The Prospector: Joacim Eriksson and the Comets beat the Heat; Dane Fox is good at shooting pucks

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 instalment, Joacim Eriksson is the AHL’s player of the week, the Comets own the Heat, Dane Fox can shoot the puck, Brendan Gaunce is consistent, and vote for Ben Hutton for Hobey Baker.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, January 26, 2014

The big story of the game wasn’t the surprising number of goals or the still-struggling power play. It wasn’t Martin Hanzal, who injured three different Canucks with cross-checks in the last game between these two teams, with all three missing this game — Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli due to the injuries caused by Hanzal, with David Booth a healthy scratch. The big story wasn’t even the sub-par goaltending from two players heading to Sochi for Team Canada.

Nope, the big story was a smudge on the main camera on Sportsnet Pacific’s broadcast that, although it did not obscure view of the play, was impossible to ignore once you noticed it on your own or it was pointed out by someone else. This small annoyance became a big bother as the game progressed, to the point that Sportsnet Pacific felt the need to tweet out during the first intermission that the smudge had been cleaned.

One problem: it hadn’t. The smudge was still there during the second period and wasn’t cleaned until the second intermission. I spent two-thirds of the time dighting the urge to obsessive-compulsively clean my TV as I watched this game.

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Vinny Prospal may sign PTO with Comets, get one last chance to ‘shove it up [Tortorella's] butt’

The Columbus Blue Jackets were not expected to do much last season. They finished last in the Central Division and 13th in the Western Conference in the 2011-12 season and traded franchise forward Rick Nash in the 2012 off-season. The vast majority of analysts expected the Blue Jackets to crash without Nash and compete for the first overall pick in the draft. Instead, they competed for the playoffs and fell just short.

A big reason for the Blue Jackets’ run was Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina for his efforts, but another was the play of 38-year-old Václav “Vinny” Prospal, who lead the team in scoring with 30 points in 48 games.

Now, with his 39th birthday just a few weeks away, Prospal is eyeing a return to the NHL and the Canucks have decided to give him an opportunity, offering him a professional tryout with their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. It’s an interesting move, as Prospal has a long history with Canucks coach John Tortorella in previous stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

That history hasn’t always been a positive one, as the two have butted heads repeatedly over the 7 years they have been together.

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The Week Ahead: Homestand against the Predators, Coyotes, and Oilers

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 a homestand versus three teams below them in the Western Conference.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, January 21, 2014

It’s been nearly a decade since the Canucks played a game without Henrik Sedin in the lineup. Henrik’s ironman streak, the 6th longest in NHL history, was broken on Tuesday against the Oilers and Canucks fans were curious to see how the team would perform without their Art Ross and Hart trophy winning first line centre. Thankfully, they were eased into Henrik’s absence with a game against the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference.

While the Canucks lack of finish kept things close, for the first time in a long while, the Canucks looked like they were fully in control of the direction of a game. Meanwhile, I was fully in control of the direction of my gaze I watched this game.

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Dallas Eakins invokes Bertuzzi/Moore to explain why Oilers didn’t go after Zack Kassian

The Edmonton Oilers don’t like Zack Kassian very much, which isn’t particularly surprising. During a pre-season game, Kassian broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with an errant high stick that many thought was a lot more intentional than careless.

Little to no revenge was had in Kassian’s first game against the Oilers this season. In fact, Kassian got the best of the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding some salt to the wound by mocking Gagner’s face shield, ie. the one he was forced to wear because Kassian broke his jaw.

Unsurprisingly, Oilers fans were out for blood, eager to see someone like Luke Gazdic target Kassian for a little old-school revenge. They didn’t get their wish. Instead, Kassian scored the gamewinning goal.

The Oilers head coach, Dallas Eakins, faced a string of questions related to the Oilers’ physicality and lack of response for Kassian and was eventually pushed to the point he invoked one of the darkest moments in, not just Canucks history, but NHL history.

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Stick in Link: Tortorella and Hartley; Bieksa had ‘a blast’ in line brawl

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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John Tortorella suspended for 15 days for being ‘an embarrassment to the league’

John Tortorella, along with GM Mike Gillis, flew out to New York for an in-person hearing with Colin Campbell on Monday and, unsurprisingly, the NHL slapped Tortorella with a suspension without pay.

The suspension is for 15 days, which covers 6 games. Reportedly, Tortorella is to have no contact with the team during this time, a ban that seems almost entirely impossible to enforce. In any case, the Canucks have two former head coaches as assistants, as both Glen Gulutzan and Mike Sullivan have head coaching experience in the NHL, so the coaching position is in decent hands while Tortorella is out.

What is a little surprising is the language used by Campbell when talking about Tortorella’s actions.

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David Booth hunts for humanity, tweets scripture with many possible interpretations

There are two things about David Booth’s life off the ice that everyone knows: he’s a hunter and he’s a Christian. Booth hasn’t exactly been quiet about either aspects of his personal life, which has rubbed some Canucks fans the wrong way, making him the most controversial player on the Canucks roster. That’s before you even consider his on-ice performance, which hasn’t lived up to his contract.

On Sunday, however, Booth combined his love of hunting with his Christian charity in a way that is hard to dislike. He and the unfortunately-named charity Hunting for Humanity hosted a free meal for over 1000 people on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where they served all wild game. The meal consisted of moose hotdogs, venison stew, and duck chili, with all the meat provide by BC hunters.

Leading up the event, Booth tweeted a passage from the Bible that was likely referring to the Hunting for Humanity event.

Thing is, the Bible is frequently misinterpreted and Booth provided no context whatsoever for his tweet, so he could have been referring to almost anything.

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Henrik Sedin will miss Tuesday’s game, iron man streak ends at 679 games

One of the most impressive aspects of Henrik Sedin’s career is his durability. When you consider the abuse the Sedins regularly take from defencemen, it’s truly remarkable how he has avoided injury in his career. Unlike his brother, who missed 18 games with a broken foot in 2009-10 and a few other games here or there with minor injuries, Henrik hasn’t missed a game since 2004, when he missed 4 games with an abdominal strain.

Henrik has played 679 straight regular season games, second only to Jay Bouwmeester among active ironman streaks. When you include his 75 playoff games in that time, he easily passes Bouwmeester, making his streak even more impressive.

Unfortunately, it will come to an end this week, as he will be held out of Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

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Big Numbers: penalty minutes, line brawls, and the shootout

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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15 ways the Canucks’ 9-1 loss to the Ducks could have been worse

Let’s face it, the Canucks’ 9-1 loss to the Ducks was absolutely awful and stands as one of the most lopsided defeats in franchise history. But, as bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse.

You might be asking, “How can that be possible?” Well, hypothetical person, you should just be patient and read the rest of this post. You should have figured out from that lede and the title of this post that we here at Pass it to Bulis were about to offer a list of ways the game could have been worse.

Here are 15 things that could have taken the game against the Ducks from awful to worse-than-craisins.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, January 15, 2014

This was an epic disaster. How bad was it? Imagine the movie 2012 as a hockey game. It was like that. A good ensemble cast and a big budget sunk by mind-numbing stupidity.

But here’s the thing — and this won’t be a popular or even understandable opinion — I don’t think the Canucks were that bad in this game. I won’t try to tell you that the Canucks played well, by any means, though there were some good performances hidden in the mire, but the 9-1 score makes the game look a lot worse than it actually was.

The other point of view would be that the 9-1 score is what that game actually was, but that just sounds confusing. Is what it was? That’s just mixing tenses, which doesn’t make any sense. Don’t be daft. I watched this game.

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The Paper Feature: 14 ways for Alex Burrows to bump the slump once he returns

This article was originally written at the beginning of December and ended with the following convoluted way for Alex Burrows to bust out of the slump he was currently mired in: “Get a writer to pen an article about your scoring slump on Monday that is set to publish Wednesday when you have a game on Tuesday, thereby tempting fate and ensuring a goal on Tuesday.”

The article was written on December 2nd and was going to be published on December 4th. That last joke was just a way to hedge my bets in case I jinxed myself by writing an article about a scoring slump that could have ended before the article was published. Instead, I jinxed Alex Burrows, who had his jaw broken by an errant clearing attempt by Chris Tanev in the middle of the second period.

I thought there was no way for Burrows’ season to get any unluckier, considering he had taken 49 shots without scoring a single goal. He proved me wrong. Now we’re 47 games into the Canucks’ season and Alex Burrows has yet to score a single goal.

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Stick in Link: Moral victories, multiple penalties, and Hansen babies

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, January 13, 2014

The big story heading into this game is how the Canucks would respond in their first game against the Los Angeles Kings since Dustin Brown injured Roberto Luongo. I wondered, personally, if the fans were out for more blood than the Canucks themselves, that, perhaps, the Canucks would be more focussed on winning the game (and passing the Kings in the Pacific Division standings), than exacting retribution.

Not so much.

It was clear right from puck drop that this game was about sending a message and establishing an identity as a team that stands up for their teammates, won’t be bullied by physical play, and is difficult to play against. Not a single guff was taken in this game; all guffs remained the possession of their original owners.

Really, it was hardly a hockey game at all. It was an absurd spectacle and a thoroughly entertaining one. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I watched this “game”.

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Watch Bo Horvat undress a defenceman to score a gorgeous highlight reel goal [VIDEO]

Despite the disappointment of falling short at the World Junior tournament, Bo Horvat is still having an incredible season. The Canucks’ 9th overall pick in the 2013 draft is racking up points while continuing his strong defensive play, doing his best to justify the high price paid to draft him.

With 47 points in 31 games, Horvat is 10th in the OHL in points-per-game, establishing himself as one of Canada’s best junior players. He combines elite defensive play with good offensive instincts, but what has been most eye-catching about Horvat is is hands, which are far silkier than his initial scouting reports indicated.

Horvat has a devastating toe drag as well as quick hands in traffic, but his move on Sunday against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is simply unreal.

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Surprising moments, breakout stars, and awesome gifs from Canucks Superskills

Saturday afternoon was the annual Canucks for Kids Fund SuperSkills event at Rogers Arena, which gave the Canucks a chance to get loose and relax for a little while before heading out on the road on Monday. As always, it was a great event for families and kids, who got a chance to see their hockey heroes up close and personal, without the stress of winning a hockey game clouding their interactions.

If you missed the event, but have an hour and 48 minutes to spare, you can watch the entire thing on YouTube right now. Here are the highlights and best moments to look out for.

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Spitballin’ on silver linings and Mark Messier’s regrets

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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Ranking the Canucks call-ups from the Utica Comets

The Canucks have had some injury problems of late, with three defencemen, two forwards, and one goaltender all out of the lineup. Compounding the issue is the performance of Dale Weise and David Booth, who both found their way into John Tortorella’s doghouse, creating more holes.

As a result, we’ve seen a few call-ups from the Utica Comets step in. Discounting Yannick Weber and Zac Dalpe, who both started the season with the Canucks before getting briefly sent down to Utica, there have been six call-ups from the farm this season. How have they done and how likely are they to get another call-up down the road?

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Stick in Link: Canucks need Burrows back; Kassian should be a perimeter player

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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The Week Ahead: The Blues and the Kings, and I don’t mean B.B. and Albert

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 Blues and the Kings.

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Dan Hamhuis, Ronalds Kenins, lead Canuck players going to Sochi; also, Luongo

The big news Tuesday is that the Canucks will have more representation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi than just Yannick Weber, who was named to Team Switzerland on Monday. Joining him will be prospect Ronalds Ķēniņš, who the Canucks signed out after their summer development camp. The 22-year-old Ķēniņš was named to Team Latvia after a strong performance for the national team in Olympic qualifying, scoring 2 points in 3 games.

Latvia will feature just one current NHL player in Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons, but will also have the 41-year-old Latvian legend Sandis Ozolinsh on defence, who came out of retirement specifically to help Latvia qualify for the Olympics last February. Ķēniņš has played for Team Latvia at three World Championships, as well as twice at the World Juniors, so he has plenty of international experience.

Weber and Ķēniņš will face each other in Group C, with both Switzerland and Latvia long shots to move on to the second round, so we may not have a Canucks representative in the Olympics for very long.

Oh, right, except for Dan Hamhuis, who was named to Team Canada. And Roberto Luongo. And the Sedins and Alexander Edler. And Ryan Kesler, who overcame a changed phone number to eventually get the call for Team USA. Wait, is there anyone on the Canucks who didn’t make the Olympics?

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Big Numbers: Giving up shots and making saves; also, Tom Sestito isn’t awful

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 Harrison’s hockey-themed parody of R. Kelly’s ‘Genius’ with ‘Ex-Head Coach’ [VIDEO]

With a few exceptions — a smouldering Dallas Eakins comes to mind — hockey head coaches typically aren’t all that sexy. But maybe, just maybe, the clichés they spout during press conferences and interviews can be, if the slow jam is just slow enough and possesses just the right amount of jam.

To that end, we present “Ex-Head Coach”, Harrison’s absurd, hockey-themed parody of R. Kelly’s super gross “Genius”. Harrison changed all the lyrics and kept all the gross.

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