Will Miller’s candid comments create changes to Canucks schedule?

Elliotte Friedman joined Sportsnet Central to discuss Vancouver Canucks players meeting with the NHLPA and whether or not the team's return to play plan will be changed.

Emboldened by teammate J.T. Miller, several Vancouver Canucks told the NHL Players’ Association they thought it was too soon to resume their season on Friday night, as is currently scheduled.

Wednesday afternoon, Miller criticized the decision to play the Edmonton Oilers after just one team practice.

“We try to talk about the number one priority being the players’ health and their families’ safety,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to achieve that with what they have asked us to do here on our return… It’s an extreme scenario and dangerous to a lot of our players.”

Hours after his media availability, the team held a zoom call with the NHLPA. According to one Canuck, more players indicated they weren’t ready to play. After what is basically a three-week absence, they are also concerned about facing Toronto 22 hours after the Oilers. (Both games are in Vancouver.)

We will see how this evolves Thursday, but multiple sources pointed out several Canucks had to pass mandated post-COVID testing before anyone could say if the game would be played. As of 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, no Canuck player had indicated they didn’t want to return this year.

One thing we don’t publicly know, however, is the full health of the coaching staff.

The biggest surprise about Miller’s comments is that the schedule was put together in consultation with the NHL, the NHLPA and the Canucks. Medical professionals from all three sides were involved. There should be multi-lateral agreement on the correct path.

Returns from other outbreaks have been handled similarly. Montreal missed a week, practised one day, and played. Minnesota was out nine days, practised for three and returned with a lineup that included Calen Addison, Matt Bartkowski, Louie Belpedio, Gerald Mayhew and Dakota Mermis.

New Jersey, which had a bad outbreak, was off 14 days, practised for one, then played. However, it’s been conceded that those who suffered symptoms among the Canucks had the worst ride of any COVID shutdown. It’s not just about being cleared to play, it’s also about how long it takes your body to recover.

We’ll see where we go over the next 24 hours. At the very least, Miller’s candid commentary created the possibility of change.

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