The Vancouver Canucks will return to practice on Sunday, and resume their season on Friday against the Oilers, the NHL announced. What’s more, the eight games the Canucks have missed, or will miss, have been rescheduled, extending their season to May 16.
To be fair, there’s at least a bit of wiggle room. The last two games of Vancouver’s season are scheduled against the Calgary Flames, on back-to-back days, home-and-home. The league also announced that “it is possible that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the East, Central, and West Divisions could open a few days earlier than the North Division.”
That’s not a definitive statement that the North Division season will end after the three American circuits wrap up. In other words, if Canucks-Flames doesn’t mean anything, the NHL has given itself an out for playing them, in order to keep the playoff TV schedule on track. Certainly, the folks at Rogers Communications would prefer to air the Canadian playoffs on May 15 and 16 than meaningless Vancouver-Calgary games, and there’s a really good chance that they’ll be meaningless. Obviously, the Canucks and Flames are still mathematically in contention, but according to MoneyPuck.com, both have a better chance of winning the draft lottery than of making the playoffs.
Even if those last two games don’t get played, what the Canucks are going to be asked to do is bananas. A team that has had COVID up and down the roster will get back to skating after 18 days quarantining at best, sick at worst. Then, five days later, they’ll play against an Oilers team that instead of shaking off the rust, will be benefiting from rest with their own five days to recharge after three games in the last four nights and four in the last six.
After spending their first night back chasing Connor McDavid around the ice, the Canucks get Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs. The next day. At 4 in the afternoon Pacific Time because God forbid the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t get the 7:00 Eastern window on Hockey Night In Canada. Then, it’s the Leafs again for a third game in four nights. Welcome back.
After one day off, the Canucks play three out of four nights. Then another Sunday off, and then another three out of four. And another day off, and another three out of four.
That’s six games in the Canucks’ first nine days back, nine in the first 14, and 12 out of 19 days with games to return, a stretch that wraps up with road games in Calgary and Edmonton, back-to-back on May 3 and 4. Sure, those are both Alberta cities, but a 185-mile trip isn’t nothing. Then the Canucks return home and play seven games in 11 nights, or five out of eight if the Flames home-and-home gets scrubbed.
And for what? What does it prove for the Canucks, having just collectively battled a particularly nasty strain of an already dreadful virus, to play this much hockey over the next month? It’s not like they’re selling tickets to these games. COVID is now worse in Canada than it is in the United States. What good comes out of having the Canucks and other teams taking any unnecessary flights around the country?
The best-case scenario is that the Canucks play out the string without incident, probably getting hammered on a regular basis by teams that aren’t running this ridiculous gauntlet of a schedule. The worst-case scenario is something catastrophic happening as a result of this decision to do this, whether it’s health-related or the kind of on-ice injury that can occur in a physical game when one side is far from its physical best and mentally disengaged.
Nothing good can come from this. Nobody needs to see any more of this team’s games, let alone 19 of them. We know who the four best teams in Canada are, and the Leafs, Jets, Oilers, and Canadiens basically are playing for seeding now. Society has moved past the need for the Vancouver Canucks.