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THE MOJ: How Dakota Joshua has found the extra 5% he needed

Canuck grinder has taken a step after realizing what steps he had to take
Called out by Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet during training camp, Dakota Joshua has rebounded with his best-ever season in the NHL. Vancouver Canucks photo

Five per cent: it’s a small number that produces huge dividends.

Listening to athletes and coaches over the years, I’ve heard enough of them talk about that extra five per cent of effort that takes your game to another level.

It’s probably the best way to describe why Vancouver Canucks forward Dakota Joshua is now playing the best hockey of his four-year NHL career.

Joshua, if you recall, was challenged by head coach Rick Tocchet in training camp in Victoria because of his sub-standard conditioning level.

Joshua got the message loud and clear, made the necessary adjustments and now has a career-high 12 goals. Not bad considering we are not even at the All-Star break yet.

“It was definitely eye-opening,” Joshua said on being singled out by Tocchet during camp. “I was at a spot that they didn’t think I should have been at. I wasn’t aware enough that I needed to give more. It wasn’t disappointment (when it came to my reaction). It was fair and warranted and a ‘make sure it doesn’t happen again’ type of thing. I feel like the standard was different. To have this type of season, they expected a lot more out of everyone and that’s where I didn’t meet the bar to begin with.”

It wasn’t like Joshua believed his NHL career was at a crossroads, but it wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence in terms of a roster spot either.

“It was about job security. This could be it…so you’re fighting for your life (for a spot on the team) at that point,” he explained.

It wasn’t until a few days after being scratched in a game in San Jose on Nov. 2 did Joshua feel he had turned the corner.

“A week after I got scratched, it finally clicked in on what needed to be done. If I keep doing these things, good things will happen. It was just making sure I was doing all the right things and doing extra things every day to the point where they were happy and I was happy with myself,” said the 27-year-old native of Dearborn, Michigan.

A big key in regards to ‘doing all the right things’ was the extra work put in with assistant coach Mike Yeo.

“Yeosie…I have to give him credit. He helped turned my game around. We watched a lot of video and he helped me focus on a lot of things I could do better. It’s made a huge difference for me at this point of the season,” explained Joshua.

When asked what the difference was in Joshua’s game from last spring to now, Tocchet singled out a change in his commitment level — or that extra five per cent.

“He’s always been a committed guy but his commitment level now is a lot higher. He’s in the gym a lot or he’s on the ice with the (Sedin) twins or he’s with Yeosie or he’s in the video room. We don’t have to look for him – he comes and looks for us. Last year, maybe we had to look for him but now he’s knocking on our door and that’s a trait that I love as a self-starter. He’s a self-starter now. He’s matured into that,” stated Tocchet.

If you want to know how much trust Tocchet now has in Joshua’s game, all you have to do is look at the increased ice time Joshua is getting along with linemates Conor Garland and Teddy Blueger.

In the nine contests leading to the Nov. 2 San Jose game, Joshua had one game in which he eclipsed 15 minutes of ice time. That was the season opener in which the Canucks drubbed the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 8-1.

Since the start of December, Joshua has played in 23 games. He has exceeded 15 minutes or more of ice time in 15 of those games – including a season-high 18:10 in the 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena on Monday night.

Whether it’s providing some scoring, protecting a lead late in the game or increased minutes with the first penalty-kill unit, Joshua has become a key part of the team’s success.

“I love his hockey IQ – that’s why he’s a first PK guy and that’s why we’ll usually get him out in the last minute of a game,” explained Tocchet. “He’s also really worked on his hands. If you watch him in tight, he comes out of the corners with the puck a lot more.”

Teamed with Garland and Blueger, Joshua and his linemates have arguably become the Canucks second-best line. The trio has combined for 43 points in the last 17 games. More importantly, the hockey club has gone 12-2-3 during that span.

“They’re connected. Very rarely when we are doing our game reviews that they are in our end and it’s like “you’re making a mistake here.” That (solid play) transfers into the neutral zone and into their offense. They’re always in a triangle and connected. It’s not like one guy is here, one guy is there and the other guy is at the blueline. They have a tight triangle and that’s the way they play the game and that’s why they’re successful,” noted Tocchet.

“We just play the system. We just stick with it. I think when we were put together, we were going against third lines and had a lot of success and now we’re starting to go against first and second lines in more of a defensive role but we’re still producing,” added Garland.

“We enjoy both sides of the puck and we like to play real tight together – we’re never spread out – and they (Joshua and Blueger) are really responsible players who are easy to read off of.”


* The Canucks got two first period goals from Pius Suter and Quinn Hughes in coasting to the 2-0 win over Chicago. Thatcher Demko made 31 saves to record his fifth shutout of the season for Vancouver.

* The Blackhawks power play failed to score in five attempts as the Canucks penalty kill unit continues its strong play as of late. In the past 20 games, the unit has only allowed seven opposition goals in 61 chances for an 88.5% kill rate. To put that into context, Los Angeles has the league’s best overall success rate on the season at 87.1%.

* The Blackhawks were without the services of North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard. The rookie sensation broke his jaw in a game in New Jersey on Jan. 5 and has been out of the lineup since that time. “He tried to come (to Vancouver) - trust me. We had to tell him absolutely not. He wanted to come so badly. It’s only been like two weeks since he broke his jaw and he’s back skating and already skating quicker than anyone else on our team.,” explained Hawks defenceman Seth Jones. “Connor has been great for us this year. He’s electric offensively and he brings a lot of things to the team that we are obviously missing with him out of the lineup. The way he can carry the puck up the ice and his vision for the game – he’s super smart. The injury was unfortunate but we hope to have him back soon.

* Next up for Vancouver is a date with the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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