Stick in Link: Dan Hamhuis reloaded; Canucks at the midway point

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 PITB Podcast, Episode 18: Bad Canucks and American Idol

Are the Canucks bad? Halfway through the season, it feels like we’re no closer to figuring out just how good or bad this Canucks team is, with some recent losses skewing our view just a little.

We discuss how a lot of the Canucks’ struggles stem from Dan Hamhuis being out of the lineup and ask what impact he’ll have when he returns. We also ask why it took so long for Frank Corrado to get into a game and brach out into Willie Desjardins’ usage of young players so far this season.

Along the way, they touch on Taken, Toy Story 3, and dad strength. But before all that, they kick things off with American Idol and how dependent singing shows are on a good, charismatic judging panel.

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Are the Canucks bad?

The Vancouver Canucks began this season with a great deal of promise, which was either great, or the worst possible start, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, it served to validate their promises that this season would be unlike last season. But on the other hand, by beginning the season strong, they actually were doing what they did last year.

And as the season’s hummed along, and the Canucks have continued to match last year stride for stride, fans have been getting nervous. Normally this would be silly, to be more and more scared that your team is bad as they play well deeper into the season, but not when the puck possession is beginning to slide. As the advanced stats community has warned us many times, that usually signals a brewing storm.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Flyers, January 15

This week’s schedule poses a bit of a conundrum when it comes to selecting the marquee game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Flames 1

Some nights you just don’t score. You can look really good. You can put in a solid effort. You can even generate some quality looks. But at the end of the day, it always takes a little luck. The robots knew. You gotta get lucky. And when you don’t, well, there’s always a late-night poutine shack open somewhere.

What were we talking about? Right, there was a hockey game tonight. I zoned out a bit because nothing happened. Anyway, I watched this game.

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Radim Vrbata the lone Canuck made to attend the 2015 NHL All-Star Game

We did Radim Vrbata a grave dishonour earlier today, somehow forgetting about him during our mid-season report card. After realizing his name was nowhere to be found in this week’s Paper Feature, he undoubtedly spent most of the morning sulking around his condo.

Fortunately, his day was made immeasurably better when his name showed up elsewhere, on the NHL’s list of players announced for 2015 All-Star Weekend. For the first time in his career, Vrbata is an all-star. Congratulations! Here is your ticket to Columbus, Ohio. Yes, you have to go.

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The Paper Feature: Vancouver Canucks Mid-Season Report Card

The Canucks are 39 games into the regular season, which is close enough to the midpoint to start passing judgement on the team and the players. But let’s face it: we here at Pass it to Bulis just aren’t judgemental people. Assigning a person an arbitrary letter grade based on how they play a game just seems unnecessarily cruel and critical.

So, to soften the blow, we’ve done away with letters and will instead go back to kindergarten with a friendlier set of grades: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Needs Improvement, and Incomplete.

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Canucks of the Week, starring you-know-who-ongo

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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If Frank Corrado gets into a game, who comes out?

On Wednesday, Frank Corrado was called up from the Utica Comets for the third time this season. He has yet to play a game.

The Canucks have been rotating through Corrado, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Alex Biega as their seventh defenceman since Dan Hamhuis got injured and none of them have gotten into the lineup. With Hamhuis back practicing with the team and looking to return before the All-Star break, it was beginning to look like Corrado would never get into a game.

Fortunately, it looks like Willie Desjardins is looking to get Corrado into the lineup before Hamhuis returns, possibly as soon as tomorrow against the Calgary Flames.

If Corrado does rotate into the lineup, which defenceman comes out?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Panthers 3

Roberto Luongo may have been with the visitors on Thursday night, but in a lot of ways, his return to Rogers Arena probably felt like a home game. Rather than getting jeered all night, he was honoured with a video tribute and a standing ovation at the first TV timeout. Then the fans LUUUUUU-ed him with nearly every save. And by the third period, the lower-bowl was practically empty, which had to make him feel like he was back in Sunrise. Nice touch there by the Canucks’ faithful.

In addition to the video tribute, not to mention the portion of his salary the Canucks are still charitably paying, the club also gifted their former starter a win — the 389th of his career, tying him with Dominik Hasek for 11th all-time. So all in all, it was a good night for Luongo. Less so for the team that traded him away, but it just wasn’t their night. It was Luongo night. And so, like them, I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Roberto Luongo overload edition

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: Canucks one of those ‘special’ teams; more icetime for Edler

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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Canucks willing to ice the puck to ice the game

When Henrik Sedin fired his 200th career goal into an empty net, colour commentator Craig Simpson chided him for the “risky play”. Henrik had released the puck from his own side of centre.

It’s a common sentiment in hockey circles to call that kind of play selfish: risking an icing call that could cost the team in the final minutes, sending everyone back into their own end in the dying moments of a close game for a crucial defensive zone faceoff, just to pad your stats.

It wasn’t the first time this season, however, that the Canucks have, without hesitation, fired the puck the length of the ice with an empty net at the other end. It’s happened often enough that it actually looks like the team has received an edict from the new coaching staff to risk icing the puck in hopes of getting empty net goals.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Islanders 2

The story heading into this game was Alex Burrows reuniting with the Sedins on the top line, allowing Radim Vrbata to move to the second line in an effort to spark Nick Bonino, who had just 2 points in his last 14 games. The plan fell through at the last minute, however, as Vrbata fell ill, forcing Linden Vey into the lineup in his place. The sparking of Bonino would have to wait, we all thought.

Instead, Vey had one of his best games of the year, the second line was the Canucks’ best, and Bonino excelled, firing a game-high 5 shots on net and scoring his first goal in 8 games.

Now Willie Desjardins has a dilemma: once Vrbata recovers, who comes out of the lineup? Don’t you dare say Zack Kassian, because he was also fantastic in this game. I should know, because I saw it with my own two eyes when I watched this game.

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Don’t trade Zack Kassian, dammit

Canuck nation is abuzz with Zack Kassian trade discussion. The poll question on BMac and Taylor’s drivetime radio show this afternoon: “If you were the Canucks, would you trade Zack Kassian?”

And this line of discussion hardly comes from nowhere. When asked if the Canucks were shopping Kassian, Jim Benning did little to quell the rumours, saying that teams have been calling about him. And Benning went on to dismiss Kassian’s scoring at the end of last season, saying, “sometimes, when the team is not playing well and you get a lot of those points at the end of year when the games are meaningless, it doesn’t really mean much.”

Between Benning’s comments and Willie Desjardins’ usage of the young winger, it’s understandable that there would be speculation about his future. Their comments, viewed through the pessimistic lens of the Vancouver hockey market, speak volumes, apparently: they don’t like him. They don’t believe in him. He’s not their guy.

That may all be true, though it’s all speculation at this point. Whatever the case may be, the Canucks absolutely should not trade Zack Kassian.

At least, not yet.

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World Junior Wrap-Up: Virtanen nabs gold, Forsling an all-star

The World Junior Championship came to a thrilling finish on Monday, with Slovakia stunning Sweden in the bronze medal game on the back of tournament MVP Denis Godla and Canada holding off an impressive comeback attempt from Russia to win gold.

It was a disappointing finish to the tournament for Gustav Forsling and an “unreal” finish for Jake Virtanen, but what’s most intriguing is that this isn’t necessarily their last tournament. Both are just 18 years old and Forsling is still a fair distance away from being NHL-ready, so should return next year, while Virtanen is a very young 18 and would probably best serve his development by spending another year in junior as a 19-year-old.

The same can’t be said for Thatcher Demko, whose Team USA fell to Russia in the quarterfinals, leaving them outside the medal round. Demko turned 19 before the start of the tournament, so isn’t eligible for next year. Demko performed well, particularly in the preliminary round against Canada, but he couldn’t repeat the performance against Russia and got beat by some bad bounces. If the US had managed to beat Canada, they would have faced Denmark in the quarterfinals instead of Russia and their tournament could have ended a lot differently.

As for Forsling and Virtanen, let’s recap their performances in their respective medal games and take stock of their tournament as a whole.

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Hey, remember that horrible loss to the Islanders last year?

There were so many low points in the Canucks’ 2013-14 season that it’s hard to say which was indeed the lowest. In fact, you could probably build a really good Family Feud category by just asking people in Yaletown what moment they hated the most. “We surveyed 100 Canuck fans. Top five answers on the board. What was the worst part of last season?” “BENCHING LUONGO AT THE HERITAGE CLASSIC.” (“Good answer, good answer!”) “Survey says:”

*ding*

Yeah, you’d better believe that boneheaded move is up there. As is the horrible, horrible game the Canucks put in when they last hosted the New York Islanders on March 10, a game in which they entered the third period leading 3-0 and exited the third period having lost 7-4. SEVEN. TO FREAKING. FOUR. I watched this game from a bar, and thank God, because after a game like that, I needed liquor right away.

Heck, even now, a season, General Manager, a half a roster removed from that heinous, heinous night, it’s still a pretty troubling moment to remember. (Read our recap from the night: I nearly lost my damn mind.) But hey man, until we can face our fears, we will be ruled by them, which is why, with the Islanders back in town on Tuesday night, now seems as good a time as any to look back at what one of the most infuriating [one-game] Canuck collapses in franchise history.

Don’t panic, though. I’m not going to make you rewatch the entire game. Just the four-minute highlight package. And you can follow along with me below.

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Stick in Link: Lack gets dumped; Burrows gets bumped

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 PITB Podcast, Episode 17: Mid-Season Uncertainty and New Year’s Eve Memories

After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division’s best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks’ league-leading 10 empty net goals.

That’s the thing: for every positive thing you can say about the Canucks this season, there’s something that undercuts it. Similarly, for every negative thing you can say, there’s context that lessens the blow. Just how good are the Canucks? It’s hard to say.

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World Junior Semifinal Summary: Gustav Forsling and Jake Virtanen

The World Junior Championship is coming to a close today with the gold and bronze medal games. The Canucks have two prospects still in the tournament: Gustav Forsling with Sweden and Jake Virtanen with Canada. Neither played particularly well in their semifinal games, so let’s breakdown exactly how they performed.

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Spitballin’ on Henrik Sedin’s bayonet, goal differential, and the singular Alex Burrows

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Red Wings 1

Depending on who you ask, Zack Kassian has been cleared to play since before the San Jose game or before the Los Angeles game. Either way, Kassian ended up being a healthy scratch before finding his way back into the lineup. Fortunately for him, the Canucks were just plain bad against the Kings, with only Ryan Miller’s excellent goaltending keeping them competitive, until at the end of the game that gave way as well.

So Kassian got back in to the lineup against the Red Wings and had a pretty decent game. It wasn’t spectacular, but he just missed 14 games with an injury/coach’s stubbornness, so spectacular wasn’t really expected.What was notable was that he played what might be called “his” game, distributing the puck with some pretty, pinpoint passes from the perimeter and not so much driving the net like the power forward many want him to be.

It’s certainly understandable to want Kassian to go to the net more, particularly with his size and strength, but addressing weaknesses is one thing and ignoring strengths is another. The sooner that fans, coaches, and management realize he’s more Joe Thornton-lite than Cam Neely-lite, the better.

I mean, at least he’s not Alek Stojanov-lite. I watched this game.

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Canucks of the Week, starring the last days of Tom Sestito

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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World Junior quarterfinals: Thatcher Demko, Gustav Forsling, and Jake Virtanen

The quarterfinals of the World Junior tournament took place on Friday, but not every Canucks prospect survived. Jake Virtanen and Canada easily handled Denmark, while Gustav Forsling and Sweden dispatched last year’s gold medallists, Finland, but Thatcher Demko and Team USA ran into Russia and came just short.

Sweden and Canada are now on opposite sides of the semifinals and could face each other in the gold medal game if they are able to beat Russia and Slovakia, respectively. Before the semifinals on Sunday, however, let’s break down the performances of the three Canucks prospects in the quarterfinals.

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Game of the Week: January 8th vs the Florida Panthers

Ten months ago, the Vancouver Canucks traded away the best goaltender in franchise history, sending him to the Florida Panthers. For the first time since the trade, Roberto Luongo will be back in Vancouver, facing the Canucks in Rogers Arena on Thursday, January 8th.

Luongo holds the franchise records for wins with 252 and shutouts with 38, nearly twice as many as the next best goaltender on the list, Kirk McLean. He also holds the franchise records for most wins in a season, most shutouts in a season, lowest goals against average in a season, and has the longest shutout streak in franchise history. He’s not just the best goaltender in Canucks history, he’s one of the greatest players in Canucks history, period.

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