Spitballin’ on breakaways, breakouts, and All-Star breaks

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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Canucks of the Week, starring Jannik Hansen and the New Jersey Devils

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

This week’s top Canucks are Jannik Hansen, Willie Desjardins, and the New Jersey Devils.

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Jannik Hansen named the NHL’s first star of the week

What a week it’s been for Jannik Hansen (and his biggest booster, Thomas Drance, who’s been arguing with Jason Botchford and his Botcholytes about Hansen’s skill, utility, and effectiveness as Radim Vrbata’s understudy for weeks now).

Suffice it to say, this is pretty vindicating: Hansen is the NHL’s first star of the week.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Blackhawks 1

It was Daniel Sedin’s big night, the occasion of his 1000th NHL game. He was honoured prior to puck drop in a pregame ceremony, given a painting by Tony Harris (but, sadly, not Tony Harrison), and sent on a Disney cruise (which delighted his young daughter beyond measure). And then Jannik Hansen went ahead and stole the damn show.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised. He’s not named the honey badger because he lives alone in a self-dug hole. It’s because he doesn’t give a [hoot], and there’s really nothing more honey badger than choosing to score the first Canucks hat trick since Daniel Sedin did it in 2011, on the night set aside for honouring Daniel Sedin. Screw your big day, Daniel. Sunday, November 23, 2014, will henceforth be known as Jannik Hansen day to all those who watched this game, and I watched this game.

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There’s nothing wrong with Jannik Hansen playing with the Sedins

Radim Vrbata has recovered from his injury and will play tonight against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale. He’ll be back on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, looking to improve upon his near point-per-game numbers this season.

This will come as a relief to both the Canucks and their fans, as Vrbata helps make the Sedins a more dangerous line and should also provide a boost to the Canucks’ suddenly ailing power play that hasn’t scored in the last three games.

Vrbata’s return also means that Jannik Hansen won’t be playing with the Sedins, which is an even bigger source of relief for some than Vrbata’s return. The amount of vitriol I saw aimed at Hansen over the last two games was astonishing, amd it wasn’t just the fans. Jason Botchford and Tony Gallagher were nearly apoplectic about Hansen getting top line duty.

To a certain extent, it’s understandable why: Hansen is not a natural finisher, with a career-high of just 16 goals, so the Sedins’ pretty playmaking is sometimes all for naught, dying on Hansen’s stick. Visually, Hansen’s play is unappealing, full of missed chances, sloppy skating, and awkward falls. He just doesn’t pass the eye test.

What he does pass, however, is the numbers test. Despite appearances, Hansen has been one of the Sedins most effective linemates.

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What happened to Jannik Hansen?

Along with the overall disaster that was the Canucks’ 2013-14 season, many of the tales of individual disaster have been well-covered. Alex Edler is squarely in the spotlight thanks to his eye-catching league-worst plus/minus, the Sedins’ fall to 40-points forwards has been well-documented, and Alex Burrows’ unexpected goalless slump was one of the biggest stories of the season.

Lost a little in the hubbub was Jannik Hansen. That’s not unusual for the Dane, as he usually flies a little under the radar, winning the Fred J. Hume award as the Canucks’ unsung hero twice in the last three years. This season, however, he was unsung for a legitimate reason: there was nothing to sing about.

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Six Canucks heading to Belarus for Ice Hockey World Championship [Updated]

Getting the call from your home country to play in the World Championship has to be a little bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a tremendous honour to play for your country. On the other hand, it means you either missed the playoffs or got eliminated awfully early.

Accordingly, it can be difficult for a player to get excited to suit up for more hockey, having just recently come to grips with the thought of a long off-season. Others may decline the invitation due to lingering injuries that they’re eager to rehab before getting back into training and working out for next season.

Seven Canucks, however, have shaken out the doldrums and disappointment to commit to playing for their various countries: Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Jannik Hansen, Nicklas Jensen, and Eddie Lack.

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Jannik Hansen set to return Sunday against the Dallas Stars; Ryan Kesler returns to centre

Jannik Hansen practiced on Wednesday for the first time since suffering an injury against the New York Islanders in October. He’s eligible to return on Sunday against the Dallas Stars, which raises some interesting questions for the Canucks: just where does he fit into the lineup?

In the 11 games that Hansen has played this season, he’s mainly skated in the top-six, spending some time with the Sedins on the top line and on a second line with Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler. The only issue is that John Tortorella has settled on a consistent top-six after a lot of experimentation early in the season and there doesn’t seem to be any room for Hansen. That is, unless Tortorella is willing to shuffle his lines significantly, which appears to be the case.

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Canucks photocopy Chris Higgins’ contract, give it to Jannik Hansen

Jannik Hansen has had a pretty good September. In five preseason games, the winger put up four points (2 goals, 2 assists). He also saw quite a bit of time with the Sedins as John Tortorella explored his options with a new roster, and Hansen showed well enough that he’s likely to be deployed there on occasion come the regular season. Furthermore, he somehow managed to take the only good headshot on picture day. And, on Sunday, the Canucks gave him 10 million dollars. As months go, I’d say that’s pretty okay.

Capping off a weirdly busy weekend that also saw the acquisition of forwards Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Walsh from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Kellan Tochkin (the second-best Kellan in Vancouver’s system) and a fourth-round pick, the Canucks announced a four-year contract extension for Hansen that would pay him $2.5 million a season.

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Every goal, 2012-13: Jannik Hansen

Two years ago, Jannik Hansen won the Fred J. Hume Award as the Canucks’ unsung hero. Somehow, since then, Hansen’s praises still aren’t being sung enough, as he won the award yet again this past season. He becomes the first Canuck to win the award twice without winning it in back-to-back seasons, mainly because most players good enough to win it twice start getting the respect they deserve after a couple seasons.

Hansen has continued to progress as a two-way player and was on pace for a career-high 17 goals and 47 points in 2012-13, spending some time in the top-six and even playing alongside the Sedins on the powerplay occasionally. He’s one of the Canucks’ best penalty killers, he has underrated playmaking ability, and will even cross check a ref if he gets in his way. At some point, he’s gotta get sung, right?

Really, we’ve been singing his praises for some time now. While his early season production was driven by some favourable percentages while playing on the third line, he took advantage of when he was moved into a more offensive role and continued to produce. He’ll play an integral role next season, whether on the second line with Ryan Kesler or playing a more defensive checking role. If it’s the latter, he might not score as much, but he’ll still be important to the Canucks’ success.

Hansen scored ten goals during the 2013 season. Here are all ten:

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Breakdowning Mason Raymond’s first period goal against the Nashville Predators

When the Canucks score 7 goals in a game, it’s tough to know which one to break down. We even had calls on Twitter to break down Henrik Sedin’s gorgeous penalty shot goal or Maxim Lapierre’s slick breakaway marker. As nice as those goals were, it’s more than a little difficult to break down a goal when it’s just one skater and a goalie. It would just be one screen shot with the breathtaking analysis of, “Well, you see, he did something the goalie didn’t expect him to do and the puck…well, it went in.”

It seemed obvious to me which one needed the full Breakdowning treatment: Mason Raymond’s seventh goal of the season, which came on a beautiful passing play that incorporated every single Canucks skater on the ice.

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Big Numbers: Freaky Sedins, Offensive Hamhuis and Identical Goaltenders

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. Here are some odd and interesting numbers and statistics from the Canucks season so far.

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Jannik Hansen gets one-game ban, which isn’t nearly long enough according to Brendan Shanahan [VIDEO]

The reaction to Jannik Hansen’s hit on Marian Hossa was immediately polarized. Reactions ranged from outrage and demands for 8-15 game suspensions to incredulousness that a penalty was even called on the play. We fell somewhere in the middle: it looked unintentional, but was still careless and resulted in a hit to the head.

Harrison theorized that Hansen would get a one-game suspension due to the recklessness of Hansen’s action and Hossa’s injury history, even though it was essentially an accident.

Brendan Shanahan only half-agreed. Hansen did get suspended one-game, but in the video on the suspension, Shanahan appeared to think the hit was worth far more than that, making his decision completely baffling.

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Will Jannik Hansen be suspended for his hit on Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa?

Jannik Hansen has already avoided discipline on one hit from behind this season, when he cross-checked a referee off the opening draw in San Jose. “I don’t think I even realized what I had done or who I had done it to at the time,” Hansen said after the game. His eyes fixed on Ryane Clowe, Hansen shoved the first body in between him and his target. It was referee Dave Jackson.

But somehow, Hansen escaped that incident without so much as a talking-to from anyone on the on-ice crew.

Will he be second time lucky? That’s the question the hockey world is asking after Hansen perpetrated another hit from behind Tuesday night in Chicago, when he and Blackhawks’ star Marian Hossa came together at centre ice, the puck overhead like hockey mistletoe, only have to have their contact end not with a kiss, but with a nasty forearm shiver that forced Hossa from the game with a suspected concussion.

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Jannik Hansen is riding the percentages

We’ve been extolling the vices of Jannik Hansen a lot over the past few months — his violence and behaviour, his inability to be calmed down, his cross-checking of referees, and his fictional elbows to the unmentionables — but he also has a fair number of virtues. He’s a speedy, defensively sound two-way forward, who’s great on the forecheck and penalty kill.

Also, after his goal against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Hansen is tied for third in Canucks scoring with 6 points in 10 games. To put it another, more exciting and inflammatory way, Hansen has the same number of points as Henrik Sedin.

While we’ve long said that Hansen is an underrated playmaker, this new scoring pace is still a surprise. He’s on pace for 49 points if this were an 82-game season, a full 10 points more than his career-high last season. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Jannik Hansen grinds Jordan Eberle’s business

Hockey is a rough game. Sometimes, you have to lay it all on the line, you have to sacrifice the body, you have to squeeze every ounce out of it in order to get the edge.

Of course, normally, when “the body”, refers to one’s own body. But if this photo of Jannik Hansen crushing Jordan Eberle’s junk with his forearm is any indication, occasionally, victory comes by laying, squeezing and sacrificing someone else’s body.

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Jannik Hansen touches down in Finland, does an interview, is accosted by advertisers

Jannik Hansen officially became the second Vancouver Canuck playing in Europe when, as expected, he made his debut in Finland’s SM-liiga Thursday. It didn’t take long for him to shake off the rust of the long offseason, either: he contributed 2 assists and the 3-1 goal in a 5-1 Tappara win over KalPa.

The disparity between Hansen’s skill and the rest of the league isn’t quite as vast as Dale Weise’s turn as the Mario Lemieux of the Dutch league, but Hansen is still among the best players currently playing in Finland. And, like Weise, his arrival to his new team necessitated a video interview. Unfortunately, we don’t follow Hansen as he makes his breakfast and pontificates on the cosmic comedy that everyone everywhere eats peanut butter and jelly. Neither does he tell us he couldn’t find the country on a map until he arrived.

But we do get to hear Hansen talk, and if you missed the Great Dane’s quaintly high-pitched, monotone speaking voice, this video’s got the goods:

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Jannik Hansen learns nothing from Dale Weise, opts to challenge himself in Finland

Good news and bad news, friends.

The good news is that the content of this blog, which has been Dale Weise-centric for the last week or so, will finally see some sweet variety: Jannik Hansen has become the second Vancouver Canuck to say “nuts to this noise” and opt to play out the lockout overseas.

The bad news is that Hansen has signed not with a team in the Danish league as some had expected, but with Tappara of SM-liiga, the Finnish Elite League.

Now, maybe this isn’t bad news to you, but when you run a super-juvenile hockey blog, the news that Hansen’s jersey won’t feature any advertising from the amusingly-named, Danish government-owned DONG Energy company (shown above) is a disappointment.

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Spitballin’ on Hansen to Denmark, Luongo to Toronto, and Higgins to Utah

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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Who were Ryan Kesler’s best linemates last season?

Sometimes when I get curious enough about something to investigate it, digging up statistics and putting together charts, the answer turns out to be the obvious one. Fortunately, it can also turn up some other interesting information along the way.

Here’s the question I had: which wingers were most effective with Ryan Kesler last season? One of the big questions coming into this season is who should play on the second line with Kesler, once he returns too early? David Booth seems to have his spot all sewn up, but there are many competitors for the opposite wing, including Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, and Nicklas Jensen. Heck, if Shane Doan signs with the Canucks, you can add him and Alex Burrows to that list.

David Booth and Chris Higgins were Kesler’s most common linemates last season, but were they his most effective linemates? To get the answer, I did some WOWY (With Or Without You) analysis to see how Kesler performed with and without various linemates. In this case, the answer appears to be pretty definitively “yes.”

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Every Goal 2011-12: Playoffs

You didn’t think we could end the Every Goal series on such a positive note with Chris Higgins, right? You should know by now that things can never end well for Canucks fans. That is why the last post in our annual off-season Every Goal series will end with all 8 goals the Canucks managed to score during the 2012 playoffs versus the Los Angeles Kings.

On the plus side, we’re only looking back at the good parts, when the puck was going into the Kings’ net. If you squint and ignore the scoreboard, you can imagine that the Canucks won the series. While you’re at it, imagine that the NHL and NHLPA have concluded their CBA negotiations and that there won’t be a lockout to start next season.

In any case, the Canucks scored some pretty goals during the playoffs and they deserve to be remembered and highlighted. Seeing them outside of their disappointing context makes them a lot more enjoyable.

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Jannik Hansen “could not be calmed down,” receives one-game suspension from IIHF

The middle of the summer is the last time an NHLer expects to receive supplementary discipline. But that didn’t stop Jannik Hansen, who received a one-game suspension from the International Ice Hockey Federation on Friday. It is yet further proof that Hansen is the Honninggrævling – the Danish Honey Badger – particularly when you read the IIHF’s description of his transgressions.

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Every Goal, 2011-12: Jannik Hansen, part two

The annual Every Goal series will run Monday to Thursday through July and August, remembering every goal scored by the Canucks, player by player. Today, we take a second look at Jannik “At the Disco” Hansen. I’ve known that Jannik Hansen had the ability to score more for quite a while. You don’t undress an [...]

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Every Goal, 2011-12: Jannik Hansen, part one

The annual Every Goal series will run Monday to Thursday through July and August, remembering every goal scored by the Canucks, player by player. Today, we look at Jannik “So Hot Right Now” Hansen. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to dislike Jannik Hansen. He’s the type of player that everyone can enjoy. He never stops [...]

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Denmark needs Jannik Hansen

Jannik Hansen is one of only two Vancouver Canucks at the 2012 World Championship, but he’s not the only player from the NHL on Team Denmark. He is, however, one of Denmark’s top players and one of the most important. That has already proven to be true just three games into the tournament.

Hansen was named Denmark’s best player of the game in a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic, finishing the game with 4 shots on goal from the second line. He also received a 2-minute minor for boarding that turned into a one-game suspension, causing him to miss Denmark’s game against Italy on Sunday.

While 2-0 was a solid result against a team like Czech Republic, the most important games for Denmark at this tournament are against teams like Italy, who they will be battling to avoid relegation. Unfortunately for Denmark, they seemed to sorely miss Hansen against Italy, losing 4-3 in overtime.

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