Where and when you can watch Cole Cassels in the 2015 Memorial Cup

After Cole Cassels out-scored Connor McDavid in the OHL Championship, he was deservedly named the OHL Player of the Week. On Thursday, he earned further plaudits by being named the CHL Player of the Week, beating out the Kelowna Rockets’ Rourke Chartier and the Rimouski Oceanic’s Jan Kostalek for the award.

Starting Saturday, Cassels will once again need to best these top players and more, as he faces them and their teammates in the 2015 Memorial Cup.

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State of the Franchise: Forwards, where depth at centre is still an issue

Today we continue our look at the Canucks depth charts before kicking off the rampant speculation that inevitably surrounds the NHL entry draft and opening of free agency. Yesterday we delved into the defence, where the Canucks will have some difficult decisions to make.

Now it’s time to look at the forwards, take stock of the Canucks cupboards, and realize they need to pick up a few more centres from the store.

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State of the Franchise: Defence, where waiver eligibility could force the Canucks hand

Before we head into the crazy season of the NHL entry draft and free agent frenzy, it’s a good time to take stock of the Canucks current state of affairs. What does the Canucks depth look like at each position? Who do the Canucks still need to re-sign? How will the Canucks current players and prospects affect their decision-making this off-season?

Let’s start with the defence, where the Canucks are pretty much all set on one side, but have significant decisions to make on the other.

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The Prospector: Cole Cassels heads to Memorial Cup, Jake Virtanen makes professional debut

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

This week, we look at Cole “McDavid Kryptonite” Cassels, along with Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, and Alexandre Grenier in the AHL playoffs.

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Dan Hamhuis and Team Canada dominate Russia, win World Championship gold

It wasn’t even close.

Canada completely out-classed Russia in the gold medal game of the 2015 World Championship, winning their first gold medal at the tournament in 8 years and first medal of any colour in 6. They finished the tournament undefeated, out-scoring their opponents 66-15. After surviving scares against Sweden and, surprisingly, France earlier in the tournament, they wiped the floor with Russia, winning 6-1 and silencing the Russian contingent in Prague, while earning cheers from both the Canadian fans who made the trip and the hometown Czech crowd happy to see Russia lose.

The lone Canuck on Team Canada, Dan Hamhuis, adds a World Championship gold medal to his trophy cabinet, to go with two World Championship silver medals, and, of course, Olympic gold.

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Canucks end fretting, sign Jordan Subban to entry-level contract

Despite repeated assurances from Jim Benning that he would get a deal done with Jordan Subban, fans were freaking out. The concern seemed a little over-the-top, as the Canucks had until June 1st to sign Subban to a contract and fans seemed to start worrying the day after Subban’s OHL team, the Belleville Bulls, were eliminated from the playoffs.

The delay in signing Subban was attributed to everything from Subban intending to intentionally remain unsigned and re-enter the draft to Benning hating short players. When Benning signed Mackenze Stewart to an entry-level deal earlier this week, some saw it as a sign that Subban was on his way out, as if Benning saw Stewart as a replacement for Subban. It was all a bit overblown.

Those worries can be safely set aside now, as the Canucks signed Jordan Subban to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 20-year-old is expected to start next season with the Utica Comets, though he is eligible to return to Junior as an overage player.

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Stick in Link: Captain Community Man; will Eddie Lack get traded?

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 once or twice a week during the off-season. 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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Canucks sign defenceman Mackenze Stewart, intend to develop him as a winger

Canucks fans have been eager to hear that a Canucks prospect defenceman has been signed to an entry-level contract; just not this one. Fans hoping to hear about an entry level contract for Jordan Subban before the June 1st deadline passes and he re-enters the draft were disappointed for another day, as the Canucks instead announced a contract for Mackenze Stewart.

When Jim Benning selected Stewart in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, it was met mostly with confusion. The sizeable defenceman, listed at anywhere from 6’3″ to 6’5″, was on no one’s radar and was already in his second draft-eligible year. Stewart himself said it was a surprise, while one WHL scout described his selection as “a complete shock” and ESPN’s scouting guru Corey Pronman described him as “not a prospect.”

That may seem a little harsh, but Stewart really hasn’t given any indication that he has a future as an NHL defencemen.

Jim Benning seems to agree. Stewart doesn’t have a future as a defenceman; that’s why Benning intends for the Canucks to develop him as a winger.

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Get on board the Cole Cassels hype train

Connor McDavid is dead and Cole Cassels killed him.

Sure, that may seem like completely unreasonable hyperbole, borne out of just two games of tightly-contested playoff hockey. That’s because it is. But that won’t stop the Cole Cassels hype train, which left the station as soon as Game 1 of the OHL Championship ended and has been picking up steam ever since.

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The Prospector: Comets’ 4 overtime game may open door for Virtanen, McCann

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 edition, we look at the Comets’ quadruple overtime loss in Game 1 against the Barons and ponder how it might affect several Canucks prospects sitting in the press box. Also, Kyle Pettit still exists.

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One obstacle cleared in arena deal that gives Seattle a third shot at the NHL

Chris Hansen — the hedge fund manager and Seattle basketball fan, not the former host of ‘To Catch a Predator’ — has been worked for several years now to build an arena in the SoDo District and bring the NBA back to Seattle. He nearly bought the Sacramento Kings and moved them to Seattle in 2013, but the deal was blocked by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

Hansen’s proposed arena took another step towards becoming reality, as an environmental impact study found no major obstacles to prevent the arena from being built. The next step: a financial proposal for making the arena work without an NBA tenant. That’s because the NBA is still several years away from considering expansion and is unlikely to relocate a franchise at this time.

The NHL, on the other hand, could expand as early as 2016-17 in Las Vegas and the speculation is that Seattle will be soon to follow, as long as there is an arena in Seattle that can accommodate the NHL. If Hansen and Seattle can sort out the financial element of having hockey precede basketball in the new arena, we could see an NHL expansion team in the next few years.

Along with a Las Vegas team, this would balance out the Eastern and Western Conferences at 16 teams each and would also restore an old rival of the Vancouver Canucks, who used to battle the Seattle Totems for league championships in the old WHL days.

It might not be that simple, of course, and Seattle has come close to having an NHL franchise two times before.

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Dan Hamhuis in leadership role for Team Canada

After Team Canada went into the first intermission down 3-0 to Sweden in their fourth game of the World Championships, I have to wonder if Dan Hamhuis spoke up in the locker room. “A 3-0 lead after the first is nothing, guys,” he might have said. “Trust me: I know.”

Sure enough, just a week-and-a-half after the Calgary Flames came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Hamhuis’s Canucks, Canada did the same to Sweden. It wasn’t, of course, an elimination game, but it did all be ensure that Canada would finish first in their group ahead of Sweden. Canada remains undefeated and has three games remaining in the round robin: France, Switzerland, and Austria.

A lot of the attention on Team Canada has focussed on their young cadre of forwards, with a couple young defencemen grabbing a few headlines of their own: 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad has 2 goals and 4 points in 4 games, while the 24-year-old Patrick Wiercioch went from press box patron this season to key Team Canada defencemen, scoring the crucial game-tying goal in the third period against Sweden and tying for the tournament lead in plus/minus among defencemen.

While the young guns have grabbed all the attention, however, the unheralded Hamhuis has played a key leadership role.

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Stick in Link: Sedins still unappreciated; who the Canucks shouldn’t draft

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 once or twice a week during the off-season. 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 Prospector: Virtanen, McCann join the Comets; Cassels vs McDavid in OHL Championship

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

This time around, we look at Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann as they head to Utica to join the Comets, touch on Brendan Gaunce’s successful return from the press box, and ponder if Cole Cassels can shut down Connor McDavid.

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Player to Watch: Shawn Matthias, as he rides off into the sunset

Roberto Luongo is the best goaltender in Canucks history, so it was disappointing that the only players that came back in his trade to the Florida Panthers were Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom. Sure, Matthias has shown flashes of being a legitimate power forward and Markstrom had a stellar season for the Utica Comets, but Canucks fans were certainly hoping for something a little more significant.

It’s even more disappointing when you consider that both could be gone this off-season, just over one full season after the trade.

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The Prospector: Comets need overtime, Virtanen coming back from headshot suspension

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

This week, we look at the Utica Comets in the Calder Cup playoffs, Jared McCann, Cole Cassels, and Miles Liberati in the OHL playoffs, a suspension for Jake Virtanen, and the signing of Joseph LaBate.

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Guest Post: The monogamous Canucks fan’s guide to round 2

So, in the past week, you’ve gone through your annual 5 stages of hockey-related grief. You’ve accepted that the Canucks have fallen short for the 44th consecutive time. But there’s still a lot of hockey to be played this spring, and your heart isn’t in it anymore. You can’t get excited about other Canadian cities or an ex-coach in New York or a White Rock-born ex-Canuck in Tampa Bay. You’re just a one-team kind of fan.

No problem. You can cheer for the Canucks’ future right now.

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Big Numbers: Long off-season ahead, limited capspace to spend

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.

Statistics are gathered from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, Puckalytics.com, HockeyAnalysis.com, BehindtheNet.ca, and elsewhere.

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The Canucks were not a four-line team

When Jim Benning and Trevor Linden took over the Canucks, they made a commitment to rolling four lines, and Willie Desjardins carried out that commitment. Not a single player who played more than five games with the Canucks averaged under ten minutes in ice time per game.

That balanced approach to ice time led to balanced scoring. The Canucks had 11 different forwards with at least 10 goals, the most in the league. Those forwards were spread across multiple lines, so it looked like the Canucks approach to rolling all four lines was working just fine.

Then the playoffs came along and exposed it all for a lie: The Canucks were not a four-line team; they were a one-line team masquerading as a four-line team.

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Stick in Link: Hamhuis, Bonino to Worlds; sober reflection on a confusing season

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 three times a week. 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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Multiple choice: What should the Canucks do this off-season?

Pop quiz, hotshot: you’ve just seen an entire season of Canucks hockey culminate in a disappointing first round exit. You’re wearing Jim Benning’s shoes, because you’re Jim Benning. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 31: Pondering What-Ifs and New Refused

The Canucks season is over and all that’s left is to ponder what might have been. What if Willie Desjardins had given the Sedins more ice time earlier in the season? What if Eddie Lack had been brought in for Game 6? What if Desjardins’ counter-intuitive lineup decisions had paid off?

We look back at the Canucks’ playoff series against the Flames and break down some of the crucial decisions and plays that cost the Canucks. We also discuss some of the great moments that have been overshadowed by the loss, particularly the performance of rookie Bo Horvat.

Before all of that, however, we talk about the new album from legendary hardcore punk band Refused, their first album in 17 years.

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Player to Watch: Radim Vrbata, who is due

I have to admit, there’s a lot of hope and optimism in the choosing of this week’s Player to Watch.

Despite his 3 points in 5 games, Radim Vrbata has been severely criticized for his performance in this series, partly because his one goal came into an empty net. Vrbata was the team’s leading goalscorer during the regular season and was voted the team’s MVP, but he’s been largely invisible in this series.

Sometimes, however, that’s his greatest weapon, as he excels at finding soft spots in defensive coverage by evading notice. Vrbata’s contributions when he’s not scoring are a little more subtle than others. He doesn’t throw hits or make big, noticeable defensive plays, but he’s still a strong possession player who has been getting better throughout the series.

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Real Good Tweets, starring the 34-year-old Sedin twins

You folks made some good tweets this week. Some real good tweets.

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Big Numbers: Sedins dominate possession, Bo Horvat is pretty great

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.

Statistics are gathered from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, Puckalytics.com, HockeyAnalysis.com, BehindtheNet.ca, and elsewhere.

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