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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Stick in Link: Kevin Bieksa and Eddie Lack ride a rollercoaster

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 every goal Ryan Kesler scored last season (Part 1)

I have to admit, I’ve been putting off this edition of our annual “Every Goal” series. It’s partly because we’ve been doing the series in more-or-less ascending order, starting out with the players who scored a couple or a few goals and working our way up the lineup, but it’s also because the scorer of these particular goals has a certain amount of baggage attached to him these days.

But we’ve already chronicled every other goal scored last season, so it’s time for the 25 scored by Ryan Kesler.

It didn’t take long for Kesler to go from fan favourite to persona non grata in Vancouver. It wasn’t just that he asked for a trade, but that he also limited the potential trade destinations with his No Trade Clause. He was well within his legal rights to do so, but it turned what could have been a frantic bidding war into a far more meagre return and left a sour taste in the mouths of Canucks fans.

The backlash seemed particularly strong because of his particular brand of jerk puck. As we here at PITB were fond of saying when he was still a Canuck, “Sure, he’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.” Canucks fans had spent years defending his jerkish tendencies, so when he was no longer “our jerk” he became just a jerk.

But that jerk did lead the Canucks in scoring last season and, though he may be easy to replace in the hearts of Canucks fans, he will be much more difficult to replace on the ice. Let’s go over every goal he scored last season to see why, starting with his first eight goals.

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If an expansion draft happened now, which Canucks would you protect?

According to reports, which the NHL unsurprisingly denied, the league is planning expansion by four teams in 2017. The reports aren’t really anything new — expansion into Las Vegas, Seattle, Toronto, and Quebec City has been rumoured for years — but the certainty with which Howard Bloom, who is usually reliable for sports business news, has reported the news has made this a hot topic this week.

If and when expansion does occur, the team will need to hold an expansion draft to fill out of the rosters of the new teams. Just for fun, let’s imagine the league chose to expand right now, requiring an immediate expansion draft.

The new teams won’t be able to pick just anyone from the existing teams’ rosters, of course. In an expansion draft, each team protects certain players, ensuring that they can’t be selected. There are limits to the number of players that can be protected, however, ensuring that a few decent players are available to the new teams.

So, which players would you protect on the Canucks?

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Stick in Link: Trevor Linden’s other uphill climb; August mercifully almost over

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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In an ironic turn, Canucks now lack depth on left side of defence

For several years, the Canucks have had an issue with their defence: not enough right-side defencemen. It goes back to losing Christian Ehrhoff to free agency in 2011. Though he shoots left-handed, Ehrhoff is one of the few NHL defencemen who seems to prefer playing on his off-side and he excelled on the right side of Alex Edler with the Canucks.

During the 2010-11 season, the Canucks had three excellent right-side defencemen: Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa, and Sami Salo. When Salo went down with one of his all-too-frequent injuries, it exposed the Canucks’ lack of depth on the right side, leading to Chris Tanev playing 29 games as a rookie and getting into the lineup in the Stanley Cup final ahead of Keith Ballard, who struggled whenever he was on the right side.

After Ehrhoff left, the Canucks were left with Bieksa and an injury-prone Salo on the right side for one season, then just Bieksa after Salo left for Tampa Bay. They replaced Salo with Jason Garrison, who shoots left, and were forced to play him on his off-side in order to get him into the top-four.

Then a funny thing happened: Tanev emerged last season as a legitimate top-four defenceman. Ryan Stanton was claimed off waivers and became a steady presence on the bottom pairing. The Canucks signed Yannick Weber as a depth defenceman capable of playing on the powerplay. After a year in Utica, Frank Corrado is knocking on the door. Bobby Sanguinetti, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes, was lured out of the KHL.

All right-hand shots.

Meanwhile, Jason Garrison got traded to Tampa Bay, replaced by Luca Sbisa, who has struggled with the Anaheim Ducks. And suddenly, the Canucks could have the opposite problem: not enough depth on the left side.

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Watch every goal Chris Higgins scored last season (9-17)

Is Chris Higgins a top-six forward? It’s a question I hear asked frequently by Canucks fans and it comes with an implicit assumption: no, he’s not. From what I’ve seen from Canucks fans, they seem to be agreed that the Canucks have a glut of third-line wingers and players like Higgins and Jannik Hansen end up on the second line simply because the team has no one else to put there.

I think this comes from an unrealistic view of the second line. Last year, while looking at David Booth, I estimated that a second-line player should produce between 31-to-51 points in an 82-game season and/or 15-to-25 goals. That was based on points and goals produced by second line forwards in the 2011-12 season and it’s still a pretty good guideline for what we should expect from the second line.

Higgins scored 17 goals and 39 points. While in the lower half of second line players, he still fits in that bracket and it’s important to note that he still produced like a second-line forward when most of the team fell well below expectations and while facing some of the toughest competition of his career. The Sedins both performed like second-line forwards last season, albeit top-tier second line forwards. Complaints about Higgins not belonging on the second line just don’t make any sense.

With that out of the way, let’s look at his last nine goals from last season.

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Watch every goal Chris Higgins scored last season (1-8)

The general opinion of Canucks fans is that pretty much no one had a good season under John Tortorella apart from, perhaps, Chris Tanev and Chris Higgins. In Higgins’ case, it’s simply that he performed about as well last season as he did in the previous two seasons, if not slightly worse. The reason we [...]

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Stick in Link: Deal or no deal in Bertuzzi/Moore case?

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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Canucks Ice Bucket Challenge boils over into ‘Two and A Half Men’ blood feud

By now, it’s incredibly likely that, not only have you heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (in which people dump a bucket of ice on their heads and challenge friends, colleagues, or even enemies to do the same in an ongoing effort to raise money and awareness to fight ALS), but you’ve done it, too.

Like every hockey team, the Ice Bucket Challenge has swept through the Canucks organization, and thank goodness. It’s been a long time since we last saw these guys hit the ice, and while there’s still a ways to go before the break is over, at least we can avail ourselves by watching the ice hit the players.

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Watch every goal Daniel Sedin scored last season (Part 2)

It’s time for part two of every goal that Daniel Sedin scored last season, which highlights one positive: Daniel scored enough goals that we had to split them into two posts. It’s not as good as the 2010-11 season, when we spent an entire week recapping Daniel Sedin’s goals, of course, but it could have been worse.

It’s also a bit depressing that he’s one of just three players who need their goals split over more than one post.

The biggest reason for Daniel’s paltry goal totals was his 23-game goalless drought through January, February, and most of March. To put that into perspective, his longest stretch without a goal in the previous season was 8 games and that wasn’t a great season for Daniel either.

Incredibly, you have to go all the way back to Daniel’s sophomore season, to when he was just 21-years-old, to find a longer goalless drought. He went 25 games without a goal in the 2001-02 season, finishing with just 9 goals. Good news! 33-year-old Daniel is better at hockey than 21-year-old Daniel, nearly doubling his goal total from his sophomore season. See, there’s always a silver lining.

Here are the final 8 goals Daniel scored last season.

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Watch every goal Daniel Sedin scored last season (Part 1)

The 2013-14 season started off reasonably well for Daniel Sedin. He scored 6 goals in October, putting him on pace for another 30+ goal season.

Things got steadily worse through the rest of 2013, scoring just 4 goals in November and 3 goals in December, but it was 2014 that brought the real misery. Incredibly, Daniel went goalless through January and February, apart from one measly goal during the Olympics. Then, after the Olympics were over, Daniel suffered a leg injury in the debacle of an outdoor game, keeping him out of the lineup for most of March.

It took until March 26th for Daniel Sedin to score his first goal as a Canuck in 2014. Between him and Alex Burrows, the Canucks had two of the most bizarre goal droughts in the entire NHL last season.

How in the world does that happen? He finished the season with just 16 goals, his lowest total since 2003, aside from the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Not coincidentally, he also posted the lowest shooting percentage of his career, which may give some hope that he can turn things around next season. Alternately, if you’re feeling pessimistic, you could argue that he just hasn’t been the same since Duncan Keith gutlessly concussed him back in 2012.

I’m a little more optimistic: with either Radim Vrbata or a non-cursed Alex Burrows on his opposite wing and a powerplay that isn’t a garbage fire, Daniel should be able to get back to at least 25 goals next season. Part of the reason for my optimism came from watching his goals from last season, some of which are fantastic. Here are the first 8.

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Watch every goal Brad Richardson scored last season

Last July, when the Canucks signed Brad Richardson to a two-year deal, I rated the signing as “Pretty Okay.” That’s exactly how I feel about Richardson’s season. Since the rest of the team was mostly abysmal, “pretty okay” looked a lot better than normal.

Richardson was absolutely buried in the defensive zone all season, starting the vast majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. Most of the time when we talk about a player starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, we’re talking in relation to his offensive zone starts, ignoring the neutral zone. This isn’t the case for Richardson. He was on the ice for 444 defensive zone faceoffs at 5-on-5, far more than in the defensive zone (217) or neutral zone (267). No one else on the Canucks came even close to that.

With that kind of deployment, it’s not surprising that his Corsi% was below 50%. Starting that often in the defensive zone all but guarantees that your team will be out-shot while you’re on the ice. Honestly, it’s impressive that his possession statistics weren’t worse and it’s definitely impressive that he managed to score 11 goals, though it comes as no surprise that he had the highest shooting percentage of his career while doing so.

It’s also worth noting that once Richardson was off the fourth line and skated on the third line with Zack Kassian and David Booth, his Corsi% popped above 50%. That third line was legitimately effective and it will be interesting to see if Richardson can out-battle Shawn Matthias, Bo Horvat, and Linden Vey for the third-line centre role in training camp. If not, he’ll have a better linemate on the fourth line in Derek Dorsett, who performed even better with similar usage as Richardson.

But enough about that: let’s look at Richardson’s 11 goals and see what can be gleaned from them.

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Watch every goal Jannik Hansen scored last season

Like it was for most of the Canucks, last season was a disappointment for Jannik Hansen. After scoring 10 goals in 47 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he scored just one more in 71 games last season. He was third in points behind only the Sedins in 2013. Last season, he was 12th.

Hansen has long been in a sort of limbo, seemingly always poised on the brink of becoming a legitimate top-six forward, yet faltering every time he’s put in that position. Last season, Hansen appeared to completely change his game depending on what line he was put with, trying to be Alex Burrows for the Sedins, a playmaking winger for Kesler, and a one-dimensional checker for the the third line.

Hansen spent so much time trying to be someone else that he seemed to forget what made him successful in the first place. He’s not primarily someone who can be a pestering, forechecking net-front presence like Burrows, or a playmaker, or a defensive forward. He’s all three of those things in equal measure. He seemed to limit himself to just one aspect of his game depending on his line and it led to the worst offensive season of his career.

It’s not all bad news, however. Just like a lot of his success in the 2013 season was driven by the percentages, so was a lot of his failure in the 2013-14 season. He also managed to score 11 goals, his third straight season with a double-digit goal total.

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Stick in Link: Virtanen ahead of schedule; Demko struggles at US world junior camp

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 every goal Alex Edler scored last season

Alex Edler had a bizarre season. Despite posting positive underlying numbers that saw the Canucks outshoot their opposition whenever Edler was on the ice at even-strength, Edler had a league-worst minus-39 plus/minus rating. Everything went wrong for Edler at even-strength and things didn’t get any better for him on special teams, since the Canucks’ powerplay was entirely composed of cold, wet garbage last season.

Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow wrote an article a few months ago called “The Big Mistake,” which, at the time I’m writing this, wasn’t available on his site because his server is also composed of cold, wet garbage. But the gist of the article was that one of the main ways our eyes deceive us when we watch and analyze hockey games is that the big mistakes stand out to us more than anything else — the giveaway in the defensive zone, the errant drop-pass in the neutral zone, or the mis-timed pinch in the offensive zone that leads to a breakaway. Those big mistakes are like a paint roller covering up the tiny brushstrokes that form the big picture.

This connects to Edler pretty clearly. One could argue — and more than one Canucks fan has — that Edler is more prone to making big, costly mistakes than any other Canucks defenceman. It’s these mistakes, the argument goes, that led to the league-worst plus/minus rating.

I would argue, and the underlying statistics seem to bear this out, that Edler was not significantly worse last season than in previous years. I would argue that he’s always made those “big mistakes,” generally because he’s on the ice and handles the puck a lot, but this past season they were more noticeable as they more often led to goals against. Meanwhile, due to an obscenely low team shooting percentage when Edler was on the ice, his offensive contributions couldn’t outweigh the results of those mistakes.

That’s why Edler is going to be fascinating next season. If he plays at the same level but his percentages regress to the mean, he’ll have a pretty good season and fans and media alike will crow about his bounceback year, despite nothing really changing.

In any case, in the midst of the absurdity, Edler still managed to tie Jason Garrison for the team-lead in goals from a defenceman despite playing 18 fewer games. Here they are.

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Watch every goal Kevin Bieksa scored last season

In his first full season with the Canucks, 2006-07, Kevin Bieksa scored 12 goals, good for second among Canucks defencemen behind Sami Salo. It’s still his career high. He came close two years later, scoring 11 goals, but he hasn’t scored in double digits since 2009. Perhaps he should get more powerplay time: in both those seasons, he led Canucks defencemen in powerplay goals.

That may seem odd to say as Bieksa doesn’t really fit the profile as an ideal pointman on the powerplay. He doesn’t have a heavy slap shot, relying more on his wrist shot to shoot through traffic, and he isn’t known for being a playmaking quarterback, but when he entered the NHL he excelled with the man advantage.

In 2006-07, Bieksa was second among Canucks defencemen in powerplay ice time, and he led all Canucks defencemen in powerplay ice time the next two seasons. But then the Canucks traded for Christian Ehrhoff and Bieksa found himself relegated to the second powerplay unit. Even after Ehrhoff left, Bieksa was fourth among Canucks defencemen in powerplay time behind Alex Edler, Sami Salo, and Dan Hamhuis. Sami Salo left in free agency, but he was replaced by Jason Garrison.

Bieksa doesn’t have a reputation for being good on the powerplay, but he produced goals when he was on the first unit in his first few seasons. With Garrison gone, there’s an opportunity for Bieksa to join Edler on the blue line with the first unit, with Yannick Weber arguably his only competition. While that pairing can be a tire fire at even strength, the powerplay should minimize their weaknesses.

With more time on the powerplay, could Bieksa once again score 10+ goals next season? Maybe. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the four goals he scored last season, just one of which came on the powerplay.

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Canucks hire gold medal-winning video coach, Ben Cooper [Report]

It appeared that the Canucks were done making moves this off-season and that does seem to be the case in terms of what we’ll see on the ice, with Trevor Linden confirming that the current roster is what we’ll see when training camp rolls around. But the team has reportedly made one more change behind the scenes.

According to a report from Gregg Drinnan, the Canucks have hired Ben Cooper as their new video coach, a rather thankless job that involves endlessly watching and breaking down video from Canucks games and those of their opponents.

It’s not a position that fans tend to think about too much, as the video coach doesn’t appear on the bench or get interviewed by the media, but it’s a vital role for analyzing a team’s trends, pinpointing areas where a player needs to improve, and scouting tactics of upcoming opponents. Video coaches will also often watch live from the press box and do analysis in real time, communicating with the coaches on the bench.

If Drinnan’s source is accurate, Cooper will be the youngest coach on the Canucks staff at 36, but he does come with at least one impressive line on his resume: he was the video coach for the gold-medal winning 2010 Canadian Olympic team.

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