The Canucks could use an injury or two in the pre-season

The Canucks are down to a 27-man roster, now that Joacim Eriksson has been sent down to Utica. By the start of the regular season, October 8th, they’ll need to be down to a 23-man roster. Assuming they go with the usual contingent of 14 forwards and 7 defencemen, the Canucks need to cut three forwards and one defenceman in the next week.

Or, alternatively, they’ll need three forwards and one defenceman to go down with injuries that place them on the long-term injured reserve list. That may seem far-fetched, but they’re partway there already, with Brad Richardson, Zack Kassian, Alex Edler, and Frank Corrado all missing time with injuries so far this pre-season.

Edler is back already, of course, but Richardson, Kassian, and Corrado all missed practice Wednesday morning, though Richardson and Kassian skated with another group prior to practice. It’s entirely likely that all three will be fine by the start of the season, but even one player on the IR would make decision-making easier for Willie Desjardins and Jim Benning.

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Camp Cuts: Canucks re-assign Joacim Eriksson to Utica

Joacim Eriksson will not be the third head in the Canucks’ goaltending Ghidorah, as he has been re-assigned to the Utica Comets. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise: he was arguably the fourth best Canucks goaltender in the pre-season, assuming reports that Jacob Markstrom made 21 saves on 23 shots against the San Jose Sharks in Stockton can be believed.

Now Eriksson will be competing with Markstrom for starts in Utica, assuming he doesn’t cut and run to Sweden.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks vs Arizona Coyotes, September 29, 2014

The Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale may have a new team name, but they look an awful lot like the Phoenix Coyotes of old: defensively sound, difficult to break down in the neutral zone, and not particularly exciting to watch. As pre-season games go, this was one of them.

That’s not to say there weren’t moments of excitement. For instance, apparently a couple got engaged during a break in the action. That’s exciting, right? I mean, a meaningless pre-season game against the Coyotes isn’t really the most romantic of occasions to pop the question, even for the most die-hard Canucks fan, but love is worth celebrating.

Not worth celebrating: this game. I did not pop open any bottles of champagne when I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 4: Final Cuts and the second Babe movie

With 28 players still on the roster, there are just five players left for the Canucks to cut before the start of the season. We discuss which players are the most likely to get cut and what that means for the roster.

Joacim Eriksson is an obvious cut, as is Cal O’Reilly — or is he? Is Bo Horvat going to spend the entire season in the OHL or will he work his way up from the fourth line? Will Nicklas Jensen start the season on the second line ahead of Zack Kassian? Has Hunter Shinkaruk’s exciting pre-season snared him a spot or is it more prudent to send him down to the AHL because he doesn’t have to go through waivers?

But before all that, we talk about Saturday Night Live and Babe: Pig in the City, which is one of the most underrated sequels of all time.

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Spitballin’ on sneakiness in Stockton, prospect battles, and Shinkaruk’s goofiness

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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Jacob Markstrom clears waivers; what will happen now in Utica?

There was a lot of hand-wringing in Canucks nation yesterday when Jacob Markstrom was put on waivers. After all, he was part of the return for Roberto Luongo, a return that was already panned by many fans as being insufficient value for the best goaltender in franchise history. Take away Markstrom and the return becomes just Shawn Matthias.

We’ll ignore for the moment that Luongo had been labeled untradeable because of his contract; there’s plenty of cognitive dissonance among hockey fans. Let’s just admit that losing Markstrom to a waiver claim would not have been ideal, which is why the Canucks were entertaining the thought of keeping him on the Canucks roster.

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax: the Canucks’ third-string goaltender cleared waivers. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

Except now the Canucks have three goaltenders on their farm team, one of whom could bolt to Sweden if he’s unhappy. Nothing’s ever easy for the Canucks, is it?

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, September 25, 2014

For the first time ever (at least on TV), Canucks fans got to see Willie Desjardins behind the Canucks bench. Sort of. We didn’t really see him at all, because he didn’t yell and scream, get in his player’s faces, or charge down the halls of the Saddledome to confront Bob Hartley.

I mean, I know this is his first NHL head coaching gig, but it’s like he doesn’t even understand how a head coach is supposed to act. Instead, he got his team to go out on the ice and play hockey, as if this was some sort of game where the objective is to score more goals than the other team.

I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Dorsett and Sbisa are gritty, Subban is just a guy

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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Camp Cuts: Jordan Subban, Cole Cassels, Anton Cederholm returned to Junior

Willie Desjardins swore there would be no cuts until after the first preseason game(s). While that turned out to be a horrible, awful lie, the Canucks did cut a few more players today, sending Jordan Subban, Cole Cassels, and Anton Cederholm back to their Junior teams.

These cuts shouldn’t come as a surprise. The players lopped off the roster didn’t have a shot at making the Canucks this season anyway.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, September 23, 2014

There’s no denying that the Sharks were the better team in this game. They out-shot the Canucks like crazy, particularly in the ugly second period, when they tallied 18 shots on goal to the Canucks’ 5. But really, in a pre-season game, you’re not necessarily looking at how the team performed as a whole, but instead at how individual players performed in a given role and how they fit with their teammates.

The result itself doesn’t actually matter…oh, who am I kidding. It was satisfying as hell to see the Canucks beat the Sharks, even if it was just in pre-season and even if the Sharks out-shot the Canucks 34-to-20. The Canucks got better as the game went on and they actually scored goals.

Look, I love preseason hockey, because it’s not no hockey. No hockey is dull and boring. No hockey is lame. No hockey is the worst. Give me preseason hockey over no hockey any day of the week, especially this day of the week, because on this day, I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 3: Pre-Season Roster Decisions and Weezer

Pre-season is upon us, which means it’s time to watch actual Canucks play actual hockey for the first time in a long while. It also means that Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins have some difficult decisions ahead of them.

Can Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino, and Zack Kassian be an effective second line? Will Radim Vrbata stick with the Sedins on the first line? Will Bo Horvat make the roster, even if it means centring the fourth line? Should the team keep three goaltenders on the roster?

We discuss these topics and more, but, before that, we talk about Weezer, accidental boob grabbing, and growing old.

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How will the Canucks’ off-season changes affect the power play?

The Canucks power play was painfully bad last season, converting at just 15.2%, fifth worst in the NHL. That alone didn’t cost the Canucks a shot at the playoffs — the Kings were actually worse at 15.1% — but when the team struggled to score at even-strength, their power play couldn’t make up the difference.

The off-season, however, saw significant changes on and off the ice that will have a major impact on the power play this season. Will those changes have a net positive or negative effect? That’s a little harder to figure out.

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The Canucks might start the season with three goaltenders, because they want us to suffer

Heading into Canucks training camp, there were just a few stories to keep an eye on. Simple things, like who would end up playing with the Sedins, who will centre the third line, and which defencemen will partner on the third pairing. In net, however, there was no story. Though it will be interesting to [...]

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Four battles to watch heading into Canucks training camp

It’s the start of training camp, which means it’s time for rampant speculation. Who will shine in the pre-season? Who will fall flat on their faces? Which player will excel, looking to have a spot sewn up, then get a brutal injury in the final game of the pre-season and never play for the Canucks again?

The truth is that we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen, particularly in this coming training camp and pre-season. Thanks to the off-season shake-up both on and off the ice, my Canucks-branded Magic 8-Ball keeps returning “Reply hazy, try again.” Admittedly, that’s better than when it was telling me, “You know what to do: burn ‘em all!”

Here are four training camp battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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Did Frank Corrado’s decision to attend the Youngstars Tournament backfire?

Frank Corrado didn’t have to head up to Penticton last weekend to play in the annual Youngstars prospect tournament. He had already been to two of them: he was a standout in his first tournament back in 2011, then was dominant at both ends of the ice in 2013. With a full season of professional hockey in the AHL — along with a total of 22 NHL games, including 4 playoff games — under his belt, another Youngstars tournament didn’t seem to be necessary.

But the Canucks reportedly asked Corrado if he’d like to participate in the tournament and he said yes. One can understand why: with a new management team and coaching staff in Vancouver, Corrado has an all-new group of people to impress if he wants to make the Canucks out of training camp, and what better opportunity to make a good first impression than dominating a tournament featuring younger, smaller prospects, many of whom will never play even one game in the NHL, let alone 22?

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Corrado struggled to establish his game, looking a lot more like a raw kid than someone ready to make the jump to the big leagues.

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Complete statistics from the 2014 Youngstars Tournament

The 2014 Youngstars Tournament did not go particularly well for the Canucks. While their prospects managed to take two of three games to overtime, they still lost both in the end, then got thoroughly tromped by the Flames’ prospects in the tournament closer. While wins and losses aren’t really the point of a prospects tournament, [...]

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Camp Cuts: Miles Liberati returned to Junior, invitees sent home

With the conclusion of the Youngstars Tournament yesterday, it was just a matter of time before players started to get cut. And, by “a matter of time,” I mean “no time at all.” The first cuts were announced shortly after the Canucks’ prospects ugly 6-1 loss to the Flames’ prospects.

Like every year, PITB will be here to explain every cut as they happen or, rather, slightly after they happen. To start off, the cuts will be pretty easy to explain, with just one actual Canucks prospect getting the boot.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 2: Youngstars Tournament and the Meaning of Life

The Canucks prospects are in Penticton, working like mad to impress an all-new management group. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on our behinds judging those prospects, their skill, and their effort. In general, we’re pretty positive about the prospects of these prospects.

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Here’s what happened at the Canucks’ second Youngstars game

Everything went horribly wrong for the Canucks prospects in the first 40 minutes of this game: they gave up three goals on five shots in the second period, looked horrific defensively, and couldn’t get anything going offensively. To make matters worse, Dane Fox fought before the puck was dropped on a faceoff and was tossed from the game.

They entered the third period down 4-1 to the Jets’ prospects and, while the score doesn’t really matter in a prospects tournament, a close game is far more pleasant to watch.

Cue the third period comeback: the Canucks’ prospects scored three goals in the third period, including two in the final two minutes with their net empty, forcing overtime. It was borderline thrilling.

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Canucks prospects to watch at the 2014 Young Stars Tournament

I love this time of year. The lead-up to training camp and the start of the NHL regular season is a time of positivity and optimism. After a long off-season with no Canuck hockey, the wait is finally over. Sort of.

Tonight is the start of the annual Young Stars prospect tournament, as the Canucks prospects take on the Oilers prospects at 7:30 pm. The game will be streamed live on Canucks.com and the Canucks’ YouTube channel, which means that even if you can’t make it out to Penticton, you can still watch the game.

Normally, this is when we’d get our first look at the Canucks’ recent draft picks, but, for a variety of reasons, that won’t really be happening this year. Just two of the Canucks’ seven 2014 draft picks will be at the tournament and they were the Canucks’ last two picks of the draft. Neither of the Canucks’ first round picks will be playing: Jake Virtanen isn’t cleared for contact yet after his shoulder surgery and Jared McCann has mononucleosis.

The Canucks’ second round pick, goaltender Thatcher Demko, is already back at Boston College, while their third and fifth round picks, Nikita Tryamkin and Gustav Forsling, are back in Russia and Sweden. That leaves just sixth round pick Kyle Pettit and seventh round pick Mackenze Stewart from the Canucks’ most recent draft.

Fortunately, there are many other Canucks prospects to get excited about, from the obvious to the more unheralded.

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Meet the Canucks’ 2014 Young Stars Tournament invitees (Part 2)

We are this close to hockey being back. If you can’t tell, because it’s the internet and you can’t see me, I’m holding my thumb and forefinger about a centimetre apart.

It’s Thursday, September 11th, which means that the Canucks or, at least, a team wearing Canucks jerseys and white helmets, will be playing a game tomorrow. Or, if you’re reading this Friday, today. Or, if you’re reading this sometime after Friday, in the past. That’s how close hockey is to returning.

The Canucks prospects will be playing the Oilers prospects on Friday, starting at 7:30 pm. According to their website, the Canucks will be broadcasting the games live on Canucks.com, so you can watch something approximating Canucks hockey tomorrow, today, or in the past. This is crazy.

Along with the drafted and signed Canucks prospects will be ten unsigned and undrafted invitees. I profiled five of them on Wednesday and it’s time to look at the last five. Are any of them potential Canucks prospects? We’ll find out starting on Friday: if any of them impress, they could earn a contract or, at the very least, an invite to Canucks camp.

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Meet the Canucks’ 2014 Young Stars Tournament invitees (Part 1)

The annual Young Stars Tournament starts on Friday in Penticton and, as per usual, the Canucks have invited a number of undrafted and unsigned players to don a Canucks jersey. These invitees always intrigue me, as finding a diamond in the rough can easily and cheaply bolster the team’s prospect pool.

This year, the Canucks mostly looked to the WHL for their invitees. Eight of the Canucks’ ten invitees played last season in the WHL and a ninth is just a year removed from the Dub. That means the Canucks invited just one non-WHL player, Cordell James out of the OHL.

The thing with these invitees is that we generally know very little about them. Unlike the team’s drafted prospects, the invitees aren’t subject to profiles on the team’s website or breathless breakdowns of their potential from Pierre McGuire. So, every year, I take it upon myself to track down as much information on the Canucks’ invitees as possible. Here are all ten that will be in Penticton with the Canucks this year.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 1: Off-season recap and Angels in the Outfield

We here at Pass it to Bulis have long thought that we need to engage more of your senses. We’ve tried a number of methods for doing so: textured blog posts, scratch-and-sniff header images, and mind-reading competitions (don’t forget that all-important sixth sense), but none of them really worked. Finally, it clicked: sound.

To that end, we’re starting something entirely new for the 2014-15 Canucks season: a weekly podcast. This is unfamiliar territory for us, but we want to give you yet another way to enjoy PITB. You can listen to the podcast on your way to or from work, in bed as you go to sleep, or at weekly listening parties with all of your friends. I recognize that last one probably won’t happen, but I can dream.

This is episode 1, where we’re covering a wide swathe of topics, mainly centred around recapping the Canucks’ very busy off-season. We also touch on the Young Stars Tournament and which prospects are most likely to make an impact this season. And, of course, we talk extensively about Angels in the Outfield.

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What happens if Eddie Lack outperforms Ryan Miller?

Older, established goaltender. Young, talented backup. Vancouver. What’s the worst that could happen?

They should put a sign up outside Rogers Arena: “It has been X days since our last goalie controversy.” Not that I’m saying a goalie controversy is guaranteed this upcoming season. 2010′s silver medallist has come in to replace 2010′s gold medallist and it’s perfectly clear who has the number one spot going into training camp.

But what if…

What if Miller falters like did in St. Louis after getting traded to the Blues at the deadline? Miller went from a sparkling .923 save percentage with the Sabres to an ugly .903 save percentage with the Blues in the regular season. He then got worse in the playoffs, stumbling down to an .897 save percentage in 6 games.

I swear, I’m not trying to stir up anything, but it’s my natural state as a Canucks fan to worry and anticipate the worst-case scenario. it seemed like the Canucks had finally dismissed even the chance of a goaltending controversy last season with the trade of Roberto Luongo, but the possibility still remains.

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Canucks release 2014 Young Stars Tournament roster, including Frank Corrado and Nicklas Jensen

The annual Young Stars tournament in Penticton is a lot of fun, giving fans a chance to see their team’s top prospects in an NHL jersey long before they actually make the NHL. I had the chance to go last year with my family and had a great time. I was easy to pick out: I was the only guy with a press pass and a baby carrier.

This year’s tournament is just one week away, with the first games taking place next Friday, September 12th. That’s right, hockey is almost back, everyone. Our long, national nightmare is nearly over.

The Canucks just released their roster for the tournament, featuring two players who have already played for the Canucks: Frank Corrado and Nicklas Jensen. The roster also includes 6 first round picks: Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann, and Jake Virtanen.

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