Vancouver Canucks Schedule Revised

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…Or “What to Expect When You’re Expecting*”

Managing the Vancouver Canucks Schedule

After J.T. Miller‘s outburst brought some sanity to the Vancouver Canucks scheduled return, the question remained about fitting their remaining games into the new schedule. As we talked about last time, there is a hard deadline for the NHL coming. The Stanley Cup Playoffs must be finished before the Olympics start, or they lose viewers at exactly the wrong time. The idea of extending the regular season for Scotia North Division teams is already there, but then what? Move the playoffs to the US, in a fitting irony from the previous season?

There is a way out for the team, marked in the last four games of the newly released schedule:

…And that’s the magical letters “TBD” for the final three games against the Calgary Flames and one against the Edmonton Oilers. Make no mistake, even if those final games are dropped, the rest of the schedule remains.  So in a best-case circumstance, the Canucks have 15 games in 28 days. That’s not going to be easy – especially since “best case” means missing a playoff spot by enough points to make the last games irrelevant. But it is manageable. The Canucks did, after all, start the season with 37 games in 70 days, including 19 in 32.

Words From Above

Fresh Meat

There are more than a few hints that the White Collars know what’s coming. During GM Jim Benning‘s media availability he mentioned outright that the team wants enough players available to have fresh legs. So: anyone looking forward to seeing new bodies? Be ready for it. Several players have come into Vancouver from Utica and elsewhere in Canada to improve their availability. They still have to sit the seven days quarantine, of course, but the team gained some extra time by pushing their first two games back. The new trade arrivals – Madison Bowey and Matthew Highmore – will now be available right away.

Kole Lind was already in town – more on that later – so he’s available. As are Tyler Graovac and Marc Michaelis, who have already been in two and six games respectively this year. Travis Boyd has yet to play for the team after being grabbed off of waivers on the 21st – theoretically in time to sit out his quarantine while the Canucks were on break.

Several other players were called up recently, and they will have to wait before they can officially join the cabbies on the taxi squad. Defencemen Ashton Sautner, Brogan Rafferty, and Guillaume Brisebois along with goaltender Arturs Silovs were all recalled on Tuesday and Wednesday, presumably before the extent of the disease’s impact was fully known. Jack Rathbone was recalled today.

Replacing… Who?

According to Benning, one of the Canucks’ goalies isn’t feeling up to snuff yet, hence Silovs’ recall. Vancouver still has to follow the rules about player availability and cap space, so if Michael DiPietro is in they need a third handy. That’s the obvious fill-in, there, and it means we might see DiPietro in action again. As for the other players, that’s a bit trickier.

There are a lot of defencemen in that list of recalls. Bringing Rathbone to Vancouver isn’t the move of a team wanting him as a cabbie, or they would have done so in January. That’s signals several blueliners being out. Nate Schmidt remains on the COVID-19 protocol list, so there’s one staple gone. Quinn Hughes was hit badly by the disease, so he may well stay out for a few more days yet. Even after players come off the list – as Hughes is – it doesn’t mean they are ready to go. The extra two games the team received will help tremendously but isn’t a miracle.

Alexander Edler likewise had a bad bout of it and says he’s good, but even before this season, his name comes up as a player who should have “managed” minutes. That they’ve never managed to do so isn’t a mark against the Canucks schedule as their ability to bring in a replacement in a decade. So there are three players we can expect to see in fewer games.

Mystery Men

Up front, Jake Virtanen is the only name remaining on the list. Depending on how others feel, he’s the only virtual guarantee to be out at least one of the Canucks’ first two games. After that, it’s a case of injuries and coach’s choice for replacement players. There is speculation that Jay Beagle‘s injury is bad enough to not only keep him out of the lineup for now but into next year as well. Much like Micheal Ferland, Beagle being out of the lineup would come with a cap-relief blessing. That… wouldn’t be unwelcome.

The other long-term injury of unknown quality is more serious. Elias Pettersson might miss the rest of the season with an as-yet-undisclosed injury that has kept him off the team since April 3rd. Lind has been in Vancouver since mid-March, ostensibly for team doctors to look over his broken nose. Which is weird. More likely is that the team had every intention of giving him NHL ice time this season anyway. They simply took advantage of the injury to have him sit out the then two-week quarantine. Lind has been playing centre for the Comets this year and doing it well. With five goals and eight points in eight games so far, he won’t replace Pettersson. However, he’s a bigger scoring threat than Graovac or Zack MacEwen, so time in the bottom six is expected. And, frankly, welcomed.

The Balancing Act

In the midst of all this, the Canucks schedule isn’t the only complication. They also have to remain cap-compliant while obeying the taxi squad rules. They are going to be pushing that to the limit from here on in. As of this writing, for instance, they have eight players on the taxi squad and two in the lineup as emergency loans. Emergency loans, of course, have their own set of rules governing their use. Those are tied into the long-term injured reserve rules, which are different from just “Injured Reserve” which connects to the cap limit which is somewhere around the mulberry bush.

Here’s what we know so far. The Canucks schedule is what will be followed – as best possible – starting this Sunday. That goes right up to and including the “TBD” games at the end of the year. At that point… hm. If it’s obvious that the Canucks and Flames are well out of the playoffs, there is a chance those games simply don’t happen. If, on the other hand, there is still the chance either team’s standings will be affected, then the games happen. This goes for the Edmonton match, as well, and right now that looks more likely.

As for the players, there is going to be an active rotation for them. Most likely this will affect the bottom six, but I can imagine a whole lot of pissed-off fans if any of the stars get injured in the next month. Imagine the uproar if Brock Boeser gets stretchered off the ice two weeks from now?

I wonder if J.T. Miller does Cameos…

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