How will the Canucks’ off-season changes affect the power play?

The Canucks power play was painfully bad last season, converting at just 15.2%, fifth worst in the NHL. That alone didn’t cost the Canucks a shot at the playoffs — the Kings were actually worse at 15.1% — but when the team struggled to score at even-strength, their power play couldn’t make up the difference.

The off-season, however, saw significant changes on and off the ice that will have a major impact on the power play this season. Will those changes have a net positive or negative effect? That’s a little harder to figure out.

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Watch every goal Jason Garrison scored last season

Jason Garrison is gone now, moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning not long after Jim Benning arrived, look at the number of no-trade clauses he had to deal with and said, “Ugh.” Garrison was reportedly disappointed to have to go — he didn’t want to — but then he got the call from Stevie Yzerman, and everything changed.

There’s nothing quite like that call. When you answer the phone and Stephen Gregory Yzerman says, “I want you”, it’s life-changing. And when you’re expecting the call and you don’t get it, well, Marty St. Louis showed us how people react to that. It’s a very special call.

Anyway. Garrison’s gone. But not forgotten, and since he scored seven goals for the Canucks last year, that means he has to be accounted for in the annual every goal series. I hope you like one-timers!

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Bieksa, Burrows, and Garrison come up big as Canada bounces back

There was plenty of consternation to go around on Friday when France stunned Canada in the tournament opener, handing them a 3-2 shootout loss. There’s no getting around it: Canada played poorly, Cristobal Huet did not, and anything can happen once a game gets to the shootout.

You’re not supposed to lose to France. You’re supposed to attack them quickly, occupy their defensive zone, and wait for them to surrender. Yep, jokes about France surrendering. That’s what you get on the weekend.

France looked like a team, while Canada just looked like a collection of players, with many quick to point fingers at the team’s leadership, headed by newly-minted captain Kevin Bieksa. It’s not entirely fair — with 12 players under 25, some early nerves were inevitable — but Bieksa, along with fellow Canucks Jason Garrison and Alex Burrows, are among the few veterans on the team and will bear the brunt of responsibility for any failures.

It also means they’ll take a lot of responsibility for any victories, and all three played a major role in Canada’s bounceback victory over Slovakia.

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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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Spitballin’ on Garrison’s scoring, Stanton’s surprise start, and ‘best-dressed’ Kesler

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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Breakdowning Lars Eller’s incredible shorthanded goal against the Canucks

The turning point of the 2010-11 season for the Canucks was their lowest moment, an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on November 20th after the Blackhawks had knocked them out of the playoffs two seasons in a row. The Canucks responded with a closed-door players’ meeting and, after losing a close one to the Phoenix Coyotes the next game, went on to win 18 of their next 22 games, including a statement 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks.

After that loss to the Blackhawks, the Canucks only lost 13 of their remaining 63 games, cruising to the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history, finishing ahead of the Washington Capitals by a whopping 10 points.

This season, the Canucks decided to get their low point out of the way early on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. In front of a national Hockey Night in Canada audience, they scored one of the most bizarre and embarrassing own goals in NHL history. Now it’s time to break it down.

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Stick in Link: David Booth’s a weird dude; Jason Garrison is furious over lost goal

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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Jason Garrison (and Canucks fans) rejoice: the new coach is a sadist

The neutral zone drop-pass on the powerplay was used to perfection in Vancouver all through the 2010-11 season, and Vancouver fans loved it — right up until the Boston Bruins figured out how to defend it. After that, it was seen as symptomatic of everything that was wrong with the Canucks’ powerplay, and many assumed that the coaching staff cull — and the dismissal of Newell Brown, who introduced the club to the tactic — would spell the merciful end of it in Vancouver.

Nope. Despite Brown’s move to Glendale, the drop-pass remained a regular sight on the Canucks’ powerplay in the preseason, mainly because, despite all the griping, it works.

Consider the drop pass like the Sedins’ slap-pass: an innovation that worked so well in Vancouver that other coaching staffs, including the incoming one, realized they should be doing it too. So long as you don’t overrely on or telegraph it, which is where the Canucks occasionally got into trouble, it’s the ideal approach. The moment the teams stand up at the blueline, you leave the puck for a trailer, who skates onto it with added speed and more time to find the weak spot in their Red Rover-esque wall. There will be many, many more drop-passes this season, and most of the time, they’ll be the right course of action.

But while that aspect of the powerplay remains unchanged, this year’s coaching staff did make one big adjustment: Jason Garrison will finally get his shot, which means the first unit powerplay will too.

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Every Goal, 2012-13: Jason Garrison

Jason Garrison has a fantastic debut season with the Canucks at both ends of the ice. Defensively, he was a rock, forming an excellent shutdown pairing with Dan Hamhuis (although it left Kevin Bieksa paired with Alex Edler, which was much less excellent). At the offensive end, he scored 8 goals in 48 games — all in pretty much the same way. What we learned, time and time again, is that Garrison has a pretty decent release.

Actually, decent is an understatement. When he gets the puck at the point with a little time and space, it’s such an automatic killshot he may as well hold his stick sideways.

And so we ask: do you like goals from the top of the zone? Because if so, then boy oh boy, you’re gonna like what we have in store for you. It’s eight of that thing you like. Granted, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, but it’s way more fun to see them all.

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On Jason Garrison, AV’s dog mansion, and why the defence pairs saw the blender

When I asked how long the current Canucks’ defence pairings would last on Tuesday, I didn’t expect the answer to be “less than a day.” But I did suggest that at the first sign of trouble, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa would be immediately reunited, and Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks was trouble (with a capital T, which rhymes with D and that stands for Defence).

The sheer number of breakaways and odd-man rushes given up by the Canucks ensured that something would change on the backend and, sure enough, word came out of practice Wednesday morning that all three defence pairings had been switched up.

As expected, Hamhuis and Bieksa were reunited — tearfully, probably — but the Canucks didn’t just reset everything back to the way it was at the start of the season. Jason Garrison, the Canucks’ biggest free agent acquisition, was moved down to the third pairing with Keith Ballard, while Chris Tanev was promoted to the second pairing with Alex Edler.

Since Garrison is being paid a lot of money, seeing him on the third pairing is causing some consternation in Canucks nation. Has he joined Keith Ballard in a lavish, $8 million doghouse, a dog mansion, if you will? Not exactly. His demotion isn’t just about how he’s been playing, but how the entire defence corps has been playing.

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How long will the Canucks’ current defence pairings last?

Alain Vigneault has the tendency to shuffle his forward lines like a magician shuffles cards: most of it is sleight-of-hand and nothing really changes in the end. He and Rick Bowness have frequently done the same with defence pairings in the past over the last couple seasons, but certain pairings tended to stick together and avoid the juggling.

When Christian Ehrhoff was with the Canucks, he was all-but-inseparable from Alex Edler. At one point, Kevin Bieksa only hit the ice when Willie Mitchell was at his side. Over the last couple seasons, it’s been Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis who have been attached at the hip. Other pairings were malleable, but those pairings were, at the very least, semi-permanent.

Heading into this season, the pairing of Bieksa and Hamhuis, affectionately and disgustingly known as HamJuice, were a given. Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev, who performed well when paired together in the previous season, were assumed to be the bottom pairing. That left the newly-arrive Jason Garrison to play with Edler, something I had been anticipating ever since he signed with the Canucks.

It looked like the defence pairings were about as set in stone as they could possibly be. But it took just 5 games for those stones to be thrown to the ground and broken up like the Ten Commandments.

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Kesler and Bieksa host street hockey game with Cabbie, are terrible actors [VIDEO]

A couple weeks ago, Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler teamed up with Cabral “Cabbie” Richards for an impromptu street hockey game under the Cambrie Bridge (site of one of the great music videos of our time).

Also, Jason Garrison was there.

TSN waited until last Friday to put up Cabbie’s segment on the game and, this weekend, it finally made it to YouTube.. I’ve been a big fan of Cabbie since his days on The Score. He seems to always be able to get athletes to let down their guard, leading to great interviews and a lot of humour.

This time around, however, Cabbie doesn’t say a word through the entire segment, letting Kesler and Bieksa take the reins. That was either a horrible, horrible mistake or one of the best things he’s ever done, depending on how much you like the unintentional humour of terrible acting. We like it a lot.

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Manny Malhotra, Jason Garrison join You Can Play at Vancouver Pride parade

The Canucks have had a very conservative 2012, and I don’t mean in terms of their transaction history. Between Passion Vancouver praying over Daniel Sedin’s helmet, David Booth bringing that blueberry-hogging bear to justice, and Mark Donnelly singing at the launch of the New Abortion Caravan, the team has been aligned with some very right-wing ideals over the last few months.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with any of these ideals (and frankly, praying shouldn’t be considered right-wing, although it is, thanks to bad politics). But they’re often associated, fairly or unfairly, with some uninclusive ways of thinking, and the Canucks organization has always strived to be as inclusive and embracing of the community as possible.

The presence of Manny Malhotra, Jason Garrison, and mascot Fin alongside the Vancouver Cutting Edge and You Can Play at Vancouver’s 34th annual Pride Parade was a great way to remind people of this.

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Spitballin’ on Salo departing, Garrison incoming, and Jay Onrait gently mocking Samjam

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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Garrison signs with Canucks, is right man for the job

When Sami Salo signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Canucks fans collectively freaked out for about two-and-a-half hours. I saw many cursing Mike Gillis’s name, calling for him to be fired, and lamenting in the streets in sackcloth and ashes. Then Aaron Rome signed with the Dallas Stars and some fans began to wonder if the Canucks would have any defencemen at all next season or whether the plan was to keep Roberto Luongo not as a backup to Cory Schneider but as a shot-blocking specialist on defence.

That’s the problem with the frenzy of July 1st: everyone expects something instantaneous. When the Canucks didn’t sign any free agents as soon as the sun rose and the rooster crowed, the impatience of the social media generation shone through. Not only was the sky falling, but dogs were also marrying cats. The Fraser River turned to blood, frogs rained down from the sky, and a swarm of locusts invaded downtown Vancouver and immediately began complaining about the bike lanes.

It was pandemonium. It was chaos. It was the apocalypse.

Then the Canucks signed Jason Garrison and everyone calmed the heck down.

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