Nobody has played more games this season than the Vancouver Canucks. And in many cases, it’s not even close.
The Canucks have been victims of a bizarre scheduling quirk this season that has seen them play 16 games in 27 days.
Following Thursday’s beatdown at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks head coach Travis Green said he thought his team looked “tired.” If so, it was for good reason, as the Canucks were playing their third game in four nights. The Leafs, by contrast, had four straight days off prior to the meeting.
Tomorrow the Canucks begin four straight games against the Calgary Flames, a team that has played 25% fewer games than Vancouver.
Prior to Wednesday night’s games, the Canucks had played four more times than three North Division rivals (Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary), three more than Toronto, two more than Ottawa, and one more than Edmonton.
Green usually isn’t one for excuses, and he was quite clear that the Canucks “own” their losses this season. But the scheduling quirk is hard to ignore.
“I think it’s been brutal,” Green said of the schedule on Wednesday. “We own the losses though, I’m not saying that we deserve to win games that we haven’t, but I think the schedule has played a part of our start.
“It’s probably cost us, I don’t know, a point, two-three points? Who knows how many. But I think it’s affected our group physically in a couple of ways.”
The Canucks haven’t been decimated by injuries yet, despite having played 10 of their 16 games on the road, though wear and tear is surely a factor.
And while defensive issues began appearing early on during their homestand against Montreal, the lack of off-days has resulted in less practice time to fix their issues.
“I think we really missed the practice time,” Green added. “You work on your structure, your details in practice. We’ve been trying to show it in video, but you need to run through it, especially early in the season.”
The Canucks have appeared unrecognizable from last year’s team on many nights this season. While Green’s teams in Vancouver have never been great defensively, they weren’t a disaster in their own end last season. And prior to this season, rarely could you question the team’s effort level.
“We play a high-energy, direct game, and very structured — we want structure in our game — and we haven’t been able to get to either as much as we’d like because of the schedule, and again, we own it. But it’s also reality that we have had a heavy schedule.”
The Canucks haven’t been close to winning games on many nights this season, and surely a compact schedule isn’t the only reason for that. But it’s fair to say it has played a factor.
That built-in excuse won’t be valid for much longer though.
After all, the Canucks now have the fewest games left between now and the end of the season, meaning they will get more time for rest and practice going forward.
That starts with Thursday’s game, as the Canucks will have had a day off and a practice before facing the Flames. Calgary, meanwhile, had a travel day today after facing Winnipeg last night.
The Canucks will also get six days off in a row in late March. Hopefully they’re not out of the playoff race by then.