This guy or this other guy: John Tortorella or Mike Gillis?

Many saw Mike Gillis’s layered and intriguing comments during Thursday morning’s Team 1040 radio interview as an ultimatum of sorts, directed either at Francesco Aquilini — either my way, or John Tortorella’s way, some suggested he was implying — or at the coach himself (in which case, swap “Tortorella’s way” for “the highway”).

There’s definitely some merit to this reading. “When you have an entire team’s level of performance drop off there has to be reasons for it,” Gillis said, before pointing to reasons that seemed systematic. He talked about the team getting away from the way he wanted them to play — the way he built them to play. He referenced the change in Alain Vigneault’s coaching style when the new GM arrived on the scene six years ago, implying that a similar adjustment was necessary here.

Ray Ferraro felt Gillis was drawing a line in sand. Via the Vancouver Sun:

“That is as big a distancing from the coach as I’ve seen,” Ferraro said in an interview Thursday. “That’s pushing you to that side of the room and I’m on this side of the room and whoever is making the decision upstairs, you’ve got one or the other.

“I see it as totally unlikely that both are gone and totally unlikely that both are back.”

Thus, it’s one or the other. Gillis or Tortorella? That’s a tough call for Canucks’ ownership, and one that shouldn’t be made alone. So we’ve decided to pitch in and help, with another edition of This Guy or This Other Guy?

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Watch Bo Horvat, Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels tear up the OHL playoffs [VIDEO]

The Canucks playoff hopes are about as dim as Shane O’Brien caving in Torca del Cerro del Cuevon without a headlamp. The chances of the Canucks making the playoffs are lower than the chances of “fetch” happening. It’s as unlikely as Facebook ever adding a dislike button.

Some players in the Canucks system are seeing playoff success, however, specifically their forward prospects in the OHL. All four are in the top-ten in scoring in the OHL playoffs, with Dane Fox first and Brendan Gaunce third. Their respective teams also dominated the first round, all advancing in four or five games.

It’s tough to see these prospects in action, however, as OHL playoff games are sporadically televised at best. You can see Bo Horvat and the London Knights take on the Guelph Storm in game one of their second round series this Friday on Sportsnet ONE at 4:30, but if you want to see others, you’re basically out of luck.

You can, however, see some of their goals and assists from the first round in the following highlight video!

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Stick in Link: Mike Gillis wants uptempo hockey; ex-ref calls out Alex Burrows for ‘cowardice’

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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New Van Fan, Season 2: Canucks fan support group

With the Vancouver Canucks’ season wrapping up, so too is another season of New Van Fan, our favourite webseries about Canucks fans trying to maintain their sanity while cheering for this wonderful but infuriating hockey team.

That’s most certainly the theme of the finale, as Dan and Andreas form a support group to help them cope with the events of this season, and in so doing, realize that they’ve experienced all five stages of grief and death this season, from denial (the moral victory versus the Kings), to acceptance, which comes during the collapse to the Islanders.

“Seven goals in the third period,” says the third member of the support group. “Saw that one coming.”

Watch and laugh, and be sure to subscribe to an excellent and underappreciated show.

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Mike Gillis dodges question on retaining Tortorella: ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be back next season’

You knew the question was coming. When the Team 1040 announced that Mike Gillis would be joining Jake Edwards and Dave Pratt for a segment on the morning show, Canucks fans tuned in — given a rare reason to do so — to hear either Edwards or Pratt ask the big ask: Will John Tortorella be back next season?

It’s an almost impossible question to answer about a coach on the hot seat. Gillis isn’t going to say “absolutely not, I fired his ass, just now, he’s done, I’m watching him clean out his desk right now.” So he’s left with just two options. He could say “no comment”, a response listeners will only hear the first half of; or he could say “yes he will, I have the utmost faith in John’s ability to do the job,” or something to that effect. And, as longtime hockey fans will tell you, the vote of confidence is often the kiss of death.
But this isn’t Mike Gillis’s first rodeo. He’s always excelled at giving lawyerly answers to difficult questions (it’s probably that law background), and his response to this one was among his best.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be back next season.”

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Alex Burrows catches first break of the season, doesn’t get suspended for hit on Ryan McDonagh

Breaking news: hitting is still allowed in the NHL.

As expected, Alex Burrows will not receive a suspension for his hit on Ryan McDonagh late in the game against the New York Rangers, because the people employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety have eyes.

This, of course, means that the curse that has stricken Burrows all season has finally been broken. A cursed Burrows would have been flown to New York for an in-person hearing and suspended for 15 games. Now, the last remnants of his curse could only tag him with a 5-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct. His nightmare is over.

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Cody Hodgson update: he’s still bad at defending, so now he’s a winger

One of the main reasons that Cody Hodgson pushed for a move out of Vancouver was the Canucks’ depth chart. A natural centre on a team with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, Hodgson wasn’t pleased with the idea of playing second fiddle. Well, third fiddle. (He didn’t really fit there anyway, since that role is for more of a checking fiddler.)

And so, at the 2012 trade deadline, Hodgson got his wish, and was moved to the Buffalo Sabres, whose depth chart made a mockery of the term. At the time, they were using under-sized converted winger Tyler Ennis as their first line centre.

Surely, there would be no one impeding Hodgson’s ascension to the middle of Buffalo’s first line.

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The Week Ahead: Oh great, more games against California teams

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

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The Paper Feature: Canucks First Round Playoff Preview (as written at the end of December)

Every once in a while I like to work ahead and give myself a buffer of writing for the future. I like to do this with topics that are, essentially, evergreen: topics that will never go out of date or lose their relevance. One of those topics, at least with a team like the Canucks, is the postseason preview.

I don’t want to be deceitful, however, so it’s only fair that I dutifully inform you that this playoff preview is being written at the end of December.

By the time this sees publication, the playoffs will be just two tantalizing weeks away and the anticipation will be building to a fever pitch in Vancouver. There’s no possible way that this season could be as disappointing as last year’s four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and fans are eager for a deeper postseason run.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs New York Rangers, April 1, 2014

In honour of Alain Vigneault returning to Vancouver for the first time in the regular season since getting the boot last May, I will be using the word “real” throughout this intro, both correctly and incorrectly.

The Canucks were real good in this game, playing with a real intensity as they tried to keep their playoff hopes real alive. They got in on the forecheck real quick and created real scoring chances. They looked like a real hockey team with a real first line and for a real short time it was real exciting.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down to earth in a real hurry. Even as they looked real good, they still couldn’t put pucks into the net, with the woeful power play giving the Canucks meagre playoff hopes one final kick in teeth, giving up a shorthanded goal to seal the loss. It may seem like this whole season has been a bad dream, but it’s real real. Also real real? The fact I watched this game.

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Under John Tortorella, the Canucks get plenty of shots but few scoring chances

There are many reasons why the Canucks are on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but the biggest can be summed up in three words: they can’t score. The team is 28th in the league in goals-per-game, ahead of only the woeful Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. Their leading goalscorer is Ryan Kesler, with 23, and they’re likely to finish without a single 30-goal scorer for the first time in a non-lockout year since the 2007-08 season.

That season, they at least had three players with 20+ goals. Chris Higgins needs three goals in the Canucks’ final six games to reach 20 or Kesler will be the only Canuck above that mark.

The one bright spot? They’re currently on pace for 193 goals, which would be one better than their franchise low 192 in 1998-99. They need 14 goals in the final six games to avoid a historic low.

Many suggest the issue is personnel, that the Canucks lack legitimate snipers to finish chances, but the scoring struggles of normally reliable forwards like Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin make me question that assessment. The Canucks could certainly use more talented goalscorers, but that doesn’t explain the struggles of the scorers they do have. For the moment, let’s set that aside and look elsewhere.

With Alain Vigneault back in town, it makes sense to look at coaching. Has John Tortorella’s coaching style and the offensive system he has put in place hurt the Canucks’ ability to score goals?

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Stick in Link: Vigneault returns; Larry Brooks still grinding that axe

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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A Moment of Pure Bulis

It’s a stressful time right now. The Canucks have crashed harder than a college student after an all-nighter and a four-pack of Red Bull. They’re about to miss the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Fans are calling for heads, but not while flipping coins: they’ve set up a guillotine outside Rogers Arena next to the Roger Neilson statue.

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Horrible Bruins fan offers Iginla jersey, Centre Ice, to Canucks fan willing to switch allegiances

The Canucks have been a tough club to cheer for this season. They keep losing, which is annoying, but more than that, they keep losing in fabulous and fantastic ways. Heck, just looking at the season series versus Anaheim, there’s enough material for a reasonable person to look at this team and say “nuts to this”. A 9-1 loss. A 5-1 loss with their playoff lives on the line. A 4-3 overtime loss in a game Vancouver led 3-2 inside the final two minutes. It’s disheartening.

(Almost literally. Watching Vancouver this year has been like going toe-to-toe with Mola Ram, the disheartener himself.)

And if you’ve had enough, one Boston Bruins fan (presumably Satan himself) is offering you a way out. And all you have to do is give him your soul. (Seriously, this is what Satan would do.)

Your fan soul, anyway. Fork it over to this guy by way of a Youtube video denouncing the Canucks and joining Bruins nation instead, and in exchange, you’ll get a free Jarome Iginla jersey and a season of Centre Ice or Game Center Live.

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Big Numbers: Canucks vs. California, Edler chasing Ovechkin

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 vs Anaheim Ducks, March 29, 2014

Hey, remember the Northwest? Back in the day, the Canucks were the lone bright spot in a division so hapless — yes, so utterly devoid of haps — that it would occasionally spit out freebies, like a malfunctioning vending machine. They’d waltz into Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary, or Edmonton, and before they could even hit the ice: instant win. The Division would belch out a couple points, and the team would add them to the pile and head home.

I know the Canucks haven’t forgotten, because they’ve spent most of this season doing their best to keep the spirit of the Northwest alive and well in the new-look Pacific. Of course, since their role — the dominant team snatching up all the easy wins — has been split among the California teams, they’ve really had no choice but to settle in as one of the bottom-feeders handing out free points.

It suddenly dawned on me that the Canucks have become last year’s Colorado Avalanche when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 27, 2014

Heading into this game, Jannik Hansen had 3 goals in his last 33 games. Nicklas Jensen had 3 goals in his last 6 games. One played on a line with Daniel Sedin, the other on a line with Tom Sestito. One played more than 6 minutes in a tied third period. The other was stapled to the bench after the second intermission.

Does John Tortorella hate the happiness of Canucks fans? Jensen’s success since his call-up has been the one thing that all fans can enjoy, the one real ray of sunshine and light in the dreary darkness, but then he got shunted down the lineup. Meanwhile, Hansen, who is having the worst offensive season of his career in terms of points-per-minute, kept getting sent out, despite not registering a single shot attempt and the Canucks getting out-shot 9-4 at even-strength with him on the ice.

Did John Tortorella confuse Hansen for Jensen? Does he think all Danes look alike? If so, that’s pretty racist. He’s lucky there aren’t more Danes in the NHL so this didn’t come up earlier.

Like Jensen, who quietly sat back and let Tortorella call him Jannik all night, I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Ben Hutton’s record-breaking season; Canucks prospects make a mark in OHL playoffs

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this edition, we break down Ben Hutton’s solid sophomore season and highlight four forwards — Dane Fox, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels — racking up points in the OHL playoffs.

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Alex Burrows suffers rare legal headshot, chips tooth eating granola bar, is the most cursed you can be

How cursed is Alex Burrows? Let us count the ways.

In his first game, he broke his ankle blocking a shot. He missed four weeks. Shortly after returning, he broke his jaw blocking a shot from a teammate — the muffin man Chris Tanev, at that. He missed six weeks. In a fight with Phil Kessel, which is the hockey equivalent of letting your cat go to town on your sleeve, Burrows sprained his hand.

And while all this is going on, Burrows can’t score. Tom Sestito scores five times. Zac Dalpe scores four. Down in Phoenix, a goalie scores. Meanwhile, Burrows can’t buy one.

Then, finally, when he does, scoring two in one game then three more in his next three, he suffers yet another injury after Shea Weber nearly chops his thumb off on a slash. And in his first game back from that ordeal, Wednesday night in Minnesota, the hockey gods decide he hasn’t had enough yet, and subject him to the rare, legal headshot:

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Stick in Link: The Desolation of Luongo; Alex Burrows on the quiet room

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, March 26, 2014

The Vancouver Canucks hit the ice in Minnesota Wednesday night hoping to accomplish three things: win their third game in a row for the first time in 2014, prevent the Wild from sweeping the season series for the first time ever and, in so doing, upgrade their scant playoff hopes from “LMAO never gonna happen” to “LOL doubt it”.

These are depressing goals. Fortunately, this game was far from depressing, as the Canucks accomplished all of their goals, and even scored five in the process, the first time they’ve tallied five regulation goals since they beat Boston in mid-December. Like that game, the catalyst for the scoring outburst was David Booth, who appears as at home versus the Wild as he does in it. Like Booth perched in a bush, quietly loading his crossbow for the kill, I watched this game.

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Guest Post: ‘Best Canucks season ever’, says Ryan Lambert, of his own free will

All anyone has heard these last few months about the Vancouver Canucks is that this season has been a catastrophic failure. They say there are a lot of reasons why.

The team loses a lot, for one thing. And you’d have to say that’s probably a pretty big one because losing 1) sucks, and 2) is something to which this team has lately grown unaccustomed. The Canucks used to win their division a lot, you know? Like a LOT a lot. Won two Presidents’ Trophies too. Went to a Stanley Cup Final. Went to Game 7 in it, in fact. So yeah, the losing hurts.

Then there’s the mismanagement, they say. Alain Vigneault fired. John Tortorella hired. Trades that have ostensibly brought the team lower than it has been in years with little hope of significant improvement ahead. At least, not so significant that the team seems poised to return to the glory days any time soon.

Especially because of realignment, they say. Before the Canucks could expect a spate of games against Colorado and Calgary and Edmonton and Minnesota. Lots of easy Ws in there for sure. But now they’re sharing a division with Los Angeles and San Jose and Phoenix and Anaheim, and even with Calgary and Edmonton still mixed in there (and still awful) things are really not even close to being quite so rosy as they used to be. Not that they’re going to get better, either, since re-realignment doesn’t seem like it’s going to be on the table any time soon.

To these naysayers, I reply, “You obviously haven’t been paying attention.” This has been, in point of fact, the best Canucks season ever.

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The Week Ahead: One last back-to-back, and the return of Alain Vigneault

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

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The Paper Feature: All aboard the Miracle Express, the Canucks are making the playoffs

Looking at the standings, at the odds, at the team’s injury list, which currently includes Henrik Sedin (again), Chris Tanev (again), and Alex Burrows (again), and even looking at the schedule’s final stretch, which the team would basically have to sweep to even have a puncher’s chance, it’s pretty much impossible at this point to ignore the obvious:

The Canucks are poised for a miracle run. That’s right. I said it.

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Stick in Link: Henrik Sedin injured again, proving this season is super cursed

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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