How Will the Canucks Adapt to the Rest of Their Brutal January Schedule?

By: Brayden Fengler / January 13, 2022  

The Canucks suffered their biggest loss in the Bruce Boudreau era this week, on January 11th in the 5-2 defeat to the Florida Panthers.

Although all but the painfully optimistic knew that the Canucks couldn’t go the rest of the season without some humbling games, this loss still came as a shock in some ways. The Florida game was by far the biggest sign of “regression” by Bruce’s version of the Canucks since he took over, simply due to the fact that Bruce had yet to lead the team to a regulation loss. 

The delay in regularly scheduled play, due to rescheduled games sure didn’t help this club keep its positive momentum. This begs the question of whether momentum was all that the team had going for them in the first place? Is this one loss an actual sign to be worried about the team, or is this just a blip in an otherwise legitimately improved Canucks group?

It’s Fine, Everything Is Fine

It’s important for Canucks fans not to panic right now. Yes, the results of the Panthers game from Tuesday, were no doubt disheartening, with a goal differential on par with the infamous Penguins game on December 4th.

That might be a frightening comparison, given the organizational fallout that resulted from the loss to the Penguins, but it would be beyond rash to draw any further similarities between those two games, as their circumstances couldn’t be more different. One game was the final straw for an old regime, and the other was the first big loss from an otherwise solid new coaching staff. So ya, don’t panic.

Any Canucks fan with an all caps tweet saved in their drafts needs to hear these words, and be able to accept them: “This team is going to lose, and that’s okay.” Of course, if Benning and his group, were still running their failed experiment of a franchise, losing and waiting would be far removed from the menu by now.

However, this club, for better or worse, has recently made a lot of changes to address how their future is charted. Yes, all of these changes have been in relation to off-ice personnel, but there is no denying that firing a coach and a GM in the same day is a big move, and for that they still deserve credit, and patients, even after a loss of this scale. 

It’s Something to Be Proud of

Not only has Bruce Boudreau made the Canucks the 8th best team in the league compared to all other teams during the brief window of his tenure here, but he has also bumped their actual position league-wide from 28th to 22nd.

The Canucks still sit near the basement of the Pacific Division with their 35pts, only beating out that of Seattle’s horrid 24pt record. However, the gap between the teams above the Canucks is shrinking. With Edmonton and Calgary both sitting within a five-point striking distance from Vancouver. Edmonton currently sits with 38pts and Calgary with 40pts. 

A loss suffered like the one experienced against Florida, is lessened when reminded of the overall strength that this team has shown under their new coach. Yes, teams typically get a boost in performance to some degree when a new coach arrives.

But the run the Canucks had prior to the COVID and holiday pause, speaks to a larger improvement than just a new coach bump. Prior to the Florida contest, the Canucks played nine of the best games that the team had played in years. They are not perfect and still produce a myriad of tiny mistakes that are easy to point fingers at.

But on the whole, this team has allowed 1.90GA compared to Green’s record of 3.16GA per game. The league-worst penalty kill that the team had under Green is now still… well, still league-worst over the course of the season. However, in Boudroue’s smaller sample size of 10 games, his PK has been 7th in the league compared to all other teams since December 6th.

Bruce’s more aggressive PK sits at 86.4% over the span of 10 games played, whereas Green’s PK was left at 64.6% by the end of his 25 game run with the Canucks this season.

Although these are still the same players making some of the same mistakes that we saw them make at the beginning of the season, Boudreau has shown that they had more to give.

Rather than their early-season performance being an indicator of their true colours, it was actually just one extreme, just the same as their recent run of improved performance has been a different extreme. The Canucks are not the best team in the league, and they’re not the worst team either, they’re one of the few teams that are still hard to place at this point in the season.

Given the nature of the hard reset that the Canucks faced in early December, the group has still yet to fully define themselves this season. 

The Road Ahead… 

The road ahead for the Canucks looks to be equally as humbling as their last contest with Florida. Their next six games on the schedule are as follows, along with the opposing team’s current ranking in their divisions: 

  • @ Lightning on Jan 12th (2nd in Atlantic) 
  • @ Hurricanes Jan 15th (1st in Metropolitan)
  • @ Capitals Jan 16th (3rd in Metropolitan)
  • @ Predators Jan 18th (1st in Central)
  • Vs Panthers Jan 21st (1st in Atlantic)
  • Vs Blues Jan 23rd (3rd in Central)

It’s not until the Canucks play the Oilers on January 25th, that our boys in green and blue will be facing off against a team that isn’t in the top three of their respective division.

As you can see by the list, not only are the Canucks coming up on an extraordinarily tough run of games, but they remain on the road for the next four of them, which always lends to a slight disadvantage for the visiting teams.

All This To Say

It looks rough and likely will be rough for this Canucks team through the month of January. It might be easy to blame the momentum halting that COVID caused for the reason why this team faced such a hard loss earlier this week.

But the reality is that no matter what is thrown at them, good teams always find a way to win. That’s not to say that the Canucks are a bad team, or even a good team, what kind of team they are has still yet to be defined. 

A team’s true nature comes out during adverse times and while overcoming obstacles, and it looks like the Canucks will have plenty of adversity to overcome in the month ahead.

Canucks fans should hold out hope that the progress this Canucks team has recently shown should be indication enough, that even if they don’t overcome all of the obstacles on their horizon, they should have enough strength to at least not get buried by them.