Four ways the 2014 NHL postseason could have been worse to the Canucks

The NHL playoffs have been unkind to the Vancouver Canucks this year.

It seems downright ungrateful when you consider all the Canucks have done for the NHL playoffs. Three years ago, they teamed up with the Bruins to give us one of the most memorable and controversial Stanley Cup Finals in hockey history. The next year, the Canucks lit the Kings on fire and sent them into the second round that way. The rest is history. And last season, the Canucks played the all-important supporting role in The Annual San Jose Sharks’ Postseason Collapse™ as the team that gets crushed in Round 1 to make people think it might actually be San Jose’s year. (The Kings, meanwhile, were tapped to play that same role this season, but refused to see it through to the end, because they’ve been spoiled by their own success. Unprofessional scene-stealers, the lot of them.)

Anyway. Despite all the Canucks have done to make the postseason compelling in previous years, this year, they weren’t even on the guest list. A classless gesture by the NHL playoffs, in our opinion.

But this goes beyond the unceremonious snub. The playoffs also paved a path for Alain Vigneault, fired by the Canucks for failing to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive years, to do exactly that in his first year with the New York Rangers.

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Eight players the Canucks might select at 6th overall

There’s only so much that Jim Benning can do in the month leading up to the draft, of course. Overhauling the scouting department won’t accomplish anything as the scouting is already done. At most, Benning can come in with some different criteria and move some names around on the Canucks’ draft board. Where this can make the most difference, however, is in the first round.

Consider 2008, when Mike Gillis vetoed the recommendation of Delorme and the scouting staff to draft Kyle Beach, selecting Cody Hodgson instead. Picks in later rounds are more dependent on scouts, but everyone has seen and studied the players who will get picked at the top of the draft and the General Manager has the final say.

Who will Benning choose with his first draft pick as a General Manager? As we’ve done before, here are the draft-eligible players ranked 6th overall by both the mainstream media and various prospect blogs.

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Alex Burrows still getting injured, sucks at buying popcorn in new Visa ads (Video)

Alex Burrows didn’t do much this year. He spent much of the season recovering from various broken parts, and when he was in the lineup, he struggled to score, thanks to a combination of rotten luck, John Tortorella’s “goals are death” system, and a carousel of injuries that set back his conditioning and threw off his groove.

The offseason came earlier than expected, too, so it’s understandable that the Canucks’ winger would have a lot of unexpended energy. It might explain why he’s been busy this offseason, heading to Europe for the World Championships, and still finding time to film a couple new commercials for Visa.

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Stick in Link: Coaching candidates, Kesler rumours, and draft analysis

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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Eddie Lack should pick the sparkly pony mask (and frankly, he might)

David Booth got a lot of attention early last season when John Tortorella went on record as saying the winger was “a weird dude”. But he’s hardly the only one of those the Canucks have.

Starting netminder Eddie Lack is an equally weird dude, as evidenced by the video introducing his latest mask design contest, in which he’s unashamedly holding an adorable Fin plushie:

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Canucks are hiring the right people despite themselves

From a certain perspective, the Vancouver Canucks have had a horrible start to the 2014 off-season. First, they fired the winner of the 2011 NHL General Manager of the Year award and got rid of a Stanley Cup-winning head coach after just one season on the job.

Then, the Canucks appointed a former player with no front office experience who had been away from the game for six years President of Hockey Operations and he hired a first-time General Manager largely because he worked for the organization that beat the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

When you look at it that way, things are going all wrong. And yet, when you fill in the details, everything’s coming together pretty well.

The Canucks may not be making intelligent decisions, but they seem to be making the right decisions. In other words, they’re hiring the right people even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

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Jim Benning wants to work with current scouting staff, make them better

Jim Benning won me over with one sentence: “I don’t even really know what the Boston model is.”

Admittedly, I was already on board with the hiring, considering his extensive experience, but it was still gratifying to hear him deal a deathblow to the myth of the Boston model in his introductory Q&A and press conference. Instead, Benning focussed on a fairly simple message: “This is a team we can turn around.”

Benning stayed away from announcing sweeping changes and didn’t identify any concerns within the organization, but constantly reiterated that he wanted improvements in every area: more depth capable of impacting the game, a more uptempo style from the coach, and a reinvigorated core that he still believes can win.

That steady-minded line of thinking even extended to one of the greatest weaknesses of the Canucks organizations and Benning’s greatest strength: scouting. Despite the Canucks’ woeful draft record, Benning supported the scouts in the Canucks organization and expressed his intention of working with them to make them better.

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The Boston Model is a myth, but Jim Benning may still know how to follow it

The Canucks confirmed Wednesday what many had been suspecting ever since Trevor Linden was brought in to preside over the Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning was the guy he was told to hire. “There were moments of clarity for me in speaking with Jim that we just really connected on a hockey level,” Linden said of the personnel [...]

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Stick in Link: Scouting issues; Canucks real happy Vigneault’s doing well and they’re in Europe

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 Wednesday during the offseason. 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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Jim Benning reportedly close to Canucks’ GM job, because it looks difficult, and he’s into that

It’s hardly a secret that the Canucks have been after Jim Benning, presently an assistant GM with the Boston Bruins, to replace Mike Gillis as the General Manager in Vancouver, and it’s easy to see why they want him: for the last five years, the Canucks have been led by the one-two of Gillis and still-employed AGM Laurence Gilman, two men whose surnames sound very similar. No doubt they’ve keyed wordplay as the secret to success, and very quickly landed on Jim Benning, whose surname rhymes with that of Lorne Henning, their other AGM.

Expect to hear a lot more of Lorne Henning, then, simply because “Benning and Henning” sounds so good together, now that the Canucks are expected to announce Benning’s hiring in the coming days, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

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Four Canucks to move on to quarterfinals at the World Championships

There are a total of eight current Canucks and prospects at the World Championship tournament in Minsk, Belarus, which is nearing the end of the preliminary round. With only some of the games being televised in Canada, you likely haven’t been keeping up with the Canucks’ exploits, so here’s a comprehensive update of all five countries that feature Canucks.

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Alex Burrows suffers injury at World Championship, because of course he did [VIDEO]

Alex Burrows’ season was so cursed that it managed to continue past the end of the actual season. Burrows was playing a key role for Team Canada at the World Championship in Minsk, killing penalties and playing with young talent like Nathan MacKinnon and Brayden Schenn.

It was too much to hope that this one thing would continue to go right for Burrows. Burrows left Team Canada’s 6-1 win over Italy at the end of the first period after a nasty knee-on-knee hit from Joachim Ramoser.

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John Tortorella wanted the Canucks to buy out Alex Burrows [Report]

It was just a matter of time. After Trevor Linden finally fired John Tortorella at the end of April, eventually some juicy behind-the-scenes stories about his brief tenure with the Canucks would come out.

Sure enough, Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail went on the Team 1040 and shared a series of interesting and surprising revelations. He also tweeted out a few of the most notable things he’s heard since Tortorella’s departure.

The biggest revelation of them all: Tortorella continually put pressure on Mike Gillis and ownership to buy out Alex Burrows’ contract. For those looking to paint Tortorella with a Mike Keenan-shaped brush, there’s your “forced a beloved player out of Vancouver” moment, in case contributing to the trade of Roberto Luongo didn’t cover it.

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Dale Weise is beyond good right now

Three goals. That’s three times as many goals as Sidney Crosby had in this postseason. Is Dale Weise better than Sidney Crosby? I’m not saying it. The numbers, they speak for themselves.

Okay. While the NHL playoffs are a breeding ground for the sort of short-sighted thinking that leads to proclamations that Player X is the new best player in the world after a few good games, no one is suggesting that Weise is better than the Penguins’ captain.

But he is better than the Canucks gave him credit for. Weise is making that abundantly clear right now.

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Stick in Link: Bo Horvat prepares for Memorial Cup, World Championship update

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 Wednesday during the offseason. 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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Will Alain Vigneault drive Dan Bylsma right into Canucks’ open arms?

There’s a lot on the line in Tuesday night’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers: a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals; questions about Pittsburgh’s core, which is 4-5 in playoff series since their 2009 Stanley Cup, and now a loss away from a 3-1 collapse; Sidney Crosby’s reputation as a game-breaker, which has taken a hit over these playoffs, what with all the games he hasn’t broken.

And, most importantly, for our purposes here in Vancouver, Dan Bylsma’s job. If the Rangers win, Bylsma more than likely hits the open market.

He is, and he would. And wouldn’t you know it, the Vancouver Canucks are in the market for a coach.

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Kevin Bieksa hijacks interview with Nathan MacKinnon, is hilarious

It has been well-documented here on PITB that Kevin Bieksa is a funny man. We collected his twenty best quotes during our (ultimately successful) Twitter Needs Juice campaign. Once on Twitter, he owned the medium, photoshopping a disturbing image of a naked Alex Burrows and riffing with Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo.

He dropped the phrase “milk hot dogs” seamlessly into an interview to win a bet. He throws gloves and punts helmets. He has, multiple times, called out the hosts at the Jeff O’Neill show for their dumb questions in his interviews with them.

Then there was the highlight of his comedy career: doing an entire interview with Mike Dunsmore of Fox Sports while pretending to be Ryan Kesler.

Now that he’s the captain of Team Canada at the World Championships, don’t expect him to suddenly turn serious. During his first practice as captain, he started off leading stretches with snow angels. Then, before the tournament started, he butted in on an interview with 18-year-old wunderkind Nathan MacKinnon, turning it from a run-of-the-mill interview into something way more awkward and hilarious.

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Bieksa, Burrows, and Garrison come up big as Canada bounces back

There was plenty of consternation to go around on Friday when France stunned Canada in the tournament opener, handing them a 3-2 shootout loss. There’s no getting around it: Canada played poorly, Cristobal Huet did not, and anything can happen once a game gets to the shootout.

You’re not supposed to lose to France. You’re supposed to attack them quickly, occupy their defensive zone, and wait for them to surrender. Yep, jokes about France surrendering. That’s what you get on the weekend.

France looked like a team, while Canada just looked like a collection of players, with many quick to point fingers at the team’s leadership, headed by newly-minted captain Kevin Bieksa. It’s not entirely fair — with 12 players under 25, some early nerves were inevitable — but Bieksa, along with fellow Canucks Jason Garrison and Alex Burrows, are among the few veterans on the team and will bear the brunt of responsibility for any failures.

It also means they’ll take a lot of responsibility for any victories, and all three played a major role in Canada’s bounceback victory over Slovakia.

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How much is Zack Kassian worth?

The Canucks’ new General Manager is going to be very busy right away. Linden has said that he wants a GM in place by the end of May. That’s just one month before the NHL entry draft, with free agency beginning a few days later.

In addition, the new GM may have to move quickly to hire a replacement for John Tortorella, as the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes are also in the market for a new head coach. On top of all that, the Canucks have ten pending restricted free agents that will either need qualifying offers or new contracts before June 30th.

The Canucks have an interesting group of RFAs, with seven of them playing at least a few games in the NHL last season. The two most important ones are Chris Tanev and Zack Kassian and they both present interesting problems. Tanev is extremely difficult to evaluate, because his contributions don’t generally find their way to the scoresheet, while Kassian’s inconsistency makes it difficult to judge how he will perform going forward.

Let’s tackle the easier issue first: just how much should Zack Kassian make on his next contract?

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Kevin Bieksa makes Team Canada debut with first career captaincy

Kevin Bieksa would prefer not to be in Minsk right now.

He’d far rather be in North America, where the NHL postseason is taking place. But the Canucks didn’t earn a ticket to that ride, leaving Bieksa, along with teammates Alex Burrows and Jason Garrison (and former teammate Cody Hodgson — awkward) available to join Team Canada’s squad at the World Championships in Belarus.

Still, as consolation prizes go, this one has been pretty incredible for Bieksa. He didn’t just get a call to represent Team Canada — he got the call for the first time in his pro career. And on Thursday, he also became the first player with no previous international experience to be named Team Canada’s captain.

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Stick in Link: GM, coach searches ongoing; Dale Weise is killing it right now

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 Wednesday during the offseason. 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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Ten questions about ‘Prehistoric Hockey’, the most insane Canucks video of the year

“Prehistoric Hockey”, an absolutely batcrap insane cartoon in which a Canucks’ blowout at the hands of the Calgary Flames is prevented thanks to the arrival of a hockey-playing dinosaur, has taken the Internet by storm. By storm, I say!

The video is the year-end animation project of a grade 11 student, who posted it to the Canucks subreddit a few days back, and thank goodness, because this thing deserves to be seen. It is, dare I say, a must-watch. What it’s not, however, is a must-understand, because it seems downright impossible to comprehend. All we know is that, if there’s any justice in the world, the kid who made it got an A+++++++++, like Ralphie in The Christmas Story:

Watch and marvel. And then we have some questions.

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What type of General Manager should the Canucks hire?

According to the man himself, Trevor Linden will begin interviewing candidates for the Canucks open General Manager position this week. Linden has spent the past month putting his list of potential GMs together and there has been plenty of speculation over who is on that list.

We want to take a different tack, however, and look instead at different types of GMs, just like we did last year when the Canucks were looking to hire a new coach. In hindsight, I think we can agree that all of our suggestions were better than what the Canucks eventually did.

There are a number of directions Linden could go in his search for a new GM and the type of GM that he targets will profoundly affect the direction of the franchise.

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Eulogy: Remembering the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche

Congratulations, Colorado, on dragging out the inevitable. As you hang up your sweaters, that appear to have been designed by the world’s most boring 8-year-old, you can look back at your playoff run and feel proud of almost winning a round.

You had your fans high on nostalgia to start the season, with Joe Sakic in charge in the front office and Patrick Roy behind the bench. Rumoured plans to hire Peter Forsberg as head trainer were scuttled when the 40-year-old Swede reported he was training for one more comeback attempt.

Now you’re just high geographically and on legalized marijuana, as nostalgia has gone awry, like adding noses to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It’s been over a decade since the Avalanche were at all relevant in the NHL, so it’s understandable why you would want to recapture some of that former glory. It almost worked. Instead you became the only division winner to get knocked out in the first round.

You should have known better.

After all, adopting a team slogan like “Why not us?” was just asking for trouble.

Why not us? Oh, there are so many reasons.

Let’s start with the obvious: You’re just not that good.

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Unemployed Trotz, still employed McLellan the odds-on favourites for Canucks coaching job

John Tortorella was fired on Thursday, because the Canucks were bad and he was the head coach while they were bad and Trevor Linden had no confidence that he would help make them less bad in the future. I think that sums it up pretty succinctly.

Unsurprisingly, with Tortorella not even metaphorically cold in his metaphorical grave, the speculation over who the Canucks might hire as their next coach began immediately. Never mind that Trevor Linden hasn’t even begun interviewing General Manager candidates: Canucks fans want immediate action on the coaching front.

The battle lines were quickly drawn, with some hoping the recently fired Barry Trotz would find his way to the Pacific Northwest, while others were rooting for the San Jose Sharks to lose in spectacular fashion so that Todd McLellan would get fired and thus be available for the position. Still others cried out for literally anyone but either of these two.

Why, Canucks fans are so passionate about the subject that they might, hypothetically, be willing to put money on the line. Bodog is figuratively betting on people literally betting on it.

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