I Watched This Game: Canucks at Winnipeg Jets, January 31, 2014

The Canucks hadn’t visited Winnipeg since 1996, which is also the last time the Canucks won a game. At least, that’s how it feels. They actually won just last week, against the former Winnipeg Jets, the Phoenix Coyotes. With this loss against the Jets, the Canucks have now lost three straight and are officially 4-9-2 in January. There’s no denying it: that’s pretty terrible.

The question now is “Are the Canucks bad now?” No, of course not. There’s essentially no way that the past month is who the Canucks are. That said, there’s no way that December was an accurate depiction of the who the Canucks are either. Essentially, the Canucks appear to now be a mediocre team, aiming to sneak into the playoffs and hope for a miraculous run. Since we’ve seen such fantastic highs recently, this is thoroughly depressing.

It’s all about perspective: Maple Leafs fans nearly held a parade last season for a mediocre team. Oilers fans would sell their souls for a mediocre team right now. Those raucous Jets fans in the building for this game are desperately hoping their team gets to the mediocre heights the Canucks currently occupy. Like those fans, I watched this game.

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Is fatigue to blame for Canucks’ January struggles?

When John Tortorella was hired, he made it clear that he was going to ride his top players hard. The Sedins would play big minutes in all situations, including the penalty kill, he promised and assured everyone that the twins could handle the extra workload. He emphasized conditioning at the beginning of training camp and played his first line upwards of 23 minutes a night early on in the season.

There were dissenting voices among fans and the media early on, insisting that this was an Eastern Conference point of view that just wouldn’t work with the heavier travel of a Western Conference team, particularly Vancouver, which generally faces some of the toughest travel in the league. The Sedins would get run down, the oft-injured Ryan Kesler would break down, and the defence would get fatigued and sloppy.

Now, it appears that they were right. The Canucks look tired, at least one Sedin is injured, and usually-reliable defencemen have made highly noticeable errors. The high-energy forecheck that was so common at the beginning of the season has lost its jump and even the penalty kill looks weary and lethargic. Most damning of all is how the Canucks have performed in third periods, as they appear to simply run out of gas in the final frame.

But that’s just what appears to be the case. I wanted to see if there was some way to look at fatigue statistically, to see if the numbers back up what we’re seeing, particularly in the third period. From what I found, it appears that fatigue could be a legitimate explanation for the Canucks’ struggles, but I found some other interesting results that call that explanation into question.

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Ryan Kesler, Sidney Crosby get burned as Zach Parise named Team USA captain

Bad news, friends: Ryan Kesler has not been named the captain of Team USA.

He was never really in the running for the gig, of course. Most assumed it would be one of Parise, David Backes, Ryan Suter, or Dustin Brown. But since this is a Canucks blog, we try to filter all our news through the Canucks fan experience. Hence, we are outraged that Ryan Kesler was passed over for this honour.

Especially now that Parise has it. Has Zach Parise ever won the Selke trophy? No he has not.

Has Zach Parise ever ditched the team that drafted him to take a big-money contract elsewhere? Yes he has. Who’s to say he join Switzerland halfway through the tournament, after they back a truckload of money up to his house?

Don’t say you weren’t warned, America.

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Other things we can blame on that jersey-throwing Blackhawks fan

As if it wasn’t enough to have to watch the Vancouver Canucks blow a two-goal lead and lose to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, things got even worse for this fanbase when one of us made his way down to the glass and tossed his Canucks jersey onto the ice.

It wouldn’t be the first time this season a fan had done so. Over in Edmonton, it’s happened a few times, and coach Dallas Eakins has been none too pleased about it. He labelled the first fan to do it a quitter. And now it would appear that we have a quitter among us, and a hyperdramatic one that would quit on a team still currently sitting on a playoff spot, at that.

Again I say: it would appear. On first glance. On closer inspection, it wasn’t a Canucks fan at all. It was a Blackhawks fan. We know because he wore his Chicago jersey on the way down.

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Stick in Link: David Booth is what he eats; Corrado recalled; Canucks royal rumble

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, January 29, 2014

The Chicago Blackhawks came into town riding a four-game losing streak. (Well, actually, they flew in on a jet. But you know what I mean.) They were struggling, having recently dropped a 5-4 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames, and through the first period and change of this one, it looked like their struggles were going to continue. They appeared to be exactly what the Canucks needed.

Until they weren’t. Shortly after the Canucks went up 2-0, they turned into exactly what the Blackhawks needed. It was an unfortunate inversion, like when that kid swung over the bar and became Inside-Out Boy. Actually, come to think of it, that kid got special abilities. The Canucks appeared to lose whatever abilities they had. And, unlike Inside-Out Boy, they showed very little guts when I watched this game.

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Shocking revelation: Zack Kassian does not exist

It’s been a trying season for Vancouver fans. After years of the Canucks hanging with the elite of the NHL’s Western Conference like Raven Symone with Mr. Cooper, the team has taken a step back. They’re still a likely playoff team, but only just barely, and there is literally nothing worse for a fan to endure than only just barely making the playoffs. No one understands our pain.

Fans have been forced this season to cheer for moral victories and just one Sedin (and as it turns out, not the good one). They’ve had to grit their teeth through a historic suspension to first-year coach John Tortorella and a brief, unrequited romance with Vinny “I’m a flirt” Prospal. Chris Tanev has a thumb injury. Jannik Hansen’s fallen off a cliff. The powerplay looks like it’s directed by Tommy Wiseau. It’s been tough sledding out here in Vancouver.

All that in mind, I hesitate to further compound the mental anguish through which the 2013-14 season is currently putting us, but, my friends, I have uncovered a lie so shocking it absolutely has to be shared. Please forgive me my dedication to the truth, but the people need to know:

Zack Kassian does not exist.

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The Week Ahead: The Blackhawks, some other teams, and then the Bruins

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

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The Paper Feature: 10 other veteran players the Canucks should try to sign

Looking to boost their struggling offence and power play, the Canucks came close to signing veteran free agent Vinny Prospal last week. But at the last moment, it all fell through. In the space of 24 hours, the news that last season’s leading scorer in Columbus was a certainty to sign a professional tryout contract with the Utica Comets was replaced by news that the 38-year-old was officially retiring from hockey.

It took just one practice with the Comets for Prospal to decide to hang up his skates. Perhaps he balked at the amount of effort it would take to get back into game shape, or maybe he couldn’t keep pace with the Comets and, knowing that they are last in the AHL’s Western Conference, realized his career was done.

After Prospal made his announcement, it seemed like the Canucks realized that help was not on the way and kickstarted their offence themselves, potting five goals in their next game against the Phoenix Coyotes and, in their enthusiasm, scoring two into their own net as well. Perhaps this is what the Canucks really need: a constant reminder that there is no deus ex machina on the way to save the season.

With that in mind, here are 10 veteran players that the Canucks should come close to signing before not signing at the last moment, providing the team with the inspiration they need.

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Stick in Link: Jets’ Rypien tribute, possible Santorelli surgery, and Tony Gallagher sees silver linings

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, January 27, 2014

David Perron was drafted 26th overall in 2007, a fact that you probably already knew, since the Canucks had the pick right before that, and chose… poorly. This has a tendency to come up.

It definitely came up on Monday night, when the Canucks lost to the Edmonton Oilers, Perron’s current team (who also had two opportunities to draft him, instead picking Alex Plante and Riley Nash, but that doesn’t fit the narrative, so let us digress). Perron was the difference in this one, registering a hat trick, henceforth known as a Perron cocktail. (HEYO!)

So if you think about it, the Canucks really lost this game in 2007. Why did they even bother showing up for this game? It’s been decided for seven years! And why did I even bother watching this game? We will never know. But I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Joacim Eriksson and the Comets beat the Heat; Dane Fox is good at shooting pucks

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this instalment, Joacim Eriksson is the AHL’s player of the week, the Comets own the Heat, Dane Fox can shoot the puck, Brendan Gaunce is consistent, and vote for Ben Hutton for Hobey Baker.

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Big Numbers: Daniel Sedin’s terrible January; I think we broke the penalty kill

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, January 26, 2014

The big story of the game wasn’t the surprising number of goals or the still-struggling power play. It wasn’t Martin Hanzal, who injured three different Canucks with cross-checks in the last game between these two teams, with all three missing this game — Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli due to the injuries caused by Hanzal, with David Booth a healthy scratch. The big story wasn’t even the sub-par goaltending from two players heading to Sochi for Team Canada.

Nope, the big story was a smudge on the main camera on Sportsnet Pacific’s broadcast that, although it did not obscure view of the play, was impossible to ignore once you noticed it on your own or it was pointed out by someone else. This small annoyance became a big bother as the game progressed, to the point that Sportsnet Pacific felt the need to tweet out during the first intermission that the smudge had been cleaned.

One problem: it hadn’t. The smudge was still there during the second period and wasn’t cleaned until the second intermission. I spent two-thirds of the time dighting the urge to obsessive-compulsively clean my TV as I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on ‘Free Torts’, beer, and Vinny Prospal’s surprise retirement

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Vinny Prospal may sign PTO with Comets, get one last chance to ‘shove it up [Tortorella's] butt’

The Columbus Blue Jackets were not expected to do much last season. They finished last in the Central Division and 13th in the Western Conference in the 2011-12 season and traded franchise forward Rick Nash in the 2012 off-season. The vast majority of analysts expected the Blue Jackets to crash without Nash and compete for the first overall pick in the draft. Instead, they competed for the playoffs and fell just short.

A big reason for the Blue Jackets’ run was Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina for his efforts, but another was the play of 38-year-old Václav “Vinny” Prospal, who lead the team in scoring with 30 points in 48 games.

Now, with his 39th birthday just a few weeks away, Prospal is eyeing a return to the NHL and the Canucks have decided to give him an opportunity, offering him a professional tryout with their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. It’s an interesting move, as Prospal has a long history with Canucks coach John Tortorella in previous stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

That history hasn’t always been a positive one, as the two have butted heads repeatedly over the 7 years they have been together.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Nashville Predators, January 23, 2014

I don’t want to be the guy that blames Roberto Luongo for this loss, but let’s be honest: all he had to do to win this game was stop literally every shot he faced. Do that, and the Canucks win. I mean, they gave him a goal. What more does he want? Two goals? Three? Don’t be ridiculous. The Canucks aren’t a basketball team. You get one goal.

Unfortunately, the Predators got two. Thanks for nothing, Luongo. Way to be a passenger. I watched this game.

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Unlicensed gear fail: last we checked, the Canucks were not from ‘Vancouaer’

Three weeks ago at the Winter Classic, the NHL’s brand protection officers, working jointly with Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Anti-Terrorism/Contraband Enforcement Unit, and the Detroit Police, seized more than $700,000 in counterfeit hockey gear — fake jerseys, hats, T-shirts and other souvenirs. They also arrested five people, and then, to let the world know they meant business, they released a statement.

“Around every major sports event in this country, we always see a sharp spike in counterfeit merchandise as criminal groups try to exploit the enthusiasm of fans,” said special agent Marlon Miller. “They use inferior materials to pump out lookalikes that do not benefit the teams, the players or the associations that have trademarked these goods.”

Suffice it to say, the NHL takes unlicensed merchandise very, very seriously.

As for the people making it, not so much. You’re looking at a flat-brimmed, black-and-yellow throwback Canucks hat, spotted at a Malaysian mall by travel blogger Peter Korchnak. According to this hat, the Canucks play in VANCOUAER.

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Stick in Link: Drama-free season for Luongo; Zack Kassian, scourge of Edmonton

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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The Week Ahead: Homestand against the Predators, Coyotes, and Oilers

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

This week, it’s a homestand versus three teams below them in the Western Conference.

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The Paper Feature: Who’s to blame for Saturday’s line brawl? Roberto Luongo

The NHL was none too pleased with what transpired Saturday night when the Canucks played host to the Flames, and it’s difficult to blame them. On Hockey Night in Canada, on Hockey Day in Canada, Calgary vs. Vancouver looked more like Marvel vs. Street Fighter.

We’ll say the Canucks were Marvel, since they had the Iron Man. That would be Henrik Sedin, who was playing his 679th consecutive game. But by “playing”, I mean “attempting to drag his near-lifeless and wholly uncooperative body through”. Henrik was in the lineup despite what appeared to be full-body necrosis. Recognizing that his health bar was dangerously low, John Tortorella shut him down at the second intermission, and the Iron Man was no more.

And speaking of Tortorella, he was pretty clearly in superhero mode as well. After all, attempting to fight one’s way through a group of henchman to get at their boss is a very superhero thing to do.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, January 21, 2014

It’s been nearly a decade since the Canucks played a game without Henrik Sedin in the lineup. Henrik’s ironman streak, the 6th longest in NHL history, was broken on Tuesday against the Oilers and Canucks fans were curious to see how the team would perform without their Art Ross and Hart trophy winning first line centre. Thankfully, they were eased into Henrik’s absence with a game against the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference.

While the Canucks lack of finish kept things close, for the first time in a long while, the Canucks looked like they were fully in control of the direction of a game. Meanwhile, I was fully in control of the direction of my gaze I watched this game.

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Dallas Eakins invokes Bertuzzi/Moore to explain why Oilers didn’t go after Zack Kassian

The Edmonton Oilers don’t like Zack Kassian very much, which isn’t particularly surprising. During a pre-season game, Kassian broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with an errant high stick that many thought was a lot more intentional than careless.

Little to no revenge was had in Kassian’s first game against the Oilers this season. In fact, Kassian got the best of the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding some salt to the wound by mocking Gagner’s face shield, ie. the one he was forced to wear because Kassian broke his jaw.

Unsurprisingly, Oilers fans were out for blood, eager to see someone like Luke Gazdic target Kassian for a little old-school revenge. They didn’t get their wish. Instead, Kassian scored the gamewinning goal.

The Oilers head coach, Dallas Eakins, faced a string of questions related to the Oilers’ physicality and lack of response for Kassian and was eventually pushed to the point he invoked one of the darkest moments in, not just Canucks history, but NHL history.

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The last Canucks coach to be suspended? Harry Neale, for punching a fan [VIDEO]

If John Tortorella was a firefighter, his attempt to battle through a bunch of flames to get at Bob Hartley would likely have us hailing him as a hero today. And speaking of heroes, if he was playing Guitar Hero 3, and he tackled through the fire and flames, we’d all be pretty impressed by that too.

Unfortunately for Tortorella, he is neither regular hero nor a Guitar Hero — he’s the coach of the Vancouver Canucks — which is why his actions Saturday night earned him a 15-day suspension by the NHL on Monday.

It’s the fourth-longest coach suspension in NHL history based on games lost, and based on days, it actually puts Tortorella into a tie for the bronze medal with Don Perry, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings, who was handed the same 15-day suspension in 1982 for ordering his players to leave the bench during a massive bench-clearing brawl versus — wait for it — the Canucks. (That’s right: for all the head-scratching the 15-day ban received, the NHL was actually following historical precedent.)

So which coaches have received longer suspensions? The second-longest goes to Harry Neale, also of your Vancouver Canucks, who was sentenced to 10 games in 1982 for punching a fan during a brawl that spilled into the stands.

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Stick in Link: Tortorella and Hartley; Bieksa had ‘a blast’ in line brawl

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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