4:10pm: The league has officially delayed the Canucks’ return to play, allowing additional time for recovery and preparation. They will not play Friday against the Oilers, and though the official release does not address the Saturday game against the Maple Leafs, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the expectation is that it will also be postponed.
2:20pm: The Vancouver Canucks haven’t played a game since March 24. They haven’t even really practiced during that time, with most of the team testing positive for coronavirus and quarantining for the last few weeks. Now, with players coming out of the protocol the team was expected to play a back-to-back on Friday-Saturday and fit the rest of their schedule—19 games—into just 31 days. Yesterday, J.T. Miller spoke up about the issue, telling reporters including Thomas Drance of The Athletic that what the Canucks were being asked to do isn’t safe, suggesting that even the players who did not contract the virus aren’t ready to compete at the NHL level.
Today, after medical and conditioning testing in the facility—a practice that was closed to the media at the last moment—it looks like at least one more game will be postponed to give the team some more time. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the team will not play their Friday game against the Edmonton Oilers, though it is unclear whether Saturday’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs is still a go.
At one point, the Canucks had basically their entire roster on the COVID Protocol list, with more than 20 positive test results in the organization. The team recalled 20-year-old goaltender Arturs Silovs–he of one game of professional experience–to the taxi squad along with Guillaume Brisebois yesterday in preparation for fielding an uncertain lineup.
Perhaps the most striking debate regarding the Canucks season is whether they need to play all 56 games at all. The team is now ten points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the North Division and seems unlikely to close that gap with such a condensed schedule (not to mention coming off such a long break). Games against the last-place Ottawa Senators for instance could potentially be chopped off the schedule, but it’s hard to decide just how to go about the rest of the games that could have playoff implications for the opponent. For instance, the Canucks have already played their full allotment of matches against the Montreal Canadiens, going 3-5-1 in the process. If the other playoff teams are not allowed to play their remaining games against one of the worst teams in the league, there could be some who feel the North Division standings are unfair, even if points percentage is used to determine seeding.