John Tortorella fired by the Canucks after one season

Wednesday was an incredibly jam-packed day for sports fans. All three game sevens in the NHL playoffs were intense, with the game between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild particularly crazy. Game five between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets was a nailbiter, with the Raptors giving up a 26-point lead before eking out the win.

Then, just to make things interesting, a slew of new Rob Ford rumours: He’s heading into rehab. There’s a new video of him with a crack pipe. He made extremely crude comments about a political rival. He had a run-in with Justin Bieber. There’s a sex tape.

Really, it was the perfect time to break news that you want to slip under the radar. So, appropriately, news broke. According to Farhan Lalji, the Canucks will fire John Tortorella on Thursday.

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Three manufactured controversies to pass the time while there’s no news

It’s been all quiet on the Pacific Northwestern front ever since the Canucks’ season ended, which makes sense, for a number of reasons. Trevor Linden still has a lot of reading to do, for one thing, catching up on the six years he spent away from the game. (Any moment now he’s going to get to 2011, at which point one assumes his love of Boston will dissipate in a hurry.)

For another thing, considering the way the year ended, you can understand why the Canucks might want to lay low for awhile, hold up somewhere safe, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. (How’s that for a slice of fried gold?)

But as good as the Canucks inactivity is for those running the show, it’s much less so for those of us running this blog. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing going on. It’s a nightmare.

Fortunately, in times like these, there’s always plan C. The “C” stands for controversy. Let’s create one, and then talk about it like it matters.

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Stick in Link: Jim Benning, GM frontrunner; Zack Kassian plays dodgeball

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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Watch Canucks prospect highlights from round three of the OHL playoffs [Video]

There are still two Canucks prospects in the CHL playoffs. Regrettably, neither are high-scoring forwards who provide plenty of fodder for highlight videos. Anton Cederholm made it to the finals of the WHL playoffs with the Portland Winterhawks, while Miles Liberati is in the OHL finals with the North Bay Battalion. The three remaining Canucks [...]

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Eddie Lack’s bandaged finger indicates some sort of finger injury [Video]

When Eddie Lack was invited to play for Team Sweden at the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, he was understandably excited. He called it a “dream come true” on Twitter, which makes sense. Just four years ago, Lack was a backup in the Swedish Elite League (behind his new backup, Jacob Markstrom) and putting on the blue and yellow to represent his country must have seemed like an unreachable fantasy.

Regrettably, it turned nightmarish just a week later when he had to pull out of the tournament due to injury. What injury, you ask? That’s the thing: we don’t know.

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Five potential explanations for why John Tortorella hasn’t been fired yet

The Canucks wasted no time in firing Mike Gillis, showing him the door on April 8, one night after the fans in Rogers Arena called for him to go, and three games prior to the end of the season.

But the team has been a lot slower to make a decision on John Tortorella. It’s now been just under two weeks since the season ended, and we’ve heard nothing regarding what most believe will be his dismissal. Why is that? Here are five possible explanations.

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What happened to Jannik Hansen?

Along with the overall disaster that was the Canucks’ 2013-14 season, many of the tales of individual disaster have been well-covered. Alex Edler is squarely in the spotlight thanks to his eye-catching league-worst plus/minus, the Sedins’ fall to 40-points forwards has been well-documented, and Alex Burrows’ unexpected goalless slump was one of the biggest stories of the season.

Lost a little in the hubbub was Jannik Hansen. That’s not unusual for the Dane, as he usually flies a little under the radar, winning the Fred J. Hume award as the Canucks’ unsung hero twice in the last three years. This season, however, he was unsung for a legitimate reason: there was nothing to sing about.

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Stick in Link: Eriksson set to replace Lack at Worlds; Tortorella still in limbo

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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Six Canucks heading to Belarus for Ice Hockey World Championship [Updated]

Getting the call from your home country to play in the World Championship has to be a little bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a tremendous honour to play for your country. On the other hand, it means you either missed the playoffs or got eliminated awfully early.

Accordingly, it can be difficult for a player to get excited to suit up for more hockey, having just recently come to grips with the thought of a long off-season. Others may decline the invitation due to lingering injuries that they’re eager to rehab before getting back into training and working out for next season.

Seven Canucks, however, have shaken out the doldrums and disappointment to commit to playing for their various countries: Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Jannik Hansen, Nicklas Jensen, and Eddie Lack.

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Stick in Link: Andrew Alberts’ concussion recovery and the search for a new GM

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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California teams moving AHL affiliations West; will Canucks be enticed?

Last week, the Calgary Flames made like me in my early twenties and declared that they were done with Abbotsford. After five years in the Fraser Valley, the NHL team announced that they were moving their AHL franchise somewhere else.

On the surface, one might say there were about 4000 problems. That’s the number of empty seats the Abbotsford Enterainment and Sports Centre had on a nightly basis, with the Heat drawing just 3000 fans. But really, the primary issue driving Calgary out had less to do with the people of the city, and more to do with where the city was. As I explained in Friday’s blog post, the Heat were basically on an island. With the closest teams thousands of kilometers away, the Flames prospects found themselves in transit far more often than they found themselves in their bed, or in their home arena, practicing. Turning a kid into a pro takes time, and the lengthy trips took too much of it away.

This is the same issue the Canucks would face if they were to immediately move their prospects to Abbotsford. Sure, the parent club is a bus ride away, but the Comets wouldn’t be playing the parent club. They’d still be playing mostly East Coast teams. It’s so bad that the AHL’s “Western Division” includes three teams from Texas, and one team from North Carolina.

But all that is about to change. According to a report from Mayor’s Manor, the AHL is preparing a landmark shift, with five or six Western teams planning to move their prospects into Western markets:

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Watch Canucks prospects put up points in round two of the CHL playoffs [VIDEO]

The Canucks have to be proud of the performance of their prospects in the CHL playoffs. After two rounds, three prospects are still in the top-ten in OHL playoff scoring: Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels. The Canucks have five prospects still in the playoffs — the aforementioned three forwards and defencemen Miles Liberati and Anton Cederholm.

Bo Horvat’s London Knights regrettably got eliminated by the Guelph Storm, but will still get a chance to play for the Memorial Cup since they are the hosts of the tournament.

Since so few of the CHL playoff games are televised, I compiled a highlight reel for round one two weeks ago and I have done the same for round two, featuring some pretty assists from Brendan Gaunce and an outburst of goals from Cole Cassels.

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If Flames can’t stand the Heat, Canucks should stay out of Abbotsford

While the Vancouver Canucks lost a great deal more than they won in 2013-14, they did at least manage to close out their season with two wins over the Calgary Flames.

The first came in their final game of the season, a mean-nothing 5-1 shellacking of their Western Canadian rivals. The second came two days later, when the Flames announced that they would be pulling up the stakes on their AHL franchise, the Abbotsford Heat, in search of greener pastures. (Although one wonders if they’ll ever be able to squeeze more green out of a municipality than they did out of Abbotsford. Add the $5.5 million the city paid to terminate the Heat’s contract to the $7.2 million they paid in shortfall over the past five years, and you have an absurd $12.7 million in taxpayer money going to a pro sports franchise valued at $420 million.)

But while Abbotsford lost, the Canucks achieved yet another moral victory with this announcement. Last summer, Canucks ownership tried their hardest to get the newly-purchased Peoria Rivermen into the Fraser Valley, but the Flames wouldn’t budge without some serious greasing. Knowing Vancouver was poised to make a killing in a market they were just killing, they wanted big money from the Canucks to vacate Abbotsford, and the Canucks weren’t willing to pay it out.

In the end, the Canucks started bluffing that they might go to New York instead. The Flames called their bluff. And the Canucks went. Hello, Utica Comets.

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Stick in Link: Comets eliminated from postseason; Dale Weise, playoff hero

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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Five ways for Canucks fans to decide who to cheer for in the NHL playoffs

The NHL playoffs start tonight and, for the first time since 2008, the Canucks won’t be participating. Watching hockey without a rooting interest is all well and good, but it’s generally more fun to have a team to cheer for. So which team do you ally yourself with, if any?

For some fans, this is an easy decision, as they are already fans of another team in addition to the Canucks, for whatever reason. For some, it’s because they moved to the west coast after growing up elsewhere and still have a place in their heart for their childhood team. For these people, if their other favourite team is in the playoff picture, they’re sitting pretty.

For the rest of us, however, we have a decision to make: who do we root for in the playoffs? Here are five ways to decide.

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Spitballin’ on Jamie Benn as a Canuck, Barry Trotz, and Heat leaving Abbotsford

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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Big Numbers: Worst offensive season ever; Kassian’s strong finish

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. Calgary Flames, April 13, 2014

Nothing went Vancouver’s way in the 2013-14 season. Not a damn thing. So it was a nice change of pace when Canucks jumped out to a 4-0 lead versus the Calgary Flames, with the Sedins looking like their old selves, Frank Corrado scoring his first career goal, and the team appearing to be on the verge of ending the failed campaign on a rare high note.

But it was short-lived. Late in the second, as Daniel Sedin and Paul Byron went into the corner, the high note morphed into a series of high notes — the ones that play when Janet Leigh is getting stabbed a bunch in Psycho. Then Daniel was stretchered off and taken to hospital. I witnessed one final horror in a season stuffed with them when I watched this game.

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Trevor Linden praises the ‘Boston model’, thinks Shawn Thornton is ‘an important player’

During the first intermission of Saturday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Ron MacLean conducted a quick but informative interview with Trevor Linden about his new job as President of Hockey Operations with the Vancouver Canucks. While Linden still sounded like someone coming to grips with his role and hedged his bets on several answers, MacLean managed to get some interesting responses out of Linden.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting responses was also one of the most concerning. When Linden started talking about having a “well-rounded group of forwards” — particularly in regards to the third and fourth lines — he referenced the “Boston model” and immediately praised Shawn Thornton as “such an important player” for his team.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, April 12, 2014

As is appropriate for this season, the Canucks earned a moral victory in their final road game. Not only did they lose, thereby giving themselves the opportunity to clinch the 6th overall pick in the upcoming draft with a loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday (and simultaneously worsening Edmonton’s draft position), but they also managed to get a rival team’s fans to call them classy.

As CBC constantly reminded us all game, this was Ryan Smyth’s final NHL game and, like Jarome Iginla and the Calgary Flames did for Trevor Linden, the Canucks came back out on the ice after the game ended and, led by Henrik Sedin, shook Smyth’s hand and wished him the best.

The reaction was immediate and universal. Even the most ardent Canucks haters could only muster a weak joke about it being the first instance of class ever shown by the Canucks. For one brief moment, Oilers fans were forced to like and respect the Vancouver Canucks. If that’s not a moral victory, what is?

Also, they played something resembling hockey before all of that. I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on Bieksa to Worlds, Dane Fox’s award, and John Tortorella’s systems

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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What was the Canucks’ lowest point of the season?

Way back at the end of November in this very space, I marvelled at the Canucks’ terrible six-game homestand, an unfortunate stretch in which they played host to the Sharks, Stars, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Kings, and came away with a 1-2-3 record, thanks largely to their inability to close out games.

I dubbed this “masterpiece of tragicomic theatre” their worst homestand ever, and elsewhere, I speculated that, at year’s end, we would look back on it as the low point of the Canucks’ season.

In the parlance of today’s youth: ROFLMAO. I am a buffoon. Five months later, I am confident that this homestand was far from the Challenger Deep of this terrible, god-forsaken year. Heck, it may not even be in the top five. Here are the other candidates, in chronological order:

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Colorado Avalanche, April 10, 2014

The last time we saw the Canucks, they were fighting for their playoff lives versus the Anaheim Ducks. (Not that they seemed to know it. It’s like they don’t even read the papers. Typical millennials.) It didn’t go well, and they were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, making Thursday’s tilt with the Avalanche their first truly meaningless game of the year.

At first, I thought it was going to be impossible to get up for this game, meaningless as it was. But then I remembered life is meaningless, and I find reasons to get up for that every day. By rewarding myself with a bagel, I watched this game.

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Hear James Duthie’s story of arrogant Gillis, Canucks during 2011 Final

There were many in the hockey media that didn’t care for Mike Gillis, so there was no shortage of childish grave-dancing when the Canucks GM and Team President was dismissed from both roles on Tuesday. “Mike Gillis, the smartest man in the room, is no longer in the room,” tweeted Steve Simmons (who’s on a pretty torrid losing streak these days, so you can understand why he might need to kick a man while he’s down).

But Simmons isn’t the only one suggesting Gillis was a pretty arrogant guy. Wednesday on TSN radio, James Duthie was asked, simply, “What do you think Gillis’s deal was?” In response, he shared a story of true Gillisian hubris from the 2011 Cup Final.

This is a story that’s been floating around ever since — full disclosure: I’d heard it before too, from someone else who was in the room — but this is the first time it’s been aired publicly, so it’s your chance to get a window into how truly over the Canucks thought the series was when they arrived in Boston. It’s pretty cringe-inducing.

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The Week Ahead: A Northwest Division farewell tour

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 the end of the season and the Canucks face a trio of former Northwest Division opponents.

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