If you haven’t had a chance to scan the Vancouver Canucks schedule, it may be time for non-season ticket holders to set aside in your mind some games you’d like to attend. For everyone, it’s just a chance to get a feel for what’s in store. We’re breaking down the basics and some of the more important stretches. We’re throwing out last year when making any statistical or tendency references. The no-fan, bubble North Division one-off (we hope) was a disaster on the ice and off. Covid did not treat the Vancouver Canucks well in the end.
The one exception to that reference rule will be the start of the season where the Canucks have their first six games on the road. Last year the team started on the road and lost three of four and it wasn’t exactly a distant road trip. A split in Edmonton and then two losses in Calgary. This year is more of a trek, hitting Edmonton on October 13th to start the season, Philly two nights later, Detroit the next night, Buffalo on the 19th, Chicago on the 21st and then Seattle on the 23rd.
The annoying part of this is the fact that teams with early road schedules often get stuck participating in multiple home openers. I’m familiar with this first hand from having to stand through it while traveling with NHL teams on the road doing live TV. Stand around and wait. The ceremonies and the full roster player introductions, if applicable, can get old. The Canucks get Edmonton’s home opener to start the season, they get the Flyers home opener on the 15th, and then Seattle’s franchise opener on the 23rd. That’s sure to be an elongated gong show. Fortunately for Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit will already have played a game at home and Buffalo will have played two. The one advantage to the heavy pomp and circumstance nights is that the home team can sometimes come out flat, and it’s especially nifty if the road team gets to stay in the dressing room for most of the pregame.
A 4-and-2 start would be magical, a 3-and-3 start happily acceptable. The simplest formula to remember is that you’re a playoff team if you split your road games and win 2/3rds at home. In the last full season of complete normalcy, 2018-’19, the Canucks finished five games below modern .500 on the road and only four games above .500 at home. Thus they weren’t sniffing the playoffs. In 2015, finishing with a 48-29-5 record only to lose to Calgary in the first round, the Canucks had gone nine and ten above .500 at home and on the road respectively. That’ll cure whatever ails you.
Something else general to keep in mind here. Remember, in the first bubble season, 2019-’20, the Canucks finished 7th in the Western Conference, won their qualifying round series against Minnesota and then beat St. Louis in the official first round, the conference quarter-finals. It was their first win in a playoff series since 2011. So, if you want to be optimistic, skip last year’s debacle, and think about what should be an improved roster picking up where it left off in 2019.
Besides the six-game roadie to get things started, the other thing that of course jumps out on the calendar is the Winter Olympic break in February. The Flames have no games between February 1st at Nashville and then at home against Calgary on the 24th. The one factor: if the Vancouver Canucks, like any team, are on a roll come the start of February, the club is not going to be very happy about the pause. If they’re losing and banged up, they’ll be stoked to get a breather. Otherwise, this is more of a note for fans to plan by as all the NHL teams are in the same boat.
November is pretty even-steven in terms of home and away and the Canucks get to bang out some of their non-conference match-ups away from home late in the month. The gruelling stretch will come between November 5th and the 14th when Vancouver plays six games in ten nights. Again, all teams have this phenomena happening at various points along the way because of the smooshed schedule from Beijing 2022.
December brings home cooking with ten of fifteen matches at Rogers Arena. Wanna renew your Boston hatred? The Bruins are in December 8th. The Maple Leafs hit town ten nights later. Five of the home games in the holiday month are non-conference.
January continues with a heavy interest in the east, including a five-game in eight-night stretch that’ll take the BC boys to Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Washington and Nashville between the 11th and 18th. Those are not easy and can be make-or-breakers depending on where your team sits in the standings. The Canucks come home for three and then head right back out for three more before the end of the month. It’s a pivotal time particular if the Canucks didn’t secure points back around Christmas.
A quirky challenge confronts the hockey team after their single post-Olympic home game against the Flames on February 24th. They head east to face the Rangers and Devils on back to back nights, then the Islanders, and then Toronto during a seven day stretch before returning home.
Which brings us to one thing you and Vancouver might love about this calendar, especially if you’re a believer in that home ice advantage. The Vancouver Canucks have a Rogers-Arena-laden schedule to finish off the season. Coming off a three day break with the Montreal Canadiens visiting on March 9th, the Canucks play eight of twelve at home to finish out March and seven of twelve at home during the entire month of April to close out the schedule.
Some Jets and Canucks players have swapped sweaters; they’ll first see their former clubs on November 19th in Vancouver. Oliver Ekman-Larsson won’t see his former team until December 19th at home. The Canucks don’t head to Arizona to see his former mates until April 7th. Alex Edler returns to town with the Los Angeles Kings on December 6th.
Of potential special interest: The Connor McDavid show makes its way to town with the Oilers on October 30th and January 25th. The new Seattle Kraken will be here for an exhibition game on October 5th and regular season match-ups on December 27th and April 26th. The latter is the next-to-last Canucks game of the regular season. Wouldn’t it be something if it meant something, especially if it meant something to both clubs. Or maybe irritating and nerve-racking would be more appropriate. Vancouver fans should probably enter the season hoping, and if confident, assuming, that the Seattle/Vancouver match-up on that date will not be crucial.