The Week Ahead: Canucks visited by other lowly teams, the Predators and Sabres

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: 10 prospects that could make a big impact next season

At this point, it would take a miracle for the Canucks to make the playoffs and the hockey gods have been particularly stingy with the miracles for the Canucks this season. With that in mind, it’s understandable that many fans are looking to the future, and Nicklas Jensen’s performance since getting called up from the Utica Comets is giving that future a certain rosy hue.

Jensen has looked like a legitimate top-six forward for the last few games, with the caveat that he’s playing alongside two very good first line forwards. It’s enough to get people to pencil Jensen into next season’s lineup, albeit faintly and with an eraser at the ready in case the Canucks go crazy on the trade market or in free agency.

He’s not the only Canucks prospect with the potential to step into the lineup next season, however. The Canucks have been criticized for their shallow prospect pool, but it’s simply not true. In fact, there are as many as 10 prospects that could step into the lineup next season and be real difference-makers.

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Stick in Link: Bo Horvat is Canucks’ top prospect; Burrows snarks on hot streak

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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Watch ‘Someone Like Lu’, the last (and best) Luongo tribute, we promise [VIDEO]

The Roberto Luongo trade caught everyone off guard. Heck, would it really have surprised anyone if Mike Gillis had been called for comment, only to respond with, “WE DID WHAT?!” It was pretty sudden.

There really wasn’t much time to get our bearings, either. We wrote our songs as we tried to come to terms with the new order, but before we could even be close to over the guy, suddenly, the Canucks were down in Florida watching Luongo tend net for the Panthers.

There’s really one way to tackle a situation that emotionally complex, and it’s with more music. And so, at the suggestion of several readers, I took it upon myself to repurpose Adele’s “Someone Like You”, which is a sad song about seeing a former flame and feeling weird, as a song about our curious situation.

Then I rounded up a couple friends. In the long-awaited first (and hopefully far from last) collaboration with the insanely talented Marie Hui and Clay Imoo, may I present, “Someone Like Lu”.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning, March 17, 2014

The Tampa Bay Lightning pulled off an incredible trick just prior to Monday night’s game versus the Canucks. In a pregame ceremony, they purported to honour the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, who hoisted the Cup on June 7, 2004. But when their video tribute began, the date on the JumboTron read June 7, 2014, which isn’t ten years ago — it’s three months from now.

One might say that this is a mistake. But that would be the mistake. In fact, this was a deliberate act of cunning: the Lightning left the Canucks completely confused as to whether they were in the past or the future. By the time the Canucks realized the answer was neither, as they were in the present, playing a hockey game, they were losing the hockey game, and they kept losing the hockey game until they had lost the hockey game. And I watched this game.

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Could Markus Naslund return to the Canucks?

The last time Steven Stamkos was in town with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the superstar forward was overshadowed by Markus Naslund, who saw his number retired by the Canucks in a ceremony before the Lightning’s 5-4 shootout victory.

With the Canucks visiting Stamkos’s Lightning on Monday, the people of Vancouver once again have Markus Naslund on the brain, as rumours swirl that Naslund could be joining the Canucks’ front-office.

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Big Numbers: Canucks’ playoff chances; Tom Sestito’s chase for 20 fights

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 at Florida Panthers, March 16, 2014

If we had been paying better attention, I think we would have been able to predict that Roberto Luongo would be a Florida Panther by mid-March, and I mean before Eddie Lack started the Heritage Classic. Are we honestly supposed to believe the NHL schedule just conveniently had Luongo facing Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack in back-to-back games, so soon after the deal?

That’s weird. It’s even weirder when you consider that the Panthers’ next four games are against the Chicago Blackhawks, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Graz 99ers, and IF Björklöven. Those are the respective teams of Jason LaBarbera, Curtis Sanford, Dany Sabourin, and Andrew Raycroft. Three of those teams aren’t even in the NHL! It’s as Ann as the nose on plain’s face! We should have seen it. But it became all too clear when I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on Kesler’s injury, Henrik’s coach-love, Mike Zalewski’s signing, and Booth’s dreaminess

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 at Washington Capitals, March 14, 2014

I don’t really know how to describe this game, only to say that I haven’t seen anything like it for some time. In fact it’s been so long that my vocabulary that I might used to describe it has atrophied. It was…expediting? No, that’s not right. Exfoliating? Nope, that’s not it. Excited? Is that the word?

Exciting! That’s the one. It’s been a long time since I used that word in relation to the Canucks, but it fits this game. The Canucks buzzed around the offensive zone, created scoring chances, and actually capitalized on a few of them. It was bizarre. I mean, they didn’t win, of course. It wasn’t that bizarre. But it was still fun to watch.

I was — what’s the word? — entertained when I watched this game.

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Canucks’ team bus breaks down, as cursed season continues

It is widely accepted now that this Canucks season has been cursed from the outset. Where this curse came from, we cannot know, although considering Alex Burrows got it the worst (with his linesmates, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, getting it the second-worst), we can probably assume that he was the prime target. Did he deny a witch a bank loan? Find an evil book in an old cabin and read a Latin passage aloud? Spend the offseason tending a secluded hotel in the Colorado mountains? It could be anything.

Whatever it was, however, Burrows managed to shake loose from it Wednesday night in Winnipeg through sheer force of will, playing his heart out and scoring his first goal of the season, just three shots before he matched Craig Adams’ modern-day NHL record for the forward with the most shots on goal in a goalless year. The curse appeared to have been broken.

But if we learned anything from Mickey Mouse’s battle with the broomsticks in Fantasia, or Scratchy the Cat’s similar battle, it’s that breaking a curse doesn’t end it — it just turns it into a bunch of smaller curses determined to keep on cursing, because curses gonna curse.

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What are realistic expectations for Dane Fox?

The conversation surrounding the Canucks has understandably shifted from the present to the future. That’s what happens when the team’s chances of making the playoffs have shrunk from slim to positively diaphanous. The Canucks are down to a 3.2% chance of making the postseason, according to Sports Club Stats, and fans have been looking to next season and beyond for nearly a month already.

Since there isn’t much to get excited about with the current roster, so it makes sense that fans would look to who might be on the roster in a coming season. In many ways, seeing a top prospect like Nicklas Jensen look like a legitimate top-six winger, at least when playing with top-end talent like Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, is more satisfying right now than seeing the Canucks win.

Other prospects are also showing promise: Cole Cassels has produced some surprising offence, Bo Horvat has progressed well, Ben Hutton has received Hobey Baker consideration, and Frank Corrado is playing big minutes in all situations for the Comets. None of them, however, have produced the type of gaudy numbers that really catch the attention of the average fan.

One prospect has, however: undrafted free agent signing Dane Fox. The Erie Otters left wing has scored an eye-catching 62 goals and 101 points in 64 games. The one fairly massive caveat is that Fox is an over-age player — a 20-year-old playing against 17, 18, and 19-year-olds — and had never produced at better than a point-per-game prior to his over-age year. So what, realistically, can we expect from Fox?

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Stick in Link: Henrik’s milestone game; thoughts on Kesler

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 Winnipeg Jets, March 12, 2014

Alex Burrows is such a terrible teammate. Having gone 35 games without scoring a single goal this season, Burrows chose to break his drought during Henrik Sedin’s 1000th career game, stealing the spotlight and making the game all about him. Selfish.

To make it even worse, Burrows scored two goals without allowing Henrik to tally an assist, despite playing on the top line with the Canucks captain. And you’ll notice that he scored two goals; why no assists, Burrows? Share the puck, Alex, this is a team game.

In fact, Burrows had a game-high 6 shots, while his other linemate, Nicklas Jensen, had just one, clearly because Burrows is such a puck-hog. Way to provide a toxic environment for the rookie, Burrows. Oh wait, I’m being sarcastic. Creating a toxic environment is a bad thing, Burr.

The final piece of evidence that Burrows was playing for the name on the back of his jersey rather than the logo on the front? He had the opportunity to score in the shootout and didn’t do it, obviously because it wouldn’t have counted for his points this season. He clearly just wanted to boost his personal statistics and didn’t care about getting his team the win. He was just out for number one, who was, in this case, number 14.

Alex Burrows is just the worst. I watched this game.

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The Week Ahead: John Tortorella versus Roberto Luongo

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?

This week, the Canucks are on a road trip to Winnipeg, Washington, Sunrise, and Tampa Bay.

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The Paper Feature: Several reasons to keep following the Canucks

With the events of last Monday’s historic collapse still weighing heavily on all of our minds, it might be tempting for you to consider joining the Canuck players and tuning this team out for the rest of the year. After all, if what we saw versus the Islanders is an indication of the sort of team we have now, one might say, there’s really no point in tracking this team to their logical end, which is the last game of the regular season, and no further.

No one would blame you for that. Watching the Canucks come out of the tunnel after the second intermission leading by a field goal, only to give up a touchdown? That’s tough to take. (Although I’d argue surrendering a third-period three-goal lead would be tougher to take if it happened in the playoffs, in a game 7, against the hated Boston Bruins. So it could be worse.)

But don’t do it. At the risk of sounding like a shill for the Aquilinis, there are so many reasons to keep watching this team this season, and we’re here to give you just a few. Here’s why you should stick with these Canucks.

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Stick in Link: Canucks fans are a little bit peeved

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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Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider star in amazing GIF that pretty much says it all

Things can change in a hurry in the NHL. Last March, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider were locked in a battle for the starting job in Vancouver. This March, they’ll face off twice — on the 14th, and again on the 31st — as the starting netminders for the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils, respectively.

They, like us, probably have their issues with how they exited Vancouver. But unlike us, looking back at the exploding house they just escaped, they’re probably happy to be elsewhere. That is, if they even look back. Two cool customers like that might not even bother. After all, that’s not what cool guys do.

All of this leads us to what has to be considered the GIF of the year in Canuckland. Look at this masterpiece:

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Because someone had to pay, Canucks fire entire concession staff

It’s chaos in Vancouver, and with the club delaying their season ticket renewal letter until they can pair it with some kind of optimism, it’s clear, and it became clearer after Monday night’s historic collapse, that someone needs to pay.

On Tuesday morning, the hammer came down. After 18 years working with the concession pros at Aramark Canada, the Canucks have fired their entire concession staff.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. New York Islanders, March 10, 2014

When the second period came to a close, the Canucks led 3-0, having outshot the Islanders 19-13, and looking far and away to be the superior club. It was then that I made a grave mistake. Believing the result of this game to be all be assured, I started writing.

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Nicklas Jensen to skate on the first line, because he’s actually scored recently

When Daniel Sedin was injured during the Heritage Classic, fans were understandably upset that Darren Archibald was called up from the Utica Comets rather than Nicklas Jensen, who was on a scoring tear. Why would the Canucks call up a bottom-six forward when a first-line forward is out of the lineup?

It wasn’t until Zack Kassian was suspended that Jensen got the call. Personally, I was okay with Jensen staying down in the AHL, as it’s better for his development to play top-line minutes with Utica than to play under 10-minutes per night. That’s assuming, of course, that he wouldn’t get top-line minutes in Vancouver, which seemed to be a safe assumption. Perhaps it’s the years of having Alain Vigneault, who was loath to use rookies in vital roles, as the Canucks head coach.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t liked many of John Tortorella’s decisions of late, but this one I do like: after a strong performance against the Calgary Flames that saw Jensen promoted up the ranks as the game progressed, Jensen will start on the first line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows against the New York Islanders tonight.

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Big Numbers: First line futility; Canucks on-pace for historic low

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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Pass it to Comics: Luongo and Thomas, friends for a season

Pass it to Comics is a collaboration between PITB and cartoonist Chloe Ezra, whose Tumblr page, Blue Soup, is a must-follow for any Canuck fan with an appreciation for quirk. Today, we remember a great moment in hockey history.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, March 8, 2014

The last time the Canucks played the Flames, the game was marred by a linebrawl off the opening faceoff, a crazed John Tortorella attempting to bull rush his way into the Flames locker room during the first intermission, and a total of 188 penalty minutes.

For a moment, it looked like this game might start the same way, as Tom Sestito and Brian McGrattan lined up opposite each other for the opening faceoff and had words. Fortunately, those words appeared to be, “Good day to you, sir” and “God be with ye,” because the two players separated and did a novel thing: they played hockey. Imagine that.

I watched hockey players playing hockey when I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Nicklas Jensen, Alexandre Grenier, Dane Fox, and Cole Cassels

The Canucks have just 5 wins in 2014, but even as they were going on a massive losing streak heading into the Olympic break, they were still easily in the playoff picture. Sure, they were on the bubble, but all they needed was to come back from the break rejuvenated and ready to make a strong push to end the season and they were in.

Instead, the Canucks won one game, lost the next in the shootout, then dropped three straight in regulation, including losses to Phoenix and Dallas, both teams battling for the final wild card spot in the West. They’ve gone from being one point out of the playoffs to being four points out and in position for a top-ten pick at the 2014 entry draft.

It isn’t pretty and it has plenty of fans giving up on the current season and looking to the future. While we at PITB aren’t writing anything off just yet, we’re still going to take a look at that future, mainly because it’s nice to be positive about something related to the Canucks once in a while.

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