Tuesday’s win over Calgary was the first time the Canucks started and finished a game with a fully healthy lineup all season

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 days ago
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There are (usually) 82 games in each NHL regular season, and not all of them can be significant. But Game #81 on the 2023/24 was a special one for the Vancouver Canucks, and for a few different reasons.
The 4-1 victory against the Calgary Flames officially earned the Canucks the Pacific Division crown. It’s the 11th division title in franchise history, but the first time ever that the Canucks have won a division called “the Pacific.”
In doing so, the Canucks secured home-ice advantage in the playoffs through at least the second round. They also gave themselves a shot at winning the Western Conference outright, so long as the Dallas Stars lose their final game and the Canucks win theirs.
It was also Fan Appreciation Night, and the final home game of the regular season.
But perhaps more important than all that was the return of Thatcher Demko to the Canucks’ crease after a 14-game absence.
Of course, as the team’s starting goaltender extraordinaire, Demko’s return (and immediate strong performance) was a crucial moment for the team’s playoff hopes in and of itself. But it was also significant in that it marked only the second time in the 2023/24 campaign that the Canucks have had their full complement of players healthy, available, and in the lineup – and the very first time that they’ve started and finished a game with that same full complement.
The Canucks started out the year injured. Ilya Mikheyev was still recovering from offseason surgery. Teddy Blueger picked up an ailment in the preseason that lingered well into October. And Carson Soucy picked up his first of several injuries on the year, albeit perhaps his most minor.
Soucy was cleared to play for October 17. Mikheyev was cleared four days later on October 21. But Blueger’s injury kept him out for much longer than originally anticipated. He finally returned to the lineup on November 12 against Montreal, but in that exact same game, Soucy exited again, this time with a foot injury.
The Canucks thus started that game fully healthy, but didn’t finish it as such. And this new injury would keep Soucy out of the lineup for almost two months.
During those two months, more injuries occurred. Pius Suter was out from November 15 until being cleared to return midway through December. Phil di Giuseppe went down in early January, and would be out for more than a month.
Soucy was cleared to return on January 6, the same point at which Nikita Zadorov missed a game with a minor ailment. But by that point, Di Giuseppe was still out of the lineup, and before he could return on February 10, Soucy would exit again with his third injury of the year – this time, to his hand.
Soucy’s absence continued all through February. Midway through the month, Dakota Joshua suffered a hand injury of his own, and Tyler Myers missed time with an undisclosed injury.
Soucy was cleared again on March 5. On the same day, Guillaume Brisebois was finally cleared to start skating again after a serious ongoing battle with a concussion and its related aftereffects. Brisebois isn’t really a factor in this discussion, as he was earmarked for Abbotsford from the get-go, but it’s still worth mentioning the good-news piece of his return.
But before the rest could return, disaster struck in the form of a Demko injury on March 10.
You probably know the rest by recall. Myers returned on March 16. Elias Lindholm missed games with an injury he’d reportedly suffered in early March, exiting the lineup from March 25 until April 10. Ian Cole enjoyed a couple of maintenance days in March, too, but we’re not going to count those here. Joshua was cleared to play on March 28.
And then Demko returned to the crease on April 16, and all was right in the world again.
The mention of Brisebois makes this the perfect time to also mention that there’s a name we’ve been ignoring in this discussion, and that name is Tucker Poolman. Truly, with him on LTIR from the offseason onward as he struggles through post-concussion syndrome, it could be said that the Canucks have not been fully healthy at any point in the 2023/24 season. Then again, the extent of Poolman’s effective LTIRetirement has been long known, and his being unavailable all season was always the plan.
So, from a functional and practical perspective, Tuesday night was the second time that the Canucks started a game with their full complement of players available, and the first time that they did so without losing one of those players in the same game.
We wrote a couple of weeks ago about how this was by far the healthiest Canucks season in recent memory, but how that still only equated to the Canucks facing a roughly league-average amount of injuries.
But a day-by-day, blow-by-blow recap only serves to show that the impact of injuries was still a constant factor that the Canucks had to fight through as they achieved some remarkable regular season success.
Look, this particular author is no graphic designer. But perhaps the chart below, which shows which players missed time in which months, will serve as a nice visual representative of how injuries impacted the Canucks in 2023/24:
MikheyevBluegerSoucySoucyDi GiuseppeSoucyDemko
SoucySoucySuterDi GiuseppeSoucyJoshuaLindholm
BluegerSuter ZadorovJoshuaMyers 
   Soucy (again) Demko 
Dang. It’s not a pretty chart in a couple of different ways.
The Canucks can feel fortunate in that no truly “core” names appear on the list until the month of March. But there’s still a lot to digest here, including that April has been the only month in which Carson Soucy – the team’s highest-profile UFA signing this offseason – has not missed at least some time.
In any case, that’s all in the past, and as of Tuesday, the chart is cleared.
It’s worth noting here that Tuesday will likely be the only game in which the full complement is witnessed through all 60 minutes. Head coach Rick Tocchet has strongly hinted that the Canucks will be resting at least a couple players for Game #82 against the Winnipeg Jets, though that could change if Dallas loses their Wednesday game, which would give the Canucks a shot at claiming the Western Conference title with a win on Thursday.
At the very least, there’s an opportunity here to be grateful for the chance to finally see the 2023/24 Canucks in all their glory. Grateful, that is, unless you’re the Calgary Flames.
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