Stick in Link: Alex Edler’s revival; Canucks off to best start, like, ever

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 [...]

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Big Numbers: The long and winding road trip; goal differential a stat to watch

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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Jake Virtanen may be the only Canucks prospect on Team Canada

A week ago, it looked like the Canucks might end up with as many as five players on Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Tournament. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen were both invited to Team Canada’s summer development camp and were basically locks to make the team, while Jared McCann and Jordan Subban played their way into consideration with their respective starts to the OHL season.

Meanwhile, Cole Cassels, a bubble player for Team USA, flashed his dual citizenship and was a late add to Team OHL for the Super Series against Team Russia. His 39 points in 22 games, 6th in the OHL, along with his strong two-way play, meant he might sneak his way onto Team Canada as well.

Sure, it was a longshot, but cheering on five Canucks prospects on Team Canada was a distinct possibility.

Not anymore. At this point, it looks like the Canucks will have just one prospect on Team Canada at the World Junior Tournament.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Devils 0

Before tonight, Jaromir Jagr had played 1,696 career NHL games, including playoffs. Only 12 of those games have been played in Vancouver. It seems incredible that we’ve only had the chance to see one of the greatest NHL players of all time in our backyard 12 times.

Fortunately, at the age of 42, Jagr is still incredible. He was arguably the Devils’ best player, creating chances out of nothing, pouring on the jets to surprise defenders, and powering through battles in the corners. Even if he’s not the player he once was, it was pretty special to see him in Vancovuer for what may be the last time.

I mean, it’s the last time if he retires after this season, but he might not be retiring any time soon. I hope he plays until he’s 50 so I get the chance to watch him again and again, like I did when I watched this game.

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It’s okay to get a Bo Horvat jersey now; Canucks confirm he’s staying in Vancouver

I was confident that Bo Horvat was sticking around this season after the Canucks’ 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. His line in that game, with Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson, didn’t start a single shift in the offensive zone and was repeatedly sent out against the Kings’ top forwards. If Horvat was capable of holding his own against the best the Kings’ had to offer, even though it was in a blowout loss, he was NHL-ready and had no business being sent back to Junior.

Sure enough, Willie Desjardins and Jim Benning confirmed that Horvat was going to stick with the Canucks, the morning before he faces the other half of the trade that brought him to the Canucks, Cory Schneider. Before this weekend, however, it was a touch-and-go as to whether Horvat would be here all season.

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Stick in Link: Pat Quinn remembered; Canucks trade Alex Mallet for Andrey Pedan

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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The Pass it to Bulis Podcast, Episode 11: Praising Hansen and Remembering Quinn

Jannik Hansen just had the best week of his career, scoring five goals in three games, capping it all off with a hat trick against the Canucks’ bitter rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. That kind of performance can change people’s opinions in a hurry and Hansen has gone from being dispensable to utterly indispensable in the minds of Canucks fans.

But it’s not just Hansen: with Bo Horvat stepping up as NHL-ready, the fourth line of Hansen, Horvat, and the underrated Derek Dorsett has been very impressive of late. It seems unlikely now that Horvat will get sent back to junior and far more likely that he’ll supplant Brad Richardson as the third line centre.

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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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Pat Quinn, Canucks president, coach, GM, architect, defender, icon, legend dies at 71

The hockey world, and Vancouver hockey especially, has lost one of the greats, as former Canuck defender, coach, president, and General Manager Pat Quinn died Monday at the age of 71.

He will be missed, especially in Vancouver. He was on hand for so many of this franchise’s greatest moments, in large part because he had a hand in orchestrating so many of them.

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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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Could Dan Hamhuis’s injury mean the return of Sami Salo?

According to reports from the Canadian Press’s Dhiren Mahiban, Dan Hamhuis has a “significant” lower body injury that is expected to keep him out of the Canucks lineup for months, though it is not a season-ending injury. This news is simultaneously devastating and a relief. It’s crushing to know that Hamhuis will be out for months, but it’s good to know that it’s not so serious that he won’t return this season.

This leaves the Canucks in a bit of a predicament. Replacing a top-four defenceman, especially one as good as Hamhuis, isn’t easy. The Canucks have several options available to them, however, and one of those options could see the return of an old fan favourite, with an emphasis on “old”: Sami Salo.

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The Paper Feature: After 20 games, can we say the Canucks are good yet?

The Vancouver Canucks hit the 20-game mark on Thursday night versus the Ducks, and it was only fitting that they’d reach the quarter-mark with hockey’s most confusing outcome: a shootout loss.

Consider: the Ducks left that game with just four wins in their last ten. But because they’ve been to the shootout in five of their last ten, they’ve got points in nine of their last ten. It’s entirely possible the Ducks are coming back to earth after a hot start. But you wouldn’t know it. Not when they keep coming away with points.

Similarly, one-fourth of the way into the season, it remains difficult to have a strong opinion on the quality of this year’s Canucks. Which is problematic, since it’s sort of our job to have one, and the 20-game mark may as well be the deadline. Five games? Small sample size. Ten games? Small sample size. 20 games? Time to make doody, as they say, or get off the pot.

But it’s tough to get off the pot in Vancouver.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @alixiswright37 as the overprotective team mom

You folks made some good tweets last week. Some real good tweets.

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Canucks of the Week, starring Bo Horvat, and those sweet, sweet Oilers

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.

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Brian Elliott appears to be trapped in Sportsnet’s Canucks broadcasts

Brian Elliott took a brief nap Wednesday afternoon, as he often does. But as he slept, he met a small goblin named Mr. Teeth, who showed him a portal. “Pass through this portal,” said Mr. Teeth, with a wide, mischievous smile that wordlessly explained his name, “And you will be a star… forever.”

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Big Numbers: Vrbata on-pace for 40, Edler plays big minutes

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 3, Ducks 4 (SO)

The Canucks have had this one circled on their calendars ever since the NHL released the 2013-14 schedule. Unfortunately, the whole thing was ruined when Bryan Allen was traded to the Montreal Canadiens the morning of the affair, robbing us of only our sixth opportunity to see Allen in Vancouver since he left in the summer of 2006.

On the bright side, there was still Jason LaBarbera’s homecoming. And Ryan Kesler was there too, playing his first game back in Vancouver since pulling a David Duchovny and demanding a move to Southern California. Kesler and Duchovny have a lot in common, actually. Both had five good seasons in Vancouver. Neither emotes very well. And both had roles in 2001 film Zoolander. (Kesler played the title character.)

I’m going to watch the X-Files as soon as I’m done here. But this isn’t about what I’m going to watch tonight. It’s about what I’ve already watched. I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Kellan Lain traded to Oilers for Will Acton; Ryan Kesler’s back in town

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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Remembering Ryan Kesler’s best moments, hours before we boo the crap out of him

Tonight, Ryan Kesler is back in Vancouver for the first time since he demanded a trade to either Chicago or Anaheim, which, when you consider Chicago’s cap situation, was essentially just a demand to go to Anaheim. Why? With his first daughter turning 7 next year, did he want to be closer to Disneyland? Is he a big fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Did he really want to pay more taxes?

Whatever the reason, Canucks fans generally weren’t too happy about their beloved jerk skipping town and he quickly became behated. How will they react to his return? Will they boo him every time he touches the puck or just at the beginning of the game? Will they boo him at all? Will he get a standing ovation and be moved to tears like Vince Carter in Toronto on Wednesday?

Before you decide to jeer or cheer, let’s look back at his time with the Canucks and some of his most memorable moments.

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Breakdowning Radim Vrbata’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it powerplay goal

The Canucks made some changes to their powerplay personnel in advance of Wednesday’s visit to Edmonton, and just looking at the gamesheet, you might be tempted to conclude that it paid off. The club scored two goals with the man advantage, which, in a 5-4 game, is the difference between a win and a loss.

Of course, for those watching the game, you know the personnel shift that really made a difference wasn’t Yannick Weber in for Linden Vey, or Zack Kassian for Alex Edler. It was the Oilers’ penalty-kill for the PK units that had held the Canucks scoreless in the 20 opportunities leading up to Wednesday night.

That was never clearer than on Radim Vrbata’s first goal of the evening, which came just two seconds after the powerplay had begun, with Vrbata stepping into a jaw-droppingly wide-open slapshot.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Oilers 4

I don’t meant to alarm you, but Ryan Miller has allowed 16 goals in his last 4 starts. He has a .900 save percentage, 35th in the NHL. Mind you, I’m not a fan of the word “allowed” when it comes to goals against, as it sounds like the goaltender just stood there, letting the other team score, and that was only true of one of Edmonton’s goals in this game.

Plenty of teams have proven that you can win by outscoring your goaltending woes, but those teams usually aren’t paying their number one goaltender $6 million a year.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of season left and I fully believe that Miller can and will be better for the Canucks as the season progresses. He’s proven that he can still steal a game and his numbers have been skewed by a few ugly games, but the fact remains that those games happened. And so did this game. I watched those games and I watched this game.

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Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are falling short of expectations

The Canucks have a problem on defence. They’re currently giving up 2.89 goals per game, tied for 12th worst in the NHL. Part of the problem has been their goaltending, which has been outstanding one game, disastrous the next, and mediocre otherwise, with Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack combining for an atrocious .900 save percentage.

But there are defensive issues as well and two players in particular who have underwhelmed in that regard: Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. For the first time as a Canuck, Hamhuis is a negative possession player, while Bieksa is making a mess of relatively soft minutes.

Both Hamhuis and Bieksa were expected to bounce back from pedestrian seasons under John Tortorella, returning to a partnership that was extremely fruitful as a shutdown pairing under Alain Vigneault. Instead, they’ve struggled and seen their partnership broken up once again. What’s the problem and how can the Canucks fix it?

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The Canucks ugly Christmas sweater is making fools of us all

To hear some folks tell it, the official Vancouver Canucks ugly Christmas sweater is a holiday miracle, right up there with Clarence Odbody earning his wings, finding a sterile stable in dawn-of-the-common-era Bethlehem, and the Grinch becoming imbued with the strength of a dozen grinches atop Mount Crumpit.

Some folks, in this case, being retailers, who are marvelling at the redeemer come down from on high to save them, this pullover of prophecy, this sweater of sweaters.

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Daniel and Henrik Sedin should get into the Hockey Hall of Fame

The 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions happened on Monday, as Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, and Rob Blake were inducted into the Hall, along with referee Bill McCreary and — finally, belatedly — Pat Burns.

While some pre-NHL Canucks are in the Hall of Fame, just one player who really made his name in Vancouver, Pavel Bure, has been inducted, with other former Canucks, like Cam Neely, Mats Sundin, and He-who-shall-not-be-named, hardly counting. Even Bure is tarnished, in some minds, by how he left the Canucks and a couple of his biggest career accomplishments came outside of Vancouver. Technically, his only Rocket Richard trophies were won with the Florida Panthers, though he also led the league in goals in the 1993-94 season.

It’s entirely possible that the first career Canucks to make it into the Hall of Fame — players who spend their entire career, or at least all of their best seasons, in a Canucks jersey — will be Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

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Linden Vey’s slow transformation into Yannick Weber

For the second consecutive year, Linden Vey may have to wait a while for game no. 19.

The rookie forward looks to be the odd man out Wednesday in Edmonton, as the Canucks seek to address a few key areas: their struggling powerplay, first and foremost — it’s fallen to 17th in the league at 18% — and if there’s time, their team faceoff win percentage, which is 27th in the league.

To the former, Yannick Weber steps into the man advantage in place of Vey, hoping to cut down on the overpassing and put the Canucks back on the highway to goals. To the latter, Bo Horvat draws into the lineup for Vey, and I do mean draws, because his best asset right now is the one Vey doesn’t have.

It means familiar territory for Vey, as he waits for a spot to open up for him at centre. Granted, it’s not quite as dire as his time in Los Angeles, where the Kings are Umberto Eco deep in the middle, but it’s a concern. When the season began, there appeared to be as many as three centre spots up for grabs. Now, 18 games on, there may not be any left for Vey. Unbelievable as it sounds for a rookie with 9 points in his first 18 games, the first quarter of the season may go down as a massive missed opportunity.

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