Kevin Bieksa makes Team Canada debut with first career captaincy

Kevin Bieksa would prefer not to be in Minsk right now.

He’d far rather be in North America, where the NHL postseason is taking place. But the Canucks didn’t earn a ticket to that ride, leaving Bieksa, along with teammates Alex Burrows and Jason Garrison (and former teammate Cody Hodgson — awkward) available to join Team Canada’s squad at the World Championships in Belarus.

Still, as consolation prizes go, this one has been pretty incredible for Bieksa. He didn’t just get a call to represent Team Canada — he got the call for the first time in his pro career. And on Thursday, he also became the first player with no previous international experience to be named Team Canada’s captain.

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Stick in Link: GM, coach searches ongoing; Dale Weise is killing it right now

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 Wednesday during the offseason. 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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Ten questions about ‘Prehistoric Hockey’, the most insane Canucks video of the year

“Prehistoric Hockey”, an absolutely batcrap insane cartoon in which a Canucks’ blowout at the hands of the Calgary Flames is prevented thanks to the arrival of a hockey-playing dinosaur, has taken the Internet by storm. By storm, I say!

The video is the year-end animation project of a grade 11 student, who posted it to the Canucks subreddit a few days back, and thank goodness, because this thing deserves to be seen. It is, dare I say, a must-watch. What it’s not, however, is a must-understand, because it seems downright impossible to comprehend. All we know is that, if there’s any justice in the world, the kid who made it got an A+++++++++, like Ralphie in The Christmas Story:

Watch and marvel. And then we have some questions.

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John Tortorella is all gone, as Trevor Linden stands alone

On May 1 of last year, the Canucks played their first game of the 2013 postseason. Roberto Luongo was the starting netminder, backed up by Cory Schneider. Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown patrolled the benches. Mike Gillis watched from his suite overhead.

One year later to the day, it’s all gone. Those coaches have long since moved on. No Luongo. No Schneider. No Gillis. No playoffs.

Instead, on May 1 of this year, Trevor Linden sat alone at the podium in the Rogers Arena press room, calmly explaining the decision to relieve John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan of their duties so soon after they arrived that they didn’t even get even a mention in the year-old flashback that opened this piece.

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Stick in Link: The amazing Canuckmobile; Tortorella one and done

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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Three manufactured controversies to pass the time while there’s no news

It’s been all quiet on the Pacific Northwestern front ever since the Canucks’ season ended, which makes sense, for a number of reasons. Trevor Linden still has a lot of reading to do, for one thing, catching up on the six years he spent away from the game. (Any moment now he’s going to get to 2011, at which point one assumes his love of Boston will dissipate in a hurry.)

For another thing, considering the way the year ended, you can understand why the Canucks might want to lay low for awhile, hold up somewhere safe, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. (How’s that for a slice of fried gold?)

But as good as the Canucks inactivity is for those running the show, it’s much less so for those of us running this blog. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing going on. It’s a nightmare.

Fortunately, in times like these, there’s always plan C. The “C” stands for controversy. Let’s create one, and then talk about it like it matters.

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Five potential explanations for why John Tortorella hasn’t been fired yet

The Canucks wasted no time in firing Mike Gillis, showing him the door on April 8, one night after the fans in Rogers Arena called for him to go, and three games prior to the end of the season.

But the team has been a lot slower to make a decision on John Tortorella. It’s now been just under two weeks since the season ended, and we’ve heard nothing regarding what most believe will be his dismissal. Why is that? Here are five possible explanations.

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Stick in Link: Eriksson set to replace Lack at Worlds; Tortorella still in limbo

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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California teams moving AHL affiliations West; will Canucks be enticed?

Last week, the Calgary Flames made like me in my early twenties and declared that they were done with Abbotsford. After five years in the Fraser Valley, the NHL team announced that they were moving their AHL franchise somewhere else.

On the surface, one might say there were about 4000 problems. That’s the number of empty seats the Abbotsford Enterainment and Sports Centre had on a nightly basis, with the Heat drawing just 3000 fans. But really, the primary issue driving Calgary out had less to do with the people of the city, and more to do with where the city was. As I explained in Friday’s blog post, the Heat were basically on an island. With the closest teams thousands of kilometers away, the Flames prospects found themselves in transit far more often than they found themselves in their bed, or in their home arena, practicing. Turning a kid into a pro takes time, and the lengthy trips took too much of it away.

This is the same issue the Canucks would face if they were to immediately move their prospects to Abbotsford. Sure, the parent club is a bus ride away, but the Comets wouldn’t be playing the parent club. They’d still be playing mostly East Coast teams. It’s so bad that the AHL’s “Western Division” includes three teams from Texas, and one team from North Carolina.

But all that is about to change. According to a report from Mayor’s Manor, the AHL is preparing a landmark shift, with five or six Western teams planning to move their prospects into Western markets:

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If Flames can’t stand the Heat, Canucks should stay out of Abbotsford

While the Vancouver Canucks lost a great deal more than they won in 2013-14, they did at least manage to close out their season with two wins over the Calgary Flames.

The first came in their final game of the season, a mean-nothing 5-1 shellacking of their Western Canadian rivals. The second came two days later, when the Flames announced that they would be pulling up the stakes on their AHL franchise, the Abbotsford Heat, in search of greener pastures. (Although one wonders if they’ll ever be able to squeeze more green out of a municipality than they did out of Abbotsford. Add the $5.5 million the city paid to terminate the Heat’s contract to the $7.2 million they paid in shortfall over the past five years, and you have an absurd $12.7 million in taxpayer money going to a pro sports franchise valued at $420 million.)

But while Abbotsford lost, the Canucks achieved yet another moral victory with this announcement. Last summer, Canucks ownership tried their hardest to get the newly-purchased Peoria Rivermen into the Fraser Valley, but the Flames wouldn’t budge without some serious greasing. Knowing Vancouver was poised to make a killing in a market they were just killing, they wanted big money from the Canucks to vacate Abbotsford, and the Canucks weren’t willing to pay it out.

In the end, the Canucks started bluffing that they might go to New York instead. The Flames called their bluff. And the Canucks went. Hello, Utica Comets.

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Stick in Link: Comets eliminated from postseason; Dale Weise, playoff hero

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: Worst offensive season ever; Kassian’s strong finish

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. Calgary Flames, April 13, 2014

Nothing went Vancouver’s way in the 2013-14 season. Not a damn thing. So it was a nice change of pace when Canucks jumped out to a 4-0 lead versus the Calgary Flames, with the Sedins looking like their old selves, Frank Corrado scoring his first career goal, and the team appearing to be on the verge of ending the failed campaign on a rare high note.

But it was short-lived. Late in the second, as Daniel Sedin and Paul Byron went into the corner, the high note morphed into a series of high notes — the ones that play when Janet Leigh is getting stabbed a bunch in Psycho. Then Daniel was stretchered off and taken to hospital. I witnessed one final horror in a season stuffed with them when I watched this game.

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What was the Canucks’ lowest point of the season?

Way back at the end of November in this very space, I marvelled at the Canucks’ terrible six-game homestand, an unfortunate stretch in which they played host to the Sharks, Stars, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Kings, and came away with a 1-2-3 record, thanks largely to their inability to close out games.

I dubbed this “masterpiece of tragicomic theatre” their worst homestand ever, and elsewhere, I speculated that, at year’s end, we would look back on it as the low point of the Canucks’ season.

In the parlance of today’s youth: ROFLMAO. I am a buffoon. Five months later, I am confident that this homestand was far from the Challenger Deep of this terrible, god-forsaken year. Heck, it may not even be in the top five. Here are the other candidates, in chronological order:

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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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