canucks Q+A with the always-engaging Boeser:
Q: How did break plans alter with All-Star Game nod?
A: We were going to the Bahamas, but only booked as far as Florida. We never got that extra flight, but then I got voted in, so we just decided to go to Florida. I can go on a few (Disney) rides, but then I get a little motion sickness.
Q: Do you like format changes to increase interest?
A: The skills’ stuff will be fun, obviously, because I don’t have to do anything (laughter). I’m looking forward to watching and it’s going to be really competitive. You’re putting the top guys in the world against each other. That will be pretty cool.
Q: What about the 3-on-3 tourney? Like it, loathe it?
A: That’s always the most fun and it’s not too taxing on the guys. I like the 3-on-3, and it’s like our overtime, always fun to play in and watch.
Q: Team Hughes must select 11 players. You a good bet?
A: Yeah, that draft. Seeing if we all go to the same team or not. Guys might try to switch it up. I better be the first one drafted by Quinn. If he doesn’t pick me before Petey and Millsy, I’m going to be (ticked) (more laughter).
Q: What do you recall as 2018 All-Star rookie force?
A: There were just so many older guys. It was eye-opening and I was just so young (20). Sid (Crosby) wanted to talk after (skills competition) and I was just star-struck. It’s exciting to have all the guys (teammates) with me now. We’re a little older and I don’t think I’ll be as nervous.
Q: What have Tocchet’s ‘non-negotiable’ staples done?
A: These details are the stuff I’m really focused on and showed what kind of player I can be. I always felt I could be more responsible defensively and I’m doing a much better job with that this year. I’m going out there and having fun and playing on instincts, which I’ve always trusted.
Q: How did you improve the forecheck, backcheck?
A: They (Canucks) asked me to change and knew a guy in Minnesota, who was an NHL trainer, and they felt comfortable. More turf stuff. We did hill days most of August. A lot of sprinting and agility and I feel stronger and I feel quicker. I’m moving better.
Q: Perimeter play is now passe. How did you adjust?
A: Getting to the dirty areas. When I’m on the perimeter, I feel like I’m not playing my best and not getting inside and getting to the net. It helps your game. And as long as you’re there and getting chances, you’ve got to be doing something right.
Q: Talk is cheap. What is this club showing us?
A: It’s been a long time coming. We’ve talked about it a lot, but I’m just happy that we’re finally showing it because we always felt we could do it — we just never put it together. Now, it’s about playing to a standard every night and doing it consistently.
Q: What can you take from 2020 bubble playoffs?
A: The hockey yeah, but those momentum shifts. We’ve never really experienced that. I don’t know what the playoffs will be like with the crowds. I assume it’s going to be like when Toronto was here — it’s going to get that crazy and even more crazy.
Just knowing the style that you have to play, it suits our game right now. That’s what we’re really focusing on.
Recommended from Editorial
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.