Is the revised schedule unfair for certain teams and players?
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Antoine Roussel has expressed his frustration with the season’s schedule, which he says has been unfair to the Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks’ season has been full of challenges. Their bizarre pandemic-revised schedule had them on a six-day break prior to embarking on their long 12-day road trip.
Unfortunately, ESPN reported that two Canuck players (Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic) and a member of the coaching staff testing positive for COVID-19 and went on the league’s protocol list March 31. The NHL requires players who test positive to self-isolate for 10 days, and close contacts to self-isolate for two weeks.
In their recent home games, Travis Green says that losing two straight home games to the Winnipeg Jets did not help them in the standings. But he is not dwelling on points not earned, stating so in his post-game Zoom conference on March 24: “I think later in the year, as the games go on, they do tend to sting a little bit (to lose), especially when you play well. We talked about raising our game to find a way to win, and sometimes you play a pretty decent game and things don’t go the way you want. So, does it sting? Yeah, a little bit. But they should, though. That’s why we play the games—because they matter. You feel great when you win, and when you lose, they’re supposed to hurt.” In terms of injury updates, Justin Bailey underwent shoulder surgery and is out for the rest of the season and Elias Pettersson remains out with an upper body injury (last game played was March 2).
In addition, there have been trade rumours surrounding Jake Virtanen. Former Sportsnet 650 morning host, James Cybulski, posted on Twitter that the Canucks were in discussions with the Florida Panthers regarding a potential deal involving Virtanen and a Panthers’ depth defenceman.
In other Canucks news, Rick Dhaliwal tweeted on March 26 that the Canucks have not made an offer to unrestricted free agent Tanner Pearson. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, he reported that the Canucks signed 25-year-old goalie Thatcher Demko to a five-year extension (worth $5 million per season).
Nevertheless, some Canuck players, like Antoine Roussel, have expressed their frustration with the season—mainly the schedule, which he says has been unfair to the Canucks. “When I look at a team like Montreal, they’ve had three breaks and it’s not fair at all,” Roussel told The Province on March 28. “We’ve played 37 games and it’s frustrating. We’ve been complying (with COVID-19 protocols) almost perfect as an organization and we struggle with the schedule.”
“We have to show up every night and not look at excuses, but it’s just pointing at facts. When we played in Montreal (March 20), we flew right after the game and it’s a five-hour flight. We got in at 5 am. Montreal time and played the next day (in Winnipeg) and in the first period we were flat. Our legs weren’t there. Our best players are playing more than 20 minutes a night and it has been hard with the travel and jet lag.”
Other Canuck players like defenceman, Nate Schmidt, was not focused on the schedule but discussed how difficult the season has been being unable to socialize with his teammates. He feels that he does not know his teammates very well because of the restrictions incorporated. “I’m a people person,” he said in an interview with Sportsnet before the Canucks began their six-day break. “Social stuff is usually my forte. At this point of the year… all the things that you would have gotten already (in a normal season) hasn’t happened. Halloween party, Christmas get-togethers—the stuff where you really kind of get to know everybody. I’m still getting to know guys at the rink, but we’re not really allowed to be together. It’s just hard to get to the grassroots of somebody and really get to know who they are.”
Schmidt states the lack of social interaction with teammates has him resorting to playing video games to alleviate boredom. “I don’t like to play video games as much as I have been, but it’s almost like you don’t have a choice if you want to interact,” Schmidt said. “I’m that guy who will literally play anything you’re playing just to be in a group again. It could be Call of Duty, could be Fortnite, could be Madden, NBA, whatever. I’m mediocre at all of them.”
Other NHL news
The Buffalo Sabres ended their 18-game losing streak when defeating the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 6 to 1. The Sabres’ last victory was February 23 and since then went 0-15-3. It was the longest losing streak by a team in 17 years, when the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2003-04 season had a 0-17-1 record. The NHL record for longest consecutive losing streak is held by the Winnipeg Jets, who went 30 straight games without a victory during the 1980-81 season. The Sabres are now on a one-game winning streak.
Also, sad news, former NHL player, Bobby Schmautz, passed away at his home in Arizona at age 76. He played 13 seasons in the NHL with Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, Edmonton, and Colorado (Rockies). Schmautz played 764 NHL games, scoring 271 goals with 286 assists for 557 points. Longtime Vancouver sports broadcaster, Don Taylor, tweeted his condolences March 29: “RIP Bobby Schmautz. One of the Canucks’ early stars. He could score, skate, and fight. Love his stat line from ’72-73: 38 goals, 71 points, 137 pims! No wonder Don Cherry and the Bruins wanted him. God Bless Bobby, his family and friends.” Taylor later added, “I was reminded of this about Bobby Schmautz today: after leaving the Canucks for stints in Boston, Edmonton, and Colorado, he came back to Vancouver and while wearing the flying ‘V,’ scored 27 goals in ’80-81 at age 35. He’s an unappreciated part of the Canucks’ history. RIP.”