The Vancouver Canucks know a lot is riding on the next four games against the Calgary Flames.
The Canucks are tired and broken down, having played 16 games in 27 days. They lost 10 of those 16 games – and the losses were ugly, as has been well-documented.
And now there are conspiracy theories to explain away the poor performance.
The 6-10-0 Canucks were accused of pretty much everything, from tanking on purpose because they’d lost so many critical players in the off-season to being afraid of losing head coach Travis Green.
When Vancouver held a full practice Wednesday, it was just their fourth full practice in four weeks. And it followed a Tuesday day off. Like, a legit day off.
“I think it’s been brutal,” said Green. “It’s a lot of games, 10 games on the road. 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.”
Nobody likes excuses. Some seemingly prefer conspiracy theories to excuses, but in this case Green is right: it has been brutal.
Vancouver has one immense task before them. They’ve been testing new leadership in a season that started them off with 13 games in 21 days, more than another NHL club.
The Canucks now find themselves sixth in the North Division. They are dead last in shots against per game and second from the basement in goals against per game.
The theory goes that things aren’t connecting as well as they should, with Jacob Markstrom, Christopher Tanev, Tyler Toffoli, and Troy Stecher all out of the fold.
Defenceman Quinn Hughes alluded to the off-season losses after Monday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We lost some pretty good players last year, so we’re trying to figure it out together,” he said.
Those comments have led some to speculate Vancouver is playing through a case of the blues, as though the players have quit on management out of not-so-silent protest. That conjecture, inevitably, was addressed.
“I can shut that down,” Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko said. “I don’t think anyone is holding that against management or coaches. Guys know that the business side of things is going to happen sometimes and guys are going to leave, get traded, sign somewhere else, what have you, and guys are well aware of that and they know you’ve got to move on and focus on the task at hand.”
Focusing on the task at hand would be for the best, obviously. The change in scenery – and the rest – might help. And so would a good showing against the 6-5-1 Flames.
Pic: Jonathan Hayward/CP