I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Colorado Avalanche, April 10, 2014

The last time we saw the Canucks, they were fighting for their playoff lives versus the Anaheim Ducks. (Not that they seemed to know it. It’s like they don’t even read the papers. Typical millennials.) It didn’t go well, and they were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, making Thursday’s tilt with the Avalanche their first truly meaningless game of the year.

At first, I thought it was going to be impossible to get up for this game, meaningless as it was. But then I remembered life is meaningless, and I find reasons to get up for that every day. By rewarding myself with a bagel, I watched this game.

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Hear James Duthie’s story of arrogant Gillis, Canucks during 2011 Final

There were many in the hockey media that didn’t care for Mike Gillis, so there was no shortage of childish grave-dancing when the Canucks GM and Team President was dismissed from both roles on Tuesday. “Mike Gillis, the smartest man in the room, is no longer in the room,” tweeted Steve Simmons (who’s on a pretty torrid losing streak these days, so you can understand why he might need to kick a man while he’s down).

But Simmons isn’t the only one suggesting Gillis was a pretty arrogant guy. Wednesday on TSN radio, James Duthie was asked, simply, “What do you think Gillis’s deal was?” In response, he shared a story of true Gillisian hubris from the 2011 Cup Final.

This is a story that’s been floating around ever since — full disclosure: I’d heard it before too, from someone else who was in the room — but this is the first time it’s been aired publicly, so it’s your chance to get a window into how truly over the Canucks thought the series was when they arrived in Boston. It’s pretty cringe-inducing.

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Stick in Link: Mike Gillis got fired; who’s next?

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 respond to the cries of their angriest fans, fire Mike Gillis

Late in the third period of Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, with the Canucks just licking the metaphorical stamp on their mail-in of a game that would have kept their playoff hopes alive, the fans in Rogers Arena erupted in the loudest chant we’ve heard from them in years.

“Fire Gillis!” they shouted.

Less than 12 hours later, Canucks’ ownership has caved to their demands. Mike Gillis has been relieved as both President and GM of the Vancouver Canucks.

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Don’t hire Trevor Linden as Canucks team president; hire Mark Messier

There was a time that the people of Edmonton loved Kevin Lowe, and for good reason. Lowe’s first stint with the Oilers lasted 13 seasons, during which time he helped lead the team to five Stanley Cups. He was a member of the Oilers during their best times — the years the fan still look on with the most fondness.

Lowe was traded to the New York Rangers in 1992, but he returned to the Oilers in 1996, playing his final two years in front of the fans that loved him most, then retired in 1998 after being sidelined with an inner-ear issue that was affecting his balance.

It was hardly the end of Lowe’s time with in Edmonton. He retired straight into coaching, taking a job as an Oilers assistant coach the same year he retired. A year later, he was the head coach, and a year after that, he was promoted to General Manager. Eight years after that, with fans calling for his head after assembling a team capable of winning little else but the draft lottery, he was promoted instead to President of Hockey Operations.

In Edmonton, Kevin Lowe is now all but despised.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, April 5, 2014

The last time the Canucks saw the Kings, they skated away with a moral two points, and an actual zero points, losing the game but punching a bunch of people — which, in the minds of many hockey fans, is the margarine to victory’s butter. This time around, however, no one had to settle for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Winning!, as the Canucks actually managed to score more goals than the Kings, which signifies the sort of triumph that actually affects the standings.

In so doing, the Canucks also staved off their inevitable mathematical elimination from the playoff race, so they also beat math. That’s hard to do. Many members of the Toronto hockey media have been trying to do that for years, with limited success. (Often, these individuals will ask: do you even watch the games? The answer, on this night, at least, is yes. I watched this game.)

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This guy or this other guy: John Tortorella or Mike Gillis?

Many saw Mike Gillis’s layered and intriguing comments during Thursday morning’s Team 1040 radio interview as an ultimatum of sorts, directed either at Francesco Aquilini — either my way, or John Tortorella’s way, some suggested he was implying — or at the coach himself (in which case, swap “Tortorella’s way” for “the highway”).

There’s definitely some merit to this reading. “When you have an entire team’s level of performance drop off there has to be reasons for it,” Gillis said, before pointing to reasons that seemed systematic. He talked about the team getting away from the way he wanted them to play — the way he built them to play. He referenced the change in Alain Vigneault’s coaching style when the new GM arrived on the scene six years ago, implying that a similar adjustment was necessary here.

Ray Ferraro felt Gillis was drawing a line in sand. Via the Vancouver Sun:

“That is as big a distancing from the coach as I’ve seen,” Ferraro said in an interview Thursday. “That’s pushing you to that side of the room and I’m on this side of the room and whoever is making the decision upstairs, you’ve got one or the other.

“I see it as totally unlikely that both are gone and totally unlikely that both are back.”

Thus, it’s one or the other. Gillis or Tortorella? That’s a tough call for Canucks’ ownership, and one that shouldn’t be made alone. So we’ve decided to pitch in and help, with another edition of This Guy or This Other Guy?

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New Van Fan, Season 2: Canucks fan support group

With the Vancouver Canucks’ season wrapping up, so too is another season of New Van Fan, our favourite webseries about Canucks fans trying to maintain their sanity while cheering for this wonderful but infuriating hockey team.

That’s most certainly the theme of the finale, as Dan and Andreas form a support group to help them cope with the events of this season, and in so doing, realize that they’ve experienced all five stages of grief and death this season, from denial (the moral victory versus the Kings), to acceptance, which comes during the collapse to the Islanders.

“Seven goals in the third period,” says the third member of the support group. “Saw that one coming.”

Watch and laugh, and be sure to subscribe to an excellent and underappreciated show.

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Mike Gillis dodges question on retaining Tortorella: ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be back next season’

You knew the question was coming. When the Team 1040 announced that Mike Gillis would be joining Jake Edwards and Dave Pratt for a segment on the morning show, Canucks fans tuned in — given a rare reason to do so — to hear either Edwards or Pratt ask the big ask: Will John Tortorella be back next season?

It’s an almost impossible question to answer about a coach on the hot seat. Gillis isn’t going to say “absolutely not, I fired his ass, just now, he’s done, I’m watching him clean out his desk right now.” So he’s left with just two options. He could say “no comment”, a response listeners will only hear the first half of; or he could say “yes he will, I have the utmost faith in John’s ability to do the job,” or something to that effect. And, as longtime hockey fans will tell you, the vote of confidence is often the kiss of death.
But this isn’t Mike Gillis’s first rodeo. He’s always excelled at giving lawyerly answers to difficult questions (it’s probably that law background), and his response to this one was among his best.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be back next season.”

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Cody Hodgson update: he’s still bad at defending, so now he’s a winger

One of the main reasons that Cody Hodgson pushed for a move out of Vancouver was the Canucks’ depth chart. A natural centre on a team with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, Hodgson wasn’t pleased with the idea of playing second fiddle. Well, third fiddle. (He didn’t really fit there anyway, since that role is for more of a checking fiddler.)

And so, at the 2012 trade deadline, Hodgson got his wish, and was moved to the Buffalo Sabres, whose depth chart made a mockery of the term. At the time, they were using under-sized converted winger Tyler Ennis as their first line centre.

Surely, there would be no one impeding Hodgson’s ascension to the middle of Buffalo’s first line.

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The Week Ahead: Oh great, more games against California teams

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?

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Stick in Link: Vigneault returns; Larry Brooks still grinding that axe

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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Horrible Bruins fan offers Iginla jersey, Centre Ice, to Canucks fan willing to switch allegiances

The Canucks have been a tough club to cheer for this season. They keep losing, which is annoying, but more than that, they keep losing in fabulous and fantastic ways. Heck, just looking at the season series versus Anaheim, there’s enough material for a reasonable person to look at this team and say “nuts to this”. A 9-1 loss. A 5-1 loss with their playoff lives on the line. A 4-3 overtime loss in a game Vancouver led 3-2 inside the final two minutes. It’s disheartening.

(Almost literally. Watching Vancouver this year has been like going toe-to-toe with Mola Ram, the disheartener himself.)

And if you’ve had enough, one Boston Bruins fan (presumably Satan himself) is offering you a way out. And all you have to do is give him your soul. (Seriously, this is what Satan would do.)

Your fan soul, anyway. Fork it over to this guy by way of a Youtube video denouncing the Canucks and joining Bruins nation instead, and in exchange, you’ll get a free Jarome Iginla jersey and a season of Centre Ice or Game Center Live.

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Big Numbers: Canucks vs. California, Edler chasing Ovechkin

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, March 29, 2014

Hey, remember the Northwest? Back in the day, the Canucks were the lone bright spot in a division so hapless — yes, so utterly devoid of haps — that it would occasionally spit out freebies, like a malfunctioning vending machine. They’d waltz into Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary, or Edmonton, and before they could even hit the ice: instant win. The Division would belch out a couple points, and the team would add them to the pile and head home.

I know the Canucks haven’t forgotten, because they’ve spent most of this season doing their best to keep the spirit of the Northwest alive and well in the new-look Pacific. Of course, since their role — the dominant team snatching up all the easy wins — has been split among the California teams, they’ve really had no choice but to settle in as one of the bottom-feeders handing out free points.

It suddenly dawned on me that the Canucks have become last year’s Colorado Avalanche when I watched this game.

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Alex Burrows suffers rare legal headshot, chips tooth eating granola bar, is the most cursed you can be

How cursed is Alex Burrows? Let us count the ways.

In his first game, he broke his ankle blocking a shot. He missed four weeks. Shortly after returning, he broke his jaw blocking a shot from a teammate — the muffin man Chris Tanev, at that. He missed six weeks. In a fight with Phil Kessel, which is the hockey equivalent of letting your cat go to town on your sleeve, Burrows sprained his hand.

And while all this is going on, Burrows can’t score. Tom Sestito scores five times. Zac Dalpe scores four. Down in Phoenix, a goalie scores. Meanwhile, Burrows can’t buy one.

Then, finally, when he does, scoring two in one game then three more in his next three, he suffers yet another injury after Shea Weber nearly chops his thumb off on a slash. And in his first game back from that ordeal, Wednesday night in Minnesota, the hockey gods decide he hasn’t had enough yet, and subject him to the rare, legal headshot:

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Stick in Link: The Desolation of Luongo; Alex Burrows on the quiet room

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 Minnesota Wild, March 26, 2014

The Vancouver Canucks hit the ice in Minnesota Wednesday night hoping to accomplish three things: win their third game in a row for the first time in 2014, prevent the Wild from sweeping the season series for the first time ever and, in so doing, upgrade their scant playoff hopes from “LMAO never gonna happen” to “LOL doubt it”.

These are depressing goals. Fortunately, this game was far from depressing, as the Canucks accomplished all of their goals, and even scored five in the process, the first time they’ve tallied five regulation goals since they beat Boston in mid-December. Like that game, the catalyst for the scoring outburst was David Booth, who appears as at home versus the Wild as he does in it. Like Booth perched in a bush, quietly loading his crossbow for the kill, I watched this game.

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Guest Post: ‘Best Canucks season ever’, says Ryan Lambert, of his own free will

All anyone has heard these last few months about the Vancouver Canucks is that this season has been a catastrophic failure. They say there are a lot of reasons why.

The team loses a lot, for one thing. And you’d have to say that’s probably a pretty big one because losing 1) sucks, and 2) is something to which this team has lately grown unaccustomed. The Canucks used to win their division a lot, you know? Like a LOT a lot. Won two Presidents’ Trophies too. Went to a Stanley Cup Final. Went to Game 7 in it, in fact. So yeah, the losing hurts.

Then there’s the mismanagement, they say. Alain Vigneault fired. John Tortorella hired. Trades that have ostensibly brought the team lower than it has been in years with little hope of significant improvement ahead. At least, not so significant that the team seems poised to return to the glory days any time soon.

Especially because of realignment, they say. Before the Canucks could expect a spate of games against Colorado and Calgary and Edmonton and Minnesota. Lots of easy Ws in there for sure. But now they’re sharing a division with Los Angeles and San Jose and Phoenix and Anaheim, and even with Calgary and Edmonton still mixed in there (and still awful) things are really not even close to being quite so rosy as they used to be. Not that they’re going to get better, either, since re-realignment doesn’t seem like it’s going to be on the table any time soon.

To these naysayers, I reply, “You obviously haven’t been paying attention.” This has been, in point of fact, the best Canucks season ever.

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The Week Ahead: One last back-to-back, and the return of Alain Vigneault

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?

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The Paper Feature: All aboard the Miracle Express, the Canucks are making the playoffs

Looking at the standings, at the odds, at the team’s injury list, which currently includes Henrik Sedin (again), Chris Tanev (again), and Alex Burrows (again), and even looking at the schedule’s final stretch, which the team would basically have to sweep to even have a puncher’s chance, it’s pretty much impossible at this point to ignore the obvious:

The Canucks are poised for a miracle run. That’s right. I said it.

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Stick in Link: Henrik Sedin injured again, proving this season is super cursed

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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Big Numbers: Canucks not totally dead, just mostly, with nine games remaining

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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Eddie Lack asks ‘Do You Wanna Have a Goalie Fight?’ in amazing Frozen parody

If Roberto Luongo’s trade to the Florida Panthers was the final chapter in his incredible saga in Vancouver, the following week’s visit from his old team, now led by Eddie Lack, was a fitting epilogue. It even got the sort of dramatics that we’ve come to expect from this tale, with the whole thing culminating in a shootout.

But to hear Lack tell it, he wanted more dramatics. “I challenged him to a goalie fight when we chatted before the game but he didn’t want to go,” said the Swedish netminder.

Over on Reddit, that got people talking. Not about who would win such a fight, mind you, but about what it would sound like if Lack didn’t just ask the question — he sang it, like Anna asking Elsa “Do you wanna build a snowman?” in Disney’s Frozen.

From there, lyrics were written. And then the thing was recorded by Redditor heyheymse, and honestly, she killed it. It’s amazing and hilarious. Fair warning that it also gets a little NSFW for strong language in the second verse.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Buffalo Sabres, March 23, 2014

By defeating the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks put themselves in an incredible position. Maybe not a position to make the playoffs, mind you — the 2013-14 Canucks have more modest goals right now — but with that victory, the Canucks were poised to string together their longest win streak in over two months: two games, sucka!

All they had to do? Beat the Buffalo Sabres, whose best forward has yet to prove he’s the better end of the one-for-one trade that gave the Canucks Zack Kassian. Now, no offence to Zack Kassian, especially not after the lights-out game he had, but that shouldn’t be difficult, and since it’s proven to be for the Sabres’ best player, beating them at hockey is not. I watched the Canucks go streaking when I watched this game.

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