Paper Feature: Six ways to get through to Zack Kassian

This was supposed to be Zack Kassian’s breakout season. He started to put it all together at the end of last season, rattling off 10 points in 10 games as the Canucks played out the stretch, and the battle for a second line spot was wide open heading into training camp. It was hoped that Kassian would take hold of the opportunity, impress his new head coach and general manager, and be a consistent second line presence in the lineup.

Regrettably, it hasn’t panned out. While he’s shown flashes of the player he could be, he hasn’t been consistent enough to earn Willie Desjardins’ trust, and has spent most of the season on the third or fourth line. At least, that’s where he’s played when he’s been in the lineup.

Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks was Kassian’s third straight game in the press box as a healthy scratch and it’s become a familiar place for him. Understandably, he’s been frustrated and confused, as he had a strong game against Buffalo just prior to this string of scratches and has been a lot better this season than his detractors might think.

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The Paper Feature: Seven ways to improve the experience at Canucks home games

Talk to any number of Vancouver Canucks fans about the in-game experience at Rogers Arena and you’re going to hear a few things more than once: “Funny, I forgot all about the option of attending a game live,” many will say. “I quite enjoy doing the wave,” others will add, infuriatingly. And others still will not hesitate to tell you the live experience is too “corporate”.

I don’t agree at all. Have you ever been to a corporate event? Those people know how to party.

The folks hosting Vancouver Canucks games, on the other hand, do not. As attendance continues to dip, even after several changes this summer, many are beginning to wonder if there aren’t ways to make Rogers Arena a more desirable place to visit on game nights.

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The Paper Feature: Seven surefire ways to fix what ails the Canucks

It goes without saying that the Vancouver Canucks have been crummy for a while now, but since it’s my job, I’ll say it anyway: crummy, crummy, crummy. Wednesday night’s loss to the Dallas Stars pushed the club’s losing streak to five games, and left the club scrambling for answers.

And we have them. With two games remaining before the Christmas break and the swing through California that will immediately follow, it’s imperative the Canucks gets things turned around immediately, and we have a few suggestions that should help them to do just that. Admittedly, we’re hardly experts here, but I think even the most experienced hockey mind will be able to see that our ideas will lead this team back to the path they were on to start the season.

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The Paper Feature: Christmas gift ideas for the Canuck in your life

You have likely already started your Christmas shopping — in fact, you may be almost done — but we all have that one hard-to-shop-for person in our lives. For some of us, it’s that one uncle with ever-changing tastes or a sister who seems to have no discernible hobbies or interests. For others, it’s a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

We can all relate to that, right? What do you get for the man who has everything, including the adoration of hordes of hockey fans and a multi-million dollar contract? Don’t worry, PITB is here for you, with gift ideas for the Canuck on your list.

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Seven forwards who could come out of the lineup to make room for Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows’ three-game suspension is over, and the Canuck winger is set to return Thursday night in San Jose. But this poses a problem: in order for Burrows to come in, someone is going to have to come out, and with the way the Canucks are clicking, especially after Tuesday night in Colorado, it’s tough to justify any subtractions from their current group of 12.

Sometimes it’s easy. For instance, if you’re feeling frugal this Christmas, spare your love the ten lords a-leaping. No one needs that many jumpy landowners. And it was pretty clear that Judas was the disciple that needed to go. But this duodecad is proving more difficult to trim down. Who comes out? Shawn Matthias? Matthias, after all, was the name of the disciple that replaced Judas, so he’s a natural odd man out. Jannik Hansen? Most other teams in the NHL are surviving without a Danish player.

Those two would have been the most likely forwards until Tuesday, when both played pivotal roles in the come-from-behind win. Matthias scored his first of the season, and Hansen played his best game of the year, arguably, helping to create the tide-shifting 2-1 goal for Vancouver.

So it’s tough. But in the interest of helping out the coaching staff, I’ve put together a list of seven forwards that could easily be benched, with airtight justifications for each.

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16 surprising facts from the Canucks’ media guide

The Canucks’ media guide is a great tool for writers covering the team, laying out all sorts of information about the team and its history, both important and trivial.

If Nick Bonino scores a hattrick, for instance, a beat reporter can easily find out that it’s the second hattrick of his career, that his first came against the Los Angeles Kings on February 2nd, 2013, and that a good way to liven up his lede about Bonino’s great game would be to mention his love for Luke Bryan and suggest that Bonino could be heard saying, “I Don’t Want This Night to End.”

Most of the information available in the media guide is available elsewhere online, but it’s nice to have it all in one place. It’s also astonishingly comprehensive, listing every player to don a Canucks jersey, along with every draft pick, trade, and team award and record, not to mention every single overtime or shootout game, every penalty shot, and every shutout.

It’s easy to get lost in all the information, but here are some of the most surprising facts that jumped out at me from the 2014-15 Canucks media guide. It made sense, what with Trevor Linden taking over as Team President, to list 16.

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Seven guys who weren’t on the Canucks last year

The Vancouver Canucks promised change this offseason, and true to their word, the 2014-15 roster features a bevy of new faces. A quick glance at the announced opening-day roster yields a number of unfamiliar names.

That in mind, here are seven guys who weren’t on the Canucks last year.

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The Canadian team you cheer for just got a whole lot better overnight

The Vancouver Canucks dropped their seventh straight game on Saturday night, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a game the Canucks led through two periods but, as has become all-too familiar over the recent months, that mattered very little once the third period Canucks hit the ice. The third period Canucks are terrible, just terrible. It makes one wonder if they pass through a magical hallway in the second intermission — one that transforms their very essence into a hapless, crappier essence.

In any case, the loss was their first to the Maple Leafs in over a decade, which one hopes is rock bottom for this team. It’s a nightmare from which we won’t soon wake up.

Actually, that’s not true. It’s real-life. But the next three weeks, with the Canucks off and Team Canada on, are going to be a beautiful dream. Consider: when you went to bed on Saturday night, the team you cheered for was, as they say, a poop spectacle. But when you woke up Sunday morning, you, like Roberto Luongo, had a new team, with no problems!

Let’s take a look at the Canucks’ problems, and the ways in which they’ve been addressed.

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After moral victories, 20 other victories the struggling Canucks could enjoy

When the Canucks lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings back in mid-January, they didn’t seem all that worried about the score. They felt they had accomplished something more important in establishing a physical identity and standing up for each other as a team.

It was a moral victory.

The only problem is that they didn’t follow up that moral victory with actual victories — the type that show up under the W column in the standings. Since there’s no M column for Moral Victories in the NHL standings, the Canucks have slid down to the second wild card spot and are close to sliding right out of the playoff picture altogether.

If the Canucks can’t manage actual victories, they should at least try to get something other than moral victories, so here are 20 other victories they can aim for throughout the rest of the season, with help from PITB’s amazing Twitter followers.

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Other things we can blame on that jersey-throwing Blackhawks fan

As if it wasn’t enough to have to watch the Vancouver Canucks blow a two-goal lead and lose to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, things got even worse for this fanbase when one of us made his way down to the glass and tossed his Canucks jersey onto the ice.

It wouldn’t be the first time this season a fan had done so. Over in Edmonton, it’s happened a few times, and coach Dallas Eakins has been none too pleased about it. He labelled the first fan to do it a quitter. And now it would appear that we have a quitter among us, and a hyperdramatic one that would quit on a team still currently sitting on a playoff spot, at that.

Again I say: it would appear. On first glance. On closer inspection, it wasn’t a Canucks fan at all. It was a Blackhawks fan. We know because he wore his Chicago jersey on the way down.

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The Paper Feature: 10 other veteran players the Canucks should try to sign

Looking to boost their struggling offence and power play, the Canucks came close to signing veteran free agent Vinny Prospal last week. But at the last moment, it all fell through. In the space of 24 hours, the news that last season’s leading scorer in Columbus was a certainty to sign a professional tryout contract with the Utica Comets was replaced by news that the 38-year-old was officially retiring from hockey.

It took just one practice with the Comets for Prospal to decide to hang up his skates. Perhaps he balked at the amount of effort it would take to get back into game shape, or maybe he couldn’t keep pace with the Comets and, knowing that they are last in the AHL’s Western Conference, realized his career was done.

After Prospal made his announcement, it seemed like the Canucks realized that help was not on the way and kickstarted their offence themselves, potting five goals in their next game against the Phoenix Coyotes and, in their enthusiasm, scoring two into their own net as well. Perhaps this is what the Canucks really need: a constant reminder that there is no deus ex machina on the way to save the season.

With that in mind, here are 10 veteran players that the Canucks should come close to signing before not signing at the last moment, providing the team with the inspiration they need.

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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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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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Twelve ways the Canucks can stop Alex Ovechkin from scoring, which is pretty important

While you’d expect a team to be at their worst at the end of a long road trip, the Canucks and their crew of sleep doctors have frequently pointed to the first game after the trip as the truly bad one. The experts have said it; the Canucks have shown it.

The infamous, 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in November of 2010? That was the first home game after five away, and after the debacle, we learned that the sleep doctor had tabbed that contest well in advance of the shellacking as likely the ugliest outing of the year. April 20th of last season, the Canucks returned from another five-game trip to muster an unacceptable 14 shots in a game versus the Detroit Red Wings. They won, unbelievably enough, thanks to Cory Schneider and some luck in the shootout.

That in mind, it will probably take a little more luck for the Canucks to escape Monday night’s visit from the Washington Capitals with both points. After seven games in the East, this one has all the trappings of a bad night out for the boys in blue.

But the Canucks can increase their luck by doing one very important thing: shutting down Alex Ovechkin. It’s easier said than done, of course. The Capitals’ sniper has 32 goals in his last 32 games, 15 more than the next guy. He’s got a league-best 10 in 11 games this year, and even has people talking about him scoring 50 in 50. So yeah, you want to beat the Capitals? Don’t let Ovechkin score. If the Canucks can get him to play like he tweets — which is to say, terribly — for just one night, their chances improve exponentially. Here are a few strategies for shutting him down:

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The Pros and Cons of splitting the Sedins

During Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canucks were in a bind partway through the third period. Down by one, the Canucks just weren’t able to generate enough chances as the Flyers collapsed into a defensive shell to protect their lead. In an attempt to spark the offence, John Tortorella split the Sedins, moving Ryan Kesler to the wing with Henrik and Chris Higgins and putting Daniel with Mike Santorelli and Jannik Hansen.

The split worked, as Kesler and Higgins helped create room for Henrik with a physical forecheck, resulting in goals for both Higgins and Kesler and a win for the Canucks. It was the second time already in this short season that splitting the Sedins has resulted in a third period comeback, as it also worked against the Calgary Flames.

This has sparked the seemingly annual debate over whether the Canucks should split up the Sedins on a more semi-permanent basis. After all, splitting them so far this season has resulted in two goals per period, so, logically, starting the game with them split should result in 6 goals per game. Not even the 1984 Edmonton Oilers managed that, averaging a measly 5.6 goals per game. That’s right: splitting the Sedins would make the Canucks better than the Oilers dynasty from the 80′s. Tortorella would be a fool not to do it!

Of course, it’s not that simple. We’re pretty big fans of the Sedins being together around these parts, but there are some legitimate arguments for splitting them — well, more legitimate than they’ll score all the goals, at least. Let’s break down the pros and cons in a feature we like to call “Pros and Cons.”

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14 other drills you can expect out of John Tortorella’s first Canucks training camp

The Canucks had a rude awakening on the first day of training camp, showing up on the ice in full gear, including hockey sticks, only to feel like complete chumps when there weren’t any hockey pucks. After a bit of comic misunderstanding (Henrik, I thought you were bringing the pucks! But Daniel, it was your turn!), new coach John Tortorella revealed that the entire first day of training camp would be conducted sans-puck.

The first day of Canucks training camp involved intense skating drills, tough conditioning tests, and a two-mile run that was meant to be completed in 12 minutes. No word on whether they had to drag Tortorella behind them in a chariot while he whipped them repeatedly, so we must assume they did.

What’s next for Tortorella’s camp? What cruel and unusual punishment will he put them through in the coming days? There’s no need to wonder. We here at PITB managed to get ahold of Tortorella’s top secret training camp schedule. Here are some of the highlights:

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5 centres the Canucks should consider bringing in to compete for a roster spot

The biggest question mark for the Canucks heading into the 2013-14 season is at centre, or, as Ben Kuzma is fond of saying, the Canucks have a “riddle in the middle.” Henrik Sedin is firmly entrenched as the first line centre and, in theory, Ryan Kesler will be fully healthy and ready to centre the second line.

The other two centre jobs, however, are up for grabs. The Canucks have a number of options, from veteran free agent signing Brad Richardson, to sophomore Jordan Schroeder, to 18-year-old first round pick Bo Horvat, but each one of those options is filled with uncertainty. Richardson could slot in as the third or fourth-line centre and could even move over to the wing if need be, but he was also a frequent healthy scratch with the Los Angeles Kings. Schroeder’s ability to handle larger players in the defensive zone and provide offense at the NHL-level is still in question. And Horvat is, well, 18.

It would be in the Canucks’ best interest to add a few more names to their list of centre options, but the Canucks’ funds will be limited once they re-sign Chris Tanev. As much as I might want the Canucks to acquire Mikhail Grabovski, they simply can’t afford him unless he takes an insane paycut. Instead, they’ll have to look for cheaper options, either by signing a legitimate centre to a cheap contract before training camp or by inviting some veterans with more uncertainty to camp to provide competition and potentially earn a contract.

The Canucks have brought in veterans to battle for roster spots in training camp in the past, such as Peter Schaefer, Owen Nolan, and Todd Fedoruk. That’s not he most inspiring group of players, but with the lowered salary cap, there are still some valuable free agents on the market who might be available on bargain basement prices.

Here are five free agents that the Canucks should consider bringing in as competition.

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25 questions we want to hear at John Tortorella’s first press conference with the Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have scheduled a press conference for 1 pm this afternoon, where it is expected that they will name John Tortorella the new head coach, unless the organization is running a masterful bluff and actually announces a hike in ticket prices, which the media will report in glowing terms since, hey, at least they didn’t hire Tortorella.

Tortorella’s testy relationship with reporters has been the focus over the last several days since rumours began circulating that he was headed to Vancouver, leading to plenty of anticipation for his first press conference with his new team. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a fairly staid affair, as Tortorella will look to make a good first impression.

That is, unless the reporters on hand ask the right — or, more appropriately, wrong — questions. While the press conference is likely to be full of questions about his tenure with the New York Rangers, what he hopes to accomplish with the Canucks, and why he accepted a job in a fish bowl like Vancouver, reporters are unlikely to ask the kinds of questions that really matter (or completely don’t matter).

With that in mind, here are 25 questions we want to hear at the Tortorella press conference. Elliott, Iain, Brad, Cam, et al., feel free to print these out and bring them with you.

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18 things Chris Tanev’s dad will say while negotiating his son’s next contract

Chris Tanev had a solid season for the Canucks, showing that he’s ready to step into a larger role next season. He even spent some time in the top-four alongside Alex Edler. It seemed like he instantly developed chemistry with whoever he played with thanks to his calm, simple style of play.

Tanev is also a pending Restricted Free Agent this off-season, leading to an interesting question. How much is Tanev worth? He doesn’t do any one thing noticeably well. He doesn’t put up points and doesn’t hit. What he does do is make smart decisions with the puck and a good first pass out of the zone. He plays largely mistake-free defence, which is a nice switch for Canucks fans used to Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler, who are far more high-risk.

It was revealed today that Tanev would be representing himself in his contract negotiations, with help from his dad, Mike. That makes things a little more complicated, as Tanev’s dad will likely spend the entire meeting with Gillis saying awkward, embarrassing things, causing Tanev to roll his eyes and say “Daaaaaad” at least twice.

Here are 18 things you can expect Tanev’s dad to say during his son’s contract negotiations.

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20 potential replacements if Alain Vigneault gets fired

This may sound surprising, but it’s entirely possible that Mike Gillis doesn’t fire Alain Vigneault after the Canucks’ second straight first round exit. While it makes more sense than ever (and perhaps for the first time ever) to let Vigneault go, Gillis has had opportunities to fire him and bring in his own choice for head coach in the past and chose to keep him around.

There’s one argument against firing Vigneault that you’re going to hear a lot in the coming days: who do you replace him with? Why bother firing the head coach if there’s no one out there who’s as good or better? It’s an argument that has been made in the past as well, even by myself. It’s also completely bogus.

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Six things the Canucks need to do better in Game 4

We here at Pass it to Bulis are all about making bold statements. Unlike other blogs and the mainstream media, we don’t shy away from the gut-punch of truth. We tell it like it is, day in and day out.

It is in the spirit of this unflinching commitment to boldness that we make the following proclamation: the Vancouver Canucks, down 3-0 in their first round series to the San Jose Sharks, have not been good enough.

Is everyone okay? Have we shattered your worldview and sent you scurrying for the warm embrace of your loved ones? Because we’re not done. We’re going a step further. Tonight, in game four, the Canucks need to be better.

Not everyone is willing to make such radical statements, but we know that you, our readers, deserve it. But that’s not all. We’re not just bold visionaries speaking truth to power. We’re also practical sorts, who believe in providing real world solutions. So here are six things the Canucks need to do better if they want to win game four and force the series back to Vancouver.

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Bonus hardware! Handing out the real end-of-year Canucks team awards

The Vancouver Canucks handed out their team awards on Thursday night prior to their lacklustre effort against the Anaheim Ducks. Henrik Sedin took home the Cyrus H. McLean award as the Canucks’ leading scorer and will keep it unless Daniel manages to score 6 points on Saturday against the Oilers without Henrik getting any.

Dan Hamhuis deservedly won the Babe Pratt award for best defenceman, Cory Schneider understandably won the Cyclone Taylor award as the team’s MVP, and Jannik Hansen simultaneously had his praises sung as the team’s Most Exciting Player and was named the team’s unsung hero with the Fred J. Hume award.

That just doesn’t seem like enough awards, so we put together seven more:

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Last-minute cramming: a 2013 Canucks season review

In a sense, it’s been a long season. But in another sense (the literal sense), it’s been a short season, a whirlwind. It’s possible that you missed it all. But now the playoffs are here and we’d hate for you to be so far behind you can’t enjoy them. Here’s a quick review of the 2013 season.

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Twenty-four things for Ryan Kesler to remember, now that he’s a winger again

Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy will be back on the same line again Monday versus the Chicago Blackhawks, but there are a few changes to the Canucks’ second line nonetheless. First of all, Chris Higgins returns to the lineup, and he’ll replace Jannik Hansen on the other wing. Second, Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy will trade spots, meaning that, unless Alain Vigneault has an eleventh hour change of heart (like he did last time), Roy will be the centre. Kesler will be reprising his long dormant role as a right-winger.

But now he has to try to remember what it’s like to play the wing, a position he hasn’t played since 2009. That’s a long time. He might need a refresher course.

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20 reasons that Alex Burrows is really, really sad

Alex Burrows has a lot to be happy about these days. He’s about to get a $2.5 million raise, his team is heading into the playoffs with, if all goes well, home-ice advantage, and there are tentative plans for a charity tennis match between him and Milos Raonic in August, which is pretty dang cool.

Yes, life is good for Burrows and you would think that he wouldn’t have much to be sad about. Oh how wrong you would be, hypothetical person. As this picture from Jeff Vinnick’s Behind the Lens series at reveals, Burrows is super sad right now.

Here are 20 reasons why.

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