PITB bids farewell to the Vancouver Sun

A little over four years ago, Harrison and I brought Pass it to Bulis to the Vancouver Sun. As of today, our partnership with the Sun has come to an end. The newspaper industry is going through a great deal of change. Until now, that’s been a good thing for us. This time it wasn’t. [...]

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Canucks trade Eddie Lack, use 3rd round pick on Guillaume Brisebois

Jim Benning wasn’t able to get a second round pick out of trading Eddie Lack and had to settle for a third round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes and a seventh round pick next year. It’s an underwhelming return for a fan favourite, but what’s done is done. Lack is gone, off to the Eastern Conference to backstop a team that desperately needed an upgrade in goal.

With that third round pick, the Canucks selected Guillaume Brisebois at 66th overall. It won’t be a popular pick in many circles, as Brisebois is a defensive defenceman who didn’t put up points in his draft year, but it’s an intriguing pick for a number of reasons.

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The PITB 2015 NHL Entry Draft Live Blog Extravaganza: Day 2

We expected a lot more action out of Trader Jim and the Canucks on Friday during the first round of the draft. Kevin Bieksa apparently came inches away from being traded to the San Jose Sharks. Either Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom was going to be traded for a first round pick, a third round pick, and a 2-for-1 Subway coupon. The Canucks were going to package the 23rd overall pick with a nice gift basket full of decorative soaps and novelty bottles of maple syrup to move up in the draft.

None of that happened.

This means that the Canucks enter the second day of the entry draft with no selections in the second and third round. Don’t expect that to last, however. All the action that was denied us on Friday should unfurl today. It means no first round picks in exchange for any of the players Benning ships out, but that doesn’t mean the Canucks won’t get a good return in whatever trades occur. It just probably means they won’t get a good return.

As per usual, PITB is here to live blog the whole thing. Unlike yesterday, we won’t be keeping track of every pick from every team: day two of the draft always moves too fast for that. Instead, we’ll stick to covering the Canucks’ moves and only comment on other happenings if they’re too outrageous to avoid.

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Canucks select winger Brock Boeser with 23rd pick

Several teams reached with their first round picks, allowing some talented kids to slide down the draft board to where the Canucks were picking. The Canucks could have had undersized forwards Nick Merkley or Travis Konecny. They could have gone with a top scorer in the WHL like Paul Bittner or Jansen Harkins. They also had the option of selecting a high-end defenceman in Oliver Kylington or Jeremy Roy.

Instead, the Canucks chose a goalscoring winger out of the USHL: Brock Boeser. You’re going to hear a lot, I’m guessing, about some of the tough things Boeser has gone through off the ice, but who is Brock Boeser when he’s on the ice?

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The PITB 2015 NHL Entry Draft Live Blog Extravaganza!

This could be a crazy day for Canucks fans. Jim Benning has just one pick in the first three rounds of the draft, holding only the 23rd overall pick. He also has assets to move, like one of his three goaltenders or, more realistically, one of his two young, Swedish goaltenders. We could also see the exit of longtime PITB favourite, Kevin Bieksa. After that, who knows? Will Chris Higgins be traded? Jannik Hansen? Dan Hamhuis? Frank Corrado?

PITB will be on hand for the whole thing. The live blog will kick off in earnest closer to the start of the draft, around 4 pm Pacific, but there’s already things happening in the hockey world, so we’ll get things started a little early.

Follow along and refresh often.

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The case for Ryan Miller

Jim Benning has made it very clear over the past week that he has no intention of trading Ryan Miller, believing that he can still perform as a number one goaltender and be a mentor to younger goaltenders in the Canucks’ system.

That unfortunately means that either Jacob Markstrom or Eddie Lack will be traded, with Lack the most likely candidate. All reports, rumours, and common sense suggest that Lack will be traded at the draft on Friday or Saturday, with Benning hoping to recoup some of the draft picks lost in trades. With reports suggesting that the New York Rangers rejected an offer of two 2nd round picks for Cam Talbot, the market is right for Benning to get a good deal for Lack.

Lack is a rare commodity in Vancouver: a well-liked goaltender. Even those who don’t think much of his ability have to admit that he’s an incredibly likeable guy. On top of that, he’s in his prime and could be a solid number one goaltender for many years to come. Trading him won’t be a popular move in Vancouver: just look at the petition making the rounds to keep him.

Meanwhile, Miller is on the downside of his career, with declining numbers. After all, Lack outperformed Miller this past season, putting up a save percentage 10 points higher than Miller’s and posting a lower goals against average. While this is true, however, those numbers don’t seem to tell the whole story.

There are legitimate reasons to believe that Miller will be better than Lack next season and could be in for an elite year in 2015-16.

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Canucks get gritty, re-sign Ronalds Kenins and Alex Friesen

With the NHL Entry Draft just a few days away and free agency opening up a few days after that, Jim Benning has a lot on his plate. He made some room on that plate over the weekend for a couple of contract negotiations, however, re-signing two restricted free agents on Monday: Ronalds Kenins and Alex Friesen.

One of those RFAs is well-known to Canucks fans after he came out of nowhere last season to play a key third-line role. The other has largely been forgotten, but has slowly grown into an essential player for the Utica Comets. The two 24-year-olds are just a month apart in age, but have taken very different paths in their hockey careers.

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Who do the experts have ranked 23rd overall in the 2015 NHL draft?

We are less than a week away from the NHL Entry Draft, with Round 1 taking place on June 26th in Sunrise, Florida. Jim Benning is expected to be busy, since the Canucks don’t have a second or third round pick in what is expected to be a deep draft and also lack a seventh round pick. The Canucks are likely to trade either Jacob Markstrom or Eddie Lack at the draft and have several veterans who could also be on the trade block.

It’s also entirely possible that the Canucks won’t be content to stay where they are in the first round and could put together a package to move up in the draft. As it is, however, they have the 23rd pick. The last time the Canucks picked 23rd overall, they got Ryan Kesler. Will they be able to find that kind of impact player again or will they end up with someone like Nathan Smith, picked at 23rd overall in 2000?

Let’s take a look at some of their options by seeing who various draft experts have ranked at 23rd overall, which should give us a fairly good idea of who will be available at that time in the draft.

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PITB chats with Kyle Wellwood about connecting with Vancouver and ‘being different’

On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Aldergrove, Kyle Wellwood suited up with fellow Canucks alumni Cliff Ronning and Garth Butcher and some other local celebrities to play a game for charity. Only, the game wasn’t hockey. It was slo-pitch softball.

The team was put together by Andy Bhatti, the president and founder of Survivors Helping Survivors, a non-profit dedicated to helping survivors of childhood victimization. Bhatti entered the team in Aldergrove’s annual co-ed slo-pitch tournament last weekend to help raise awareness of sexual abuse and to raise money for Sophie’s Place, the child advocacy centre in Surrey that specializes in helping abused children. The team took donations, ran a silent auction, and signed autographs, while also finding time to play.

PITB caught up with Wellwood at the tournament and saw his team’s first game, where Wellwood was the clear MVP, out-classing the other Canucks alumni at the plate with a couple big hits (the less said about Butcher’s at-bats, the better) and making multiple catches out in left field.

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Racing the goats: Jim Benning’s expensive mentors

Racehorses tend to be a little high-strung and skittish. It’s part of their breeding and training: they have to be quick out of the gate, respond swiftly to commands, and are bred to be fast and powerful, rather than friendly and docile.

In order to keep the horses relaxed between races and training, owners will keep goats in the stables to act as companions. For whatever reason, goats have a calming influence in racehorses, with some developing a life long bond.

A couple months ago, it was pointed out on Twitter that NHL general managers seem to do the same thing as horse owners, stabling their star players with goats. The difference, however, is that the goats don’t race alongside the horses: many NHL general managers race the goats.

This metaphor came to mind as I was reading quotes from the Canucks season ticket holder town hall meeting, where it became clear that Jim Benning is one such GM.

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Canucks didn’t see much payoff from AHL affiliate’s last long playoff run

The Utica Comets just went on an inspiring playoff run, pushing all the way to the Calder Cup Finals where they were finally defeated by a powerhouse Manchester Monarchs team. It’s an encouraging sign for the Canucks’ burgeoning prospect pool, giving Canucks fans more hope for the future than they’ve had for a long time.

This isn’t, however, the first time the Canucks’ AHL farm team has made a strong playoff run. In 2009, the Manitoba Moose also made the Calder Cup Finals, falling in 6 games to the Hershey Bears.

The two playoff runs bear some strong similarities, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the Canucks. In fact, not a single player from the Moose’s 2009 playoff run is currently in the Canucks’ organization.

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The Prospector: Comets season ends on a down note, but spirits remain high

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 wrap up the Comets playoff run and look specifically at Nicklas Jensen, Alexandre Grenier, Adam Clendening, Sven Baertschi, and Travis Green’s usage of Canucks’ prospects.

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The Prospector: Comets down 2-0 in Calder Cup, need more goals

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, it’s all Calder Cup, as we recap the first two games of the Utica Comets series against the Manchester Monarchs and spotlight Sven Baertschi, Alexandre Grenier, Nicklas Jensen, Jacob Markstrom, and Jake Virtanen.

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Stick in Link: Feng shui sinking the Canucks; off-season changes coming

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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How to watch the Utica Comets in the Calder Cup Finals for free

The Utica Comets’ Calder Cup run has been tremendously exciting for Canucks fans, as prospects like Sven Baertschi, Alexandre Grenier, Jacob Markstrom, Brendan Gaunce, and Adam Clendening have played key roles, while 18-year-old Jake Virtanen stepped into the lineup and immediately looked comfortable playing a physical game against older, bigger professional players.

It’s enough to get fans excited to see these prospects in Canucks jerseys in the near future. If only it were easy to see them in Comets jerseys right now. Fans have had few options for following the Comets playoff run: listening to an online radio stream from Utica or TSN 1410 when they’ve carried the radio broadcast, watching gifs and highlight videos tweeted out from accounts like @WinThaGame, or finding an online video stream of sketchy quality and even sketchier legality.

The other option, of course, is to pay $10.99 per game to watch the Comets on AHL Live, the AHL’s official online streaming service. While I’ve seen people complain about the service many times, I’ve never had any problems with it personally, even if the quality is far from HD. Fans are generally loathe to pay that much for an online stream, however.

Good news for cheapskates: the Calder Cup Finals will be free on AHL Live!

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The Prospector: Cassels wins big, Baertschi gets hatty, Markstrom is massive

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

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Cole Cassels may join Comets for Calder Cup run

It’s been a fairytale final junior season for Cole Cassels. The 20-year-old centre has surpassed every expectation since getting drafted in the third round in 2013. Projected to be a gritty, two-way centre with minimal offensive upside, he stepped up as a first line centre and racked up points, finishing 15th in the OHL with 81 points. Sometimes criticized for over-passing, he scored 30 goals in 54 games.

He followed up his excellent regular season with a stunning playoff performance. His 31 points in 21 playoff games tied with teammate Michael Dal Colle for second in the OHL playoffs behind Connor McDavid’s otherworldly run. In the OHL Finals, however, Cassels went head-to-head with McDavid and came out on top, leading all players with 12 points in the 5-game series.

Then, to top it all off, Cassels helped lead the Oshawa Generals to the Memorial Cup, scoring a goal and adding three assists in their four games while matching up against some of the best players in Junior hockey. An OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup is an impressive way to finish a Junior career.

And Cassels might not even be finished yet. With the Utica Comets going on their own impressive playoff run, Cassels may join them to provide some reinforcement up the middle in the Calder Cup Finals.

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State of the Franchise: Goaltending, where there’s a lot of uncertainty

Last week, we broke down the Canucks depth at forward and defence in order to give you a big picture look at the Canucks situation heading into the craziness of the draft and free agency. That gave us a pretty good idea of what Jim Benning needs to address this off-season: the Canucks have serious depth issues at centre, a glut of right wingers at the NHL level, and too many waiver eligible right-side defencemen.

That leaves just one position to break down: goaltending. Unsurprisingly, the Canucks have a complicated goaltending situation right now, one that could be tricky to navigate this summer.

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Stick in Link: Frog DNA; Jake Virtanen takes on a bigger role in Utica

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. 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: Clutch Cole Cassels, Natural Nicklas Jensen, and Big Jake Virtanen

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, Cole Cassels turns to diamond when the pressure is on, Nicklas Jensen snipes a goal after Jim Benning’s criticisms, and Jake Virtanen crushes a fool.

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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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