Just when we all thought the Vancouver Canucks were turning things around, they’ve hit a major roadblock. On Friday, it was announced that 7 Canucks had been placed on the NHL COVID protocol list. Today, it’s been announced that another 7 have also been added. Obviously, this isn’t good. But what makes it even worse is that they haven’t played a single game in 10 days already. This may be the end of the line for Vancouver this season.
March seemed to be a turning point for the Canucks. After 11 losses out of 13 games in February, they came out swinging. In the first three weeks of March, they won 8 out of 11 games. Boeser was still just barely under a point per game, Demko got his first shutout of the season, and the bottom lines were starting to put up points. Quinn Hughes was once again proving himself to be a top-notch defenseman. Overtime didn’t seem like an automatic loss anymore. Fans were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some of the highlight performances from March were Jake Virtanen’s 2 goal game against Toronto, JT Miller’s 2 OT game-winning goals, and Thatcher Demko’s 8 wins.
The (Most Recent) Downs
Despite the upward trajectory of the team in the month of March, the last week did not go as well as the first 3. The last 3 games the Canucks played were all losses. The last 2 they played were against the Jets and they were not pretty. They were shut out on March 22 and only scored 1 goal on the 24th. Demko didn’t look like he had earlier in the month, and those playing in front of him weren’t any better.
The Canucks have been relatively healthy this year in terms of injuries. As of the beginning of March, Michael Ferland and Justin Bailey were their only players on the IR (concussion and UBI, respectively). But things went downhill fast. March 3rd, superstar Elias Pettersson was put on the IR with an upper-body injury and no projected timeline for his return. As one of their best players, big yikes.
A little over a week later, reliable center Jay Beagle was put on the IR with an undisclosed injury. With all the games getting postponed, it could be another week or two before he’s eligible to come back. 6 days after Jay, Tanner Pearson joined him and Elias on the IR with a LBI. Another 3 days later, on the 21st, Brian Sutter was labeled ‘day-to-day’ with an undisclosed injury. Earlier this week, Jake Virtanen was listed as having an illness.
And then, COVID hit.
Adam Gaudette was pulled from the middle of practice because of a positive COVID test on March 29th. Travis Hamonic was the next to be put on the COVID protocol list on the 31st. After that, it was Alex Edler, Braden Holtby, Quinn Hughes, Zack MacEwen, and Antoine Roussel backdated to April 1. Today, they announced Tyler Motte, Travis Boyd, Bo Horvat, Tyler Myers, Thatcher Demko, and Jayce Hawryluk were also under COVID protocol as of yesterday.
So, like all of their good players with a sprinkling of Taxi Squad players. What they’re left with is not exactly a playable team.
From where I’m sitting, it’s not looking good for the Canucks this year. Not long ago, they were on the verge of capturing the wild card slot for the North Division. Now, they’ll be lucky to win much once everyone comes back. For those with COVID symptoms, it may be a little while before they feel 100% themselves again, making it difficult to play good hockey. And for those asymptomatic, they’ll have to readjust to being on the ice after isolation.
It’s going to be a fight for every point every game for the rest of their season. Are they up for that? After all, they’ve been through this year, I’m not so sure that it’s worth the grind. Not to say that they should give up, but that their focus should be playing the best hockey they can rather than worrying so much about making playoffs. Yeah, yeah, that might sound naive, I know. But things like developing young players may be a better use of their time if it becomes anymore clear that they’re not going to make playoffs.
The Canucks have an objectively good team on paper. For whatever reason or reasons, they haven’t been able to pull themselves together for longer than a few weeks this year. Most of the team has years left on their contracts, so their window for a Cup run is still open. This COVID pause is a major letdown for fans, but there’s still hope. They could come back having figured everything out and win a good chunk of their remaining games. And if they end the season early, they have plenty of young players who will only continue to get better next season.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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