Dakota Joshua knows trust is a two-way street.
You have to learn it to earn it and be consistent to retain it.
The big Vancouver Canucks winger had Craig Berube in St. Louis and now Rick Tocchet as tough taskmasters. Their constant push to improve players’ pace and presence would have driven others off the career road, but not Joshua.
And it’s why he’s in a good place.
“They both have more of the old-school mindset and I do like that,” Joshua said Wednesday following practice. “With those guys, your work is going to get you places. There’s no hiding with them. You’re not sneaking one by them.
“If you’re not doing your job they’re going to let you know about it and that’s the way it should be. You want to hear how it really is, not just to make you feel better.
“This is a business of wins. There are no gifts being handed out and you don’t want to let him (Tocchet) or the team down.
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It’s not just Joshua’s five goals in the last six games and being on pace for a career-high 21 to easily eclipse the 11 he had last season. It’s everything.
The success of a relentless third-line forechecking alignment with Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland is punctuated by the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Joshua delivering 105 hits to rank fifth overall among all NHL skaters.
“It’s our predictability,” added the 27-year-old Joshua. “We know we want to get the puck down low, and by not hanging out in the D-zone, good things are going to happen. The goals happen when you’re doing the right things. And I’ve always been a believer in myself.”
The commitment has earned coaching confidence to be deployed in any situation — provide a spark or help protect a lead — and that could translate into a one-way extension when Joshua’s two-year, two-way US$1.65 million bargain deal expires after this season.
He has gone from being a healthy scratch, and what do we do with this guy, to how do we keep the improved and imposing pending unrestricted free agent?
“Tough camp and I didn’t dress him (Nov. 2 in San Jose) and look what he’s done,” said Tocchet. “Now it’s consistency. Can he string months and months of good hockey together? He has worked on this game, he’s in better shape and more committed to his style of play.”
It’s contagious because his line is a lesson in perseverance.
“Garland with the trade rumours and he has been one of our best guys,” added Tocchet. “A little adversity at the start of the year and that line has really solidified our secondary scoring and has dominated some games.
“They’re always connected. They weren’t scoring early and getting frustrated, but they’re getting rewarded because they’re in the right spots. And very rarely are their fingerprints on bad plays in our own end.”
It means everybody now knows Joshua’s game and his name.
It spawned interest in a name game for the line, but Joshua took a pass when several suggestions were presented Wednesday. They ranged from The Joshua Three, Run-D-T-C, Good Job Boys, Simple Minds and The Life Line.
“I don’t really like all the hoopla,” he stressed. “We’re not coming up with one (name) because that comes with expectations. We’d rather nobody knew about us. Call us The Unknowns.
“I just want to keep going about my job and try to keep making things happen and not get caught up in what’s going on.”
What is going on is difficult to ignore. The ability to focus on the day and not next week or next month has helped the 23-9-3 Canucks get to their lofty perch.
“Guys are pissed about some games,” said Tocchet. “It’s like they’re not comfortable about some of their play and that’s good. I don’t want us to get comfortable. We have to be uncomfortable.”
For Joshua, there’s never been a comfort zone. Consider the past for the Dearborn, Mich., native:
• Not invited to NHL Draft Combine but became a fifth-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2014. However, after three development camps, no contract because the roster sported Michael Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
• A demotion from the AHL to ECHL in 2019-20, deep on depth chart and not invited to Blues’ main camp in 2020-21. Finally scoring first NHL goal on March 1, 2021 at Anaheim when a puck went in off of his pants.
“It hurts that much more when you know you’re capable,” said Joshua. “A tough period, but a great period in my life, and it’s what I needed to get to where I am today. That makes me appreciate it even more.
“Definitely a grind, but part of the story.”
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