Bo Horvat’s first month as captain of the Vancouver Canucks was an unmitigated success. The team soared to a 8-1-1 record in October following Horvat’s donning of the “C” – and Horvat himself picked up 11 points in that span, clearly leading by example.
November, to put it mildly, has not been so kind.
As of this writing, the Canucks are sitting with a record of 2-5-3 in the season’s second month – and Horvat’s numbers look even worse. Thus far in November he’s notched just one goal and five points – and while it’s ultimately a flawed stat, the fact that he’s -9 in that span is probably cause for concern. He’s yet to score a goal at home. His underlying numbers also reflect newfound defensive shortcomings from an individual whose game has typically demonstrated the exact opposite of that – or at least that’s what those better at math than this author are saying on Twitter.
On the surface, there are a number of factors that may explain Horvat’s (hopefully) temporary decline. With Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter out of the lineup, Horvat has been asked to take on truly herculean minutes – including a season high 27:06 against Nashville on November 12 – and it’s hard to imagine anyone thriving under such demands.
There’s also the question of Horvat’s lack of consistent linemates. His wings have featured a revolving door of Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, JT Miller, and Sven Baertschi – and none of them seem to be helping Bo bump the slump.
With all that in mind, this week we’re asking you to play Armchair Coach and answer:
What would you do to help Bo Horvat break out of his current doldrums?
Last week, we asked:
What would you do to improve the Canucks’ travel schedule, if you were the NHL?
Failing that, what would you do if you were the Canucks to mitigate the impact of travel on the team’s performance?
No 10:00AM PST games on eastern trips, let alone back to back games at 10AM. No matinee games period, home or away. Make eastern teams play the late start to help balance the schedule and travel. In other words, the Leafs can play at the normal 7:00PM when in town.
Matinee games should be played by teams from the same time zone. To lessen the number of back-to–back games, probably requires stretching the season out or shaving approximately 6-8 games off the regular season. The players would have to take a salary haircut by the corresponding percentage, and likewise the owners would lose some home gate revenue. I personally would like to see the season, including playoffs, finished by early May, but there is too much money involved for that too happen.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
The last number of years the Canucks injury woes have proven to be their undoing to otherwise impressive starts. Load management is a thing and needs to be build into scheduling. The old school approach we too often see is players that are 90% healthy are played over slightly inferior players that are 100% healthy. Teams highly-susceptible to injuries (ie, Canucks) need to rest some of these players so they can be at their best when it especially matters. This means older players and those who are valuable and susceptible to injuries play less with larger leads and take the second of back-to-back games off. Soccer and basketball have figured this out – makes sense for the Canucks to do so too.
I’d like to see the league (or the player’s union) recognize that over-fatigued players get injured and it hurts the sport in both the short- and long-run. Set how many games can reasonably be played in 72 hours, one week, and one month – and then get rid of situations where a team plays four games in six days and the last one is a matinee and other super-compressed schedules (like 16 games in 30). The other thing I’d really love to see is balance in opponents’ schedules – if one team travels for a back-to-back, make the other team do so, too. None of this one team plays four games in three nights to face an opponent who’s well-rested from a spaced-out homestand for the final of those games.
From the Canucks’ perspective, they should rest key players in situations where the team is super-fatigued and play young ones more. Especially in a big market – imagine if the Canucks are playing a fatigued game in Toronto or Boston and they play AHLers and rest their stars. The games against East Conference teams aren’t quite as meaningful to us, and they’re more likely to lose already anyway. That would send a message to the league – if you want entertainment, give us the chance to entertain, don’t hang us out to dry. Imagine resting EP40, BB6 and QH43 as “injured” and calling up some Comet players for a game nearby in NYC. It would allow the Canucks to rest key players to win the more winnable games, avoid injury, survive the grind of the long season, and alert the league that they won’t tolerate this any more.
I do not see why the league cannot be more progressive when it comes to making travel schedules more equitable. Using the previous season’s travel schedule as a benchmark, the most-travelled team should get a slight advantage in the following years schedule (and so forth).
In terms of what the NHL and NHLPA should do about the insane travel schedule, it’s relatively simple. For example, when SEA gets in, VAN should only play the Central home and away once each and the Eastern Conference only 16 times, eight there and eight here like it use to be. That leaves 50 games against the Pacific in a semi-imbalanced configuration. Cut the travel and the fatigue induced injuries that accompany them. Stay in your own time zones, Bettman, because the way it is now a lot of games for teams in both conferences are basically scheduled losses.
From home the Canucks only fly half the compass to an away game. That needs to be considered in scheduling. The union should get involved from a player safety perspective. With Seattle coming in, I imagine the benefits will mostly go to eastern teams bundling Sea/Van in their roadtrips.
Back-to-backs and afternoon games should never happen when you switch from PST to EST time zones on a roadie and vice versa.