Spitballin’ on Tanev’s return and the Heritage Classic

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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Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly made trade offer for Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the Minnesota Wild, which won’t do anything to quiet the constant murmurs created by his rumoured trade request.

At this point, nothing will, especially after a little more fuel for this fire appeared this morning. According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, at least one team made a serious attempt to acquire Ryan Kesler.

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Can the Canucks win without Kesler?

With their win over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks leapt back into the playoff picture, leapfrogging multiple teams to snag the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Sure, there’s not one, but two teams just one point behind them with three games in hand, but for this brief moment, things are looking mildly rosy in Vancouver.

That’s what complicates the current situation with Ryan Kesler. For those still catching up, news broke Wednesday that Kesler had requested a trade at the beginning of the season. Sure, Mike Gillis, Kesler’s agent, and now Kesler himself have all denied it, but the report came from Louis Jean, one of the most reliable insiders around, and it’s in the Canucks’ best interests to deny the report. It’s hard to know who to believe.

Either way, as of right now, however, the Canucks are still in the playoff hunt and Kesler is still an integral part of the team. As much as it has now become clear that the Canucks are no longer a cup contender (though non-”contenders” have won the Stanley Cup before), it would be extremely surprising to see Gillis blow up the team, trading veterans for picks and prospects en route to a rebuild. Teams this close to making the playoffs are far more likely to stand pat at the trade deadline, making minor moves around the fringes to improve depth in key areas, such as the Dale Weise for Raphael Diaz trade.

With that said, there is an awful lot of smoke out there for the Kesler rumours to involve no fire whatsoever. So, if the Canucks do trade Kesler, what does that mean for this season? Can the Canucks win without Kesler?

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Stick in Link: It’s pretty much all Kesler today, as you might expect

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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So, how about that reported Ryan Kesler trade request? Pretty weird, huh?

The Canucks played their first game of the post-Olympic stretch on Wednesday night, and in a stark departure from the the seven games they played before it, they even won! Imagine that! Pretty neat, if you ask me.

But even despite coming away with two points for the first time in a month, few are talking about the busted slump today. Much more compelling than the players who played is the drama surrounding the dude that didn’t: Ryan Kesler, who was out with broken fingers after pounding a table in an aggressive trade demand, or something like that. I’m having a hard time keeping up.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues, February 26, 2014

It was always going to be a difficult transition from experiencing the wonder that was Team Canada to returning to Vancouver Canucks fandom. That’s a major adjustment. But fortunately, the Canucks didn’t drag things out. Rather than trying to ease us into things, perhaps by playing a dominant, fabulous brand of star-studded hockey for a little bit before eventually settling into their old selves, they just ripped off the band-aid, coming out and playing classic Canucks hockey, circa 2013-14, from the outset.

Lots of shots. Not much to show for it. mediocre powerplay. A reliance on Tom Sestito for offence. I can’t say it was a completely welcome return to normality, but what it was was true to life, and we here at Pass it to Bulis appreciate nothing if not verisimilitude. Apart from the win, which was a weird new wrinkle, everything was in its right place when I watched this game.

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The Week Ahead: Post-Olympic home stand

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 brief home stand against the Blues, Wild, and Senators before heading to Phoenix.

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The most embarrassing moment of the John Tortorella era happened yesterday

Ask most Canucks fans what the most embarrassing moment of John Tortorella’s brief tenure as Canucks’ coach has been and one incident is bound to spring to mind: the hot-tempered coach’s Oldboy moment, when he attempted to punch his way through a hallway of foes to exact vengeance against Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley.

But not if you ask me. For my money, the most embarrassing moment came Tuesday,

On the eve of the Canucks’ first game of the post-Olympic stretch, Tortorella attempted to clear up a minor firestorm he engendered last weekend, apologizing for his (apparently unconscionable) position on the Olympic gold medal hockey game.

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The Paper Feature: 7 reasons it’s better to cheer for the Canucks than Team Canada

And we’re back.

For three glorious weeks, the Vancouver Canucks effectively did not exist. Their scoring troubles, their inability to hold leads, their injury woes, their losing streak? During the Sochi Olympics, it was all quiet on the Western front, as Vancouver fans were gifted a much, much better team: a team with untold puck-movers, brilliant first-line centres, and, incredibly, two goalies of equal skill, one of which was Roberto Luongo, and yet no goalie controversy whatsoever. This is unheard of in Vancouver.

But now, as the players go back to their NHL teams, we have to do the same.

Don’t cry, Vancouver. If you’re down about this, you’re looking at things all wrong. Team Canada may have been near-flawless, but only near. There were some serious issues with that group — issues the Canucks simply don’t have. This may surprise you to hear, but it’s actually better to cheer for the Canucks right now, and I have reasons.

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Stick in Link: LEGO Canucks, injured centres, and shootout practice

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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Will the Olympics turn out to be a blessing or a curse for the Canucks?

“I love my teammates!” Roberto Luongo tweeted, along with the above photo, shortly after earning his second consecutive gold medal with Team Canada. Of course he does: his teammates include Sidney Crosby, Sidney Crosby’s little brother (“If you’re going to Sochi, take your little brother with you”, Crosby’s mom had said), Dan Hamhuis, Mike Smith, and the adorably huggable Marty St. Louis. How can you not love that team?

Of course, shortly after this photo was taken, these guys, with the exception of Dan Hamhuis, were no longer Luongo’s teammates. And now Luongo returns home to a much more troubled bunch, facing a much more daunting task than winning a short tournament for which they’re heavily-favoured.

As it stands, the Canucks aren’t a playoff team. But they could still turn it around. If they do, the Sochi sojourn will turn out to be a good thing for the club.

Mind you, if they don’t, the Olympics could take some of the blame, especially after Ryan Kesler returned from Russia with a hand injury. Will Sochi turn out to be a blessing or a curse?

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I Find This Photo Odd: Tortorella and Sullivan are not impressed

Dan Hamhuis returned yesterday to Vancouver an Olympic gold medallist. He didn’t play a whole lot in the tournament, and only saw one shift in the gold medal game — the final one, as Mike Babcock threw him a bone by sending him over the boards to watch the clock tick away from the ice — but there’s no doubt that he still values the experience.

It’s over now, however, and Hamhuis must immediately transition back from a team where he’s a little-used depth defender to a team where he’s the number one option, averaging 24:28 a night.

There are upsides and downsides to this. The upside: you play more. That’s fun. You certainly didn’t work your way up to the bigs just so you could attend games for free. The downside: playing more means more opportunities to make mistakes, and if you’re playing for John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan, that means more opportunities to draw nasty looks like this.

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Big Numbers: Roberto Luongo’s perfect Olympics, Team Canada’s dominance

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 Gold Medal Game: Canada vs Sweden

For Team Canada, this was not the climax of their Olympic narrative. No, that came in the semifinal against Team USA, a 1-0 nail-biter that was a bounce away from going to overtime. This was just the denouement, with every storyline coming to a satisfying conclusion.

Sidney Crosby’s scoring struggles? Resolved. Carey Price in net over 2010 gold medal winner Roberto Luongo? Resolved. Chris Kunitz being anywhere near this team? Resolved. Most importantly, the tired storyline of whether Canada could win gold on the big ice was finally, thankfully resolved.

Also the storyline of whether I could get up early enough to watch this game. That was resolved when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canada vs. USA

Friday morning’s contest between Canada and the United States was very reminiscent of the 2010 gold medal game in Vancouver, and not just because it ended with another one-goal win for Canada, the greatest nation on earth.

Actually, scratch that. That’s totally why. There were other similarities — the game was fast, the teams were the same — but really, this match was more reminiscent of Canada’s previous matches in this tournament versus Norway, Latvia and Finland, with Canada dominating for most of the match, even if the scoreboard said otherwise in the end. That’s impressive, because the USA is very different from, Norway, Latvia and Finland. They have much better players. Also more debt to China.

Like every other Canadian who was supposed to be working, I watched this game.

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Canucks in Sochi: Four Canucks heading to the gold medal game

During the Olympics, Pass it to Bulis has transitioned to Pass it to Zamuner and will be going full bore with Team Canada coverage, including full I Watch This Game posts for each Team Canada game.

There are, however, other countries participating in the Olympics — I know, I’m surprised too — and several other countries feature Vancouver Canucks players and prospects. It’s only fitting, then, that we keep an eye on these players and how they’re performing in a feature we like to call “Canucks in Sochi.”

It’s guaranteed at this point that at least two Canucks will come home with gold medals, which is pretty neat. The big difference is that two of those Canucks have mad a major impact for their country, while the other two have barely played.

That’s at least four medals coming back to Vancouver, with a fifth to be decided in the bronze medal game. Not bad, Canucks, not bad at all.

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Canucks in Sochi: USA, Sweden, and Canada make it to the semifinals

During the Olympics, Pass it to Bulis has transitioned to Pass it to Zamuner and will be going full bore with Team Canada coverage, including full I Watch This Game posts for each Team Canada game.

There are, however, other countries participating in the Olympics — I know, I’m surprised too — and several other countries feature Vancouver Canucks players and prospects. It’s only fitting, then, that we keep an eye on these players and how they’re performing in a feature we like to call “Canucks in Sochi.”

There were some quality performances by Canucks during the quarterfinals, with all three countries featuring active Canucks emerging victorious and moving on to the semifinal. That means there’s only one scenario in which a Canuck doesn’t come home to Vancouver with the gold medal — if Finland wins it all — and, in that case, Sami Salo would win gold, so I’m pretty okay with that.

Finland made it to the semifinals by shocking the host nation, Russia, and for that, I commend them.

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I Watched This Game: Canada vs Latvia

This wasn’t supposed to be close. With all of Canada’s offensive firepower, the one problem they weren’t supposed to have was scoring goals. It’s one way they could justify leaving P.K. Subban in the pressbox. Subban may be one of the best offensive defenceman in Canada, but he’s seen as just too risky and Canada has other players who can create offence.

Against Latvia, however, that offence dried up. They should call Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis “The Dehydrator”. Also, “The Dehydrated”, as he seemed to barely survive the physical exertion necessary to halt the Canadian onslaught. Speaking of barely surviving, my heart almost stopped beating when I watched this game.

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Daniel Sedin breaks goalscoring slump in quarterfinal against Slovenia

Coming into Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Slovenia, Daniel Sedin had gone 22 games without scoring a goal — 19 games for the Canucks and 3 for his home country. His last goal came on December 30th against the Philadelphia Flyers, meaning he had yet to score a goal in 2014, 50 days into the year.

It was getting to the point where we were wondering if he would ever score again. Every great scoring chance that skittered wide or was shot harmlessly into the goaltender’s logo or pads just further cemented the certainty that Daniel was never going to put the puck in the net ever again.

On Wednesday, however, Daniel’s long goalscoring slump finally ended, as he scored his first goal of the Olympics and first goal of 2014 in the third period.

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Canucks in Sochi: Ronalds Kenins eliminates Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber

During the Olympics, Pass it to Bulis has transitioned to Pass it to Zamuner and will be going full bore with Team Canada coverage, including full I Watch This Game posts for each Team Canada game.

There are, however, other countries participating in the Olympics — I know, I’m surprised too — and several other countries feature Vancouver Canucks players and prospects. It’s only fitting, then, that we keep an eye on these players and how they’re performing in a feature we like to call “Canucks in Sochi.”

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Roberto Luongo won gold in 2010 despite the defence in front of him

As I write this, Mike Babcock and the Team Canada coaching staff have confirmed that Carey Price will be starting in the quarterfinal game against one of Latvia or Switzerland, with Roberto Luongo as the backup. This isn’t surprising in the slightest. While Luongo posted a shutout in his one start, Price has given up just two goals, both on deflections, in his two starts.

One argument in Luongo’s favour was his experience, having won the gold with Team Canada in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympics, but many discount that experience. It’s a common refrain: Team Canada won the gold medal in spite of Roberto Luongo, not because of him. With Canada’s offensive dominance, the reasoning goes, Luongo didn’t have a lot of work to do and with the impressive defence corps in front of him, Luongo supposedly had an easy job.

Luongo’s critics tend to focus on one particular goal: the one scored by Zach Parise with 25 seconds remaining in regulation in the gold medal game. After Sidney Crosby scored the “golden goal”, Parise’s goal was mostly forgotten, except by Luongo’s critics, so it wasn’t looked at in any great detail at the time. I decided to take a closer look and found that the blame shouldn’t fall on Luongo’s shoulders at all.

Instead, the defence in front of him was at fault and nearly cost Canada the gold medal in 2010.

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The Dreaded Two-Goal Lead: Catching up with the Canucks in Sochi

Canucks news comes fast and furious, and sometimes we find ourselves playing catch-up. Thankfully, the Dreaded Two Goal Lead – often called “the worst lead in hockey” – is super easy to come back from. Everybody knows it’s a guaranteed death sentence for those that hold it. Well, much like an ice hockey team coming from two goals down, PITB will now effortlessly catch up.

This time around, we’re playing catch-up because there’s just so much hockey being played over in Sochi right now. During the preliminary rounds, at least four games were played every day, with at least three normally including a member or two of the Vancouver Canucks.

The preliminary round is over now, however, and there’s a brief gap before the start of the qualification and playoff rounds. That gives us a chance for a rapid fire recap of the weekend games and how the various Canucks players performed.

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Sidney Crosby is struggling: twenty reasons why

Team Canada has won all three of their games so far in Sochi, so naturally, everybody is panicking. The biggest concern: Sidney Crosby has yet to score all the goals and all the points, which makes no sense, since we built him to do exactly that.

Crosby was initially supposed to be paired with Chris Kunitz in this tournament, since Kunitz came pre-loaded with chemistry, but it didn’t work, and when it became apparent that Kunitz was only a star player when he wasn’t surrounded by other star players, he was bumped down the depth chart in favour of Patrice Bergeron and Jamie Benn. It still produced nothing.

Fortunately, Drew Doughty’s star turn was enough for Canada to get past Finland, but the nation is concerned that it won’t be enough going forward. Getting Sidney Crosby back to form is priority one, and that means finding him linemates with whom he clicks.

Why is this so difficult, though? Why does the best player in the world appear to struggle playing with others? Does he smell? Is it just a matter of small sample size? Is it luck, since Crosby is still generating a tonne of chances? Both B and C? (Probably.) But what if it’s something else? Here are 20 theories:

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I Watched This Game: Canada vs. Finland

The 2014 edition of Team Canada features one of the greatest collections of forwards in the history of the known universe. Sidney Crosby. Jonathan Toews. John Tavares. It’s a veritable murderer’s row (except not for baseball). So naturally, the leading scorer as we say goodbye to the group stage is defenceman Drew Doughty.

While Canada’s forwards continue to adjust to playing with players commensurate to their talents, Doughty looks like a superstar among superstars. And, while the forwards adjust to the big ice, Doughty appears to be in his element — his element being water, and in this case, the frozen kind. (Chris Kunitz’s element, meanwhile, is heart, because he brings little else to this group. But we’ll be glad to have him if we need to summon Captain Planet — or evil Captain Planet — during the elimination round.)

I was also in my element today. My element is couch. That’s where I was when I watched this game.

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Canucks in Sochi: Latvia falls short, Sweden squeaks past Switzerland, Canada dominates

During the Olympics, Pass it to Bulis has transitioned to Pass it to Zamuner and will be going full bore with Team Canada coverage, including full I Watch This Game posts for each Team Canada game.

There are, however, other countries participating in the Olympics — I know, I’m surprised too — and several other countries feature Vancouver Canucks players and prospects. It’s only fitting, then, that we keep an eye on these players and how they’re performing in a feature we like to call “Canucks in Sochi.”

It took me a while to catch up with all the games from Valentine’s Day, so this is going up a little late. Okay, a lot late. Saturday’s games have already happened and I’m just catching up on Friday. There’s too much hockey! Stop it with all the hockey, Sochi.

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