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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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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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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Stick in Link: Hello Trevor Linden, farewell Mike Gillis, whither John Tortorella?

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 [...]

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Trevor Linden is the future of the Canucks; is John Tortorella still part of it?

Trevor Linden made a good impression in his first press conference as the Vancouver Canucks new President of Hockey Operations. He apologized for lying in his interview with Global TV, he was humble in discussing his lack of experience and need to surround himself with intelligent, experienced people, and he looked comfortable handling every single question that came his way.

The same can’t be said for Francesco Aquilini, who didn’t look at all comfortable in front of the cameras, awkwardly reading from a prepared statement before answering the media’s questions.

Apart from thanking Mike Gillis for “his years of service” three times — it was literally the exact same wording, like he had practiced saying it in front of the mirror the entire previous night — he also gave a particularly convoluted answer when asked about John Tortorella that seemed to imply that Tortorella wouldn’t be with the team next season.

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Canucks officially hire Trevor Linden, who is a big fat liar, as Team President

The Canucks officially announced Trevor Linden as the new President of Hockey Operations Wednesday morning, confirming rumours that were swirling since Mike Gillis’s dismissal from the position the day prior.

This means that Linden lied to our faces on Tuesday. In an interview with Global TV to promote his fitness clubs, he was asked point blank if he would be the next president of hockey operations for the Canucks. He denied the rumour.

The Canucks just hired a big, fat liar to be team president.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, April 8th, 2014

As famed sportswriter Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote about this Canucks season, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” A little flowery for my tastes, but his words proved prophetic, as the Canucks looked lame against the Ducks, officially becoming a lame duck for the remainder of the season.

Facing a rookie goaltender in his first NHL game, the Canucks mustered just 18 shots on net. In the second period, they had just 3 shots. In their five power plays, they got the puck on net just 3 times. They were credited with 10 turnovers and it felt like more, giving up multiple breakaways, including the first shot of the game. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Know who else whimpered? Me, when I watched this game.

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Big Numbers: Last chance to see Selanne; Kassian tallies assists, Hamhuis draws penalties

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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Watch Bo Horvat, Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels tear up the OHL playoffs [VIDEO]

The Canucks playoff hopes are about as dim as Shane O’Brien caving in Torca del Cerro del Cuevon without a headlamp. The chances of the Canucks making the playoffs are lower than the chances of “fetch” happening. It’s as unlikely as Facebook ever adding a dislike button.

Some players in the Canucks system are seeing playoff success, however, specifically their forward prospects in the OHL. All four are in the top-ten in scoring in the OHL playoffs, with Dane Fox first and Brendan Gaunce third. Their respective teams also dominated the first round, all advancing in four or five games.

It’s tough to see these prospects in action, however, as OHL playoff games are sporadically televised at best. You can see Bo Horvat and the London Knights take on the Guelph Storm in game one of their second round series this Friday on Sportsnet ONE at 4:30, but if you want to see others, you’re basically out of luck.

You can, however, see some of their goals and assists from the first round in the following highlight video!

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Stick in Link: Mike Gillis wants uptempo hockey; ex-ref calls out Alex Burrows for ‘cowardice’

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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Alex Burrows catches first break of the season, doesn’t get suspended for hit on Ryan McDonagh

Breaking news: hitting is still allowed in the NHL.

As expected, Alex Burrows will not receive a suspension for his hit on Ryan McDonagh late in the game against the New York Rangers, because the people employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety have eyes.

This, of course, means that the curse that has stricken Burrows all season has finally been broken. A cursed Burrows would have been flown to New York for an in-person hearing and suspended for 15 games. Now, the last remnants of his curse could only tag him with a 5-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct. His nightmare is over.

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The Paper Feature: Canucks First Round Playoff Preview (as written at the end of December)

Every once in a while I like to work ahead and give myself a buffer of writing for the future. I like to do this with topics that are, essentially, evergreen: topics that will never go out of date or lose their relevance. One of those topics, at least with a team like the Canucks, is the postseason preview.

I don’t want to be deceitful, however, so it’s only fair that I dutifully inform you that this playoff preview is being written at the end of December.

By the time this sees publication, the playoffs will be just two tantalizing weeks away and the anticipation will be building to a fever pitch in Vancouver. There’s no possible way that this season could be as disappointing as last year’s four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and fans are eager for a deeper postseason run.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs New York Rangers, April 1, 2014

In honour of Alain Vigneault returning to Vancouver for the first time in the regular season since getting the boot last May, I will be using the word “real” throughout this intro, both correctly and incorrectly.

The Canucks were real good in this game, playing with a real intensity as they tried to keep their playoff hopes real alive. They got in on the forecheck real quick and created real scoring chances. They looked like a real hockey team with a real first line and for a real short time it was real exciting.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down to earth in a real hurry. Even as they looked real good, they still couldn’t put pucks into the net, with the woeful power play giving the Canucks meagre playoff hopes one final kick in teeth, giving up a shorthanded goal to seal the loss. It may seem like this whole season has been a bad dream, but it’s real real. Also real real? The fact I watched this game.

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Under John Tortorella, the Canucks get plenty of shots but few scoring chances

There are many reasons why the Canucks are on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but the biggest can be summed up in three words: they can’t score. The team is 28th in the league in goals-per-game, ahead of only the woeful Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. Their leading goalscorer is Ryan Kesler, with 23, and they’re likely to finish without a single 30-goal scorer for the first time in a non-lockout year since the 2007-08 season.

That season, they at least had three players with 20+ goals. Chris Higgins needs three goals in the Canucks’ final six games to reach 20 or Kesler will be the only Canuck above that mark.

The one bright spot? They’re currently on pace for 193 goals, which would be one better than their franchise low 192 in 1998-99. They need 14 goals in the final six games to avoid a historic low.

Many suggest the issue is personnel, that the Canucks lack legitimate snipers to finish chances, but the scoring struggles of normally reliable forwards like Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin make me question that assessment. The Canucks could certainly use more talented goalscorers, but that doesn’t explain the struggles of the scorers they do have. For the moment, let’s set that aside and look elsewhere.

With Alain Vigneault back in town, it makes sense to look at coaching. Has John Tortorella’s coaching style and the offensive system he has put in place hurt the Canucks’ ability to score goals?

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A Moment of Pure Bulis

It’s a stressful time right now. The Canucks have crashed harder than a college student after an all-nighter and a four-pack of Red Bull. They’re about to miss the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Fans are calling for heads, but not while flipping coins: they’ve set up a guillotine outside Rogers Arena next to the Roger Neilson statue.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 27, 2014

Heading into this game, Jannik Hansen had 3 goals in his last 33 games. Nicklas Jensen had 3 goals in his last 6 games. One played on a line with Daniel Sedin, the other on a line with Tom Sestito. One played more than 6 minutes in a tied third period. The other was stapled to the bench after the second intermission.

Does John Tortorella hate the happiness of Canucks fans? Jensen’s success since his call-up has been the one thing that all fans can enjoy, the one real ray of sunshine and light in the dreary darkness, but then he got shunted down the lineup. Meanwhile, Hansen, who is having the worst offensive season of his career in terms of points-per-minute, kept getting sent out, despite not registering a single shot attempt and the Canucks getting out-shot 9-4 at even-strength with him on the ice.

Did John Tortorella confuse Hansen for Jensen? Does he think all Danes look alike? If so, that’s pretty racist. He’s lucky there aren’t more Danes in the NHL so this didn’t come up earlier.

Like Jensen, who quietly sat back and let Tortorella call him Jannik all night, I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Ben Hutton’s record-breaking season; Canucks prospects make a mark in OHL playoffs

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 break down Ben Hutton’s solid sophomore season and highlight four forwards — Dane Fox, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels — racking up points in the OHL playoffs.

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PITB chats with Roberto Luongo about Twitter silence and Eddie’s readiness

Roberto Luongo hasn’t tweeted since the Canucks’ disastrous 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on March 6th, when he sent out a few mildly snarky missives sympathizing with Lack’s plight.

“There was a little mishap there,” said Luongo, “a little confusion on what I was tweeting. I think some people took it the wrong way.”

The main someone was Don Cherry, who lambasted Luongo on Coach’s Corner the following Saturday, telling him to “keep his mouth shut.” Is anyone surprised that Cherry badly misinterpreted Luongo’s tweets?

“There was no maliciousness behind those [tweets],” said Luongo. “It was mostly making fun of myself and I felt bad for Eddie that game. It was nothing about him or his play, I mostly felt bad for him the way the guys were playing in front of him.”

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The Paper Feature: 10 prospects that could make a big impact next season

At this point, it would take a miracle for the Canucks to make the playoffs and the hockey gods have been particularly stingy with the miracles for the Canucks this season. With that in mind, it’s understandable that many fans are looking to the future, and Nicklas Jensen’s performance since getting called up from the Utica Comets is giving that future a certain rosy hue.

Jensen has looked like a legitimate top-six forward for the last few games, with the caveat that he’s playing alongside two very good first line forwards. It’s enough to get people to pencil Jensen into next season’s lineup, albeit faintly and with an eraser at the ready in case the Canucks go crazy on the trade market or in free agency.

He’s not the only Canucks prospect with the potential to step into the lineup next season, however. The Canucks have been criticized for their shallow prospect pool, but it’s simply not true. In fact, there are as many as 10 prospects that could step into the lineup next season and be real difference-makers.

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Spitballin’ on Kesler’s injury, Henrik’s coach-love, Mike Zalewski’s signing, and Booth’s dreaminess

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Washington Capitals, March 14, 2014

I don’t really know how to describe this game, only to say that I haven’t seen anything like it for some time. In fact it’s been so long that my vocabulary that I might used to describe it has atrophied. It was…expediting? No, that’s not right. Exfoliating? Nope, that’s not it. Excited? Is that the word?

Exciting! That’s the one. It’s been a long time since I used that word in relation to the Canucks, but it fits this game. The Canucks buzzed around the offensive zone, created scoring chances, and actually capitalized on a few of them. It was bizarre. I mean, they didn’t win, of course. It wasn’t that bizarre. But it was still fun to watch.

I was — what’s the word? — entertained when I watched this game.

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What are realistic expectations for Dane Fox?

The conversation surrounding the Canucks has understandably shifted from the present to the future. That’s what happens when the team’s chances of making the playoffs have shrunk from slim to positively diaphanous. The Canucks are down to a 3.2% chance of making the postseason, according to Sports Club Stats, and fans have been looking to next season and beyond for nearly a month already.

Since there isn’t much to get excited about with the current roster, so it makes sense that fans would look to who might be on the roster in a coming season. In many ways, seeing a top prospect like Nicklas Jensen look like a legitimate top-six winger, at least when playing with top-end talent like Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, is more satisfying right now than seeing the Canucks win.

Other prospects are also showing promise: Cole Cassels has produced some surprising offence, Bo Horvat has progressed well, Ben Hutton has received Hobey Baker consideration, and Frank Corrado is playing big minutes in all situations for the Comets. None of them, however, have produced the type of gaudy numbers that really catch the attention of the average fan.

One prospect has, however: undrafted free agent signing Dane Fox. The Erie Otters left wing has scored an eye-catching 62 goals and 101 points in 64 games. The one fairly massive caveat is that Fox is an over-age player — a 20-year-old playing against 17, 18, and 19-year-olds — and had never produced at better than a point-per-game prior to his over-age year. So what, realistically, can we expect from Fox?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Winnipeg Jets, March 12, 2014

Alex Burrows is such a terrible teammate. Having gone 35 games without scoring a single goal this season, Burrows chose to break his drought during Henrik Sedin’s 1000th career game, stealing the spotlight and making the game all about him. Selfish.

To make it even worse, Burrows scored two goals without allowing Henrik to tally an assist, despite playing on the top line with the Canucks captain. And you’ll notice that he scored two goals; why no assists, Burrows? Share the puck, Alex, this is a team game.

In fact, Burrows had a game-high 6 shots, while his other linemate, Nicklas Jensen, had just one, clearly because Burrows is such a puck-hog. Way to provide a toxic environment for the rookie, Burrows. Oh wait, I’m being sarcastic. Creating a toxic environment is a bad thing, Burr.

The final piece of evidence that Burrows was playing for the name on the back of his jersey rather than the logo on the front? He had the opportunity to score in the shootout and didn’t do it, obviously because it wouldn’t have counted for his points this season. He clearly just wanted to boost his personal statistics and didn’t care about getting his team the win. He was just out for number one, who was, in this case, number 14.

Alex Burrows is just the worst. I watched this game.

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