I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, September 23, 2014

There’s no denying that the Sharks were the better team in this game. They out-shot the Canucks like crazy, particularly in the ugly second period, when they tallied 18 shots on goal to the Canucks’ 5. But really, in a pre-season game, you’re not necessarily looking at how the team performed as a whole, but instead at how individual players performed in a given role and how they fit with their teammates.

The result itself doesn’t actually matter…oh, who am I kidding. It was satisfying as hell to see the Canucks beat the Sharks, even if it was just in pre-season and even if the Sharks out-shot the Canucks 34-to-20. The Canucks got better as the game went on and they actually scored goals.

Look, I love preseason hockey, because it’s not no hockey. No hockey is dull and boring. No hockey is lame. No hockey is the worst. Give me preseason hockey over no hockey any day of the week, especially this day of the week, because on this day, I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Linden on separation; holy cow, there’s hockey tonight

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 3: Pre-Season Roster Decisions and Weezer

Pre-season is upon us, which means it’s time to watch actual Canucks play actual hockey for the first time in a long while. It also means that Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins have some difficult decisions ahead of them.

Can Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino, and Zack Kassian be an effective second line? Will Radim Vrbata stick with the Sedins on the first line? Will Bo Horvat make the roster, even if it means centring the fourth line? Should the team keep three goaltenders on the roster?

We discuss these topics and more, but, before that, we talk about Weezer, accidental boob grabbing, and growing old.

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Camp Cuts: McEneny, Pettit, Stewart sent back to junior

Canucks training camp is over, and we now move to phase two of the preseason: the playing of games. Today, it was blind dodgeball for some reason. But tomorrow, it’s hockey, with half the training camp roster hitting Rogers Arena to play host to the Sharks, and the other half off to San Jose to let the Sharks play host to them.

Save Kyle Pettit, Evan McEneny and Mackenze Stewart, who have been kindly asked to return to be at neither game, and instead return to their junior clubs.

The first two are headed back to the OHL, where Pettit plays centre for the Erie Otters and McEneny patrols the blueline for the Kingston Frontenacs. Stewart returns to the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.

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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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The Canucks might start the season with three goaltenders, because they want us to suffer

Heading into Canucks training camp, there were just a few stories to keep an eye on. Simple things, like who would end up playing with the Sedins, who will centre the third line, and which defencemen will partner on the third pairing. In net, however, there was no story. Though it will be interesting to [...]

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Canucks kick off training camp with potential opening night lines

With 61 players at training camp, the Canucks have more than enough guys to comfortably make three full teams. Now, obviously, the goal here is to pare it down to one team, but for the time being, the players have been split into three groups: Blue, Green, and White.

It’s the first day of training camp, so it doesn’t make much sense to read too much into the lines that we see at this junction. They probably aren’t going to stay like that.

But it’s hard not to when you look at the line-ups. It’s clear the plan for Willie Desjardins and company isn’t to start with chaos and see how it comes together (ala John Tortorella last year, or Alain Vigneault a few times during his run). Rather, it’s to start with the ideal opening night lines and defense pairings, the ones written in pencil this summer, and see if anyone or anything else at training camp makes them reconsider. Let’s take a look at how it’s shaping up:

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Four battles to watch heading into Canucks training camp

It’s the start of training camp, which means it’s time for rampant speculation. Who will shine in the pre-season? Who will fall flat on their faces? Which player will excel, looking to have a spot sewn up, then get a brutal injury in the final game of the pre-season and never play for the Canucks again?

The truth is that we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen, particularly in this coming training camp and pre-season. Thanks to the off-season shake-up both on and off the ice, my Canucks-branded Magic 8-Ball keeps returning “Reply hazy, try again.” Admittedly, that’s better than when it was telling me, “You know what to do: burn ‘em all!”

Here are four training camp battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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Here’s the full 2014 Vancouver Canucks training camp roster

Canucks training camp opens Friday in Whistler, but the festivities actually began Thursday in Vancouver, as the players reported to Rogers Arena for fitness testing, headshots, and a meet-and-greet with the media. (According to reports we can predict before they’re even filed: as per usual, everyone worked out really hard this summer and is in the best shape of their life, everyone likes this year’s team a lot and thinks they have a great chance, and everyone is excited to hit the ice.)

There are 61 players attending the Vancouver Canucks’ 2014 training camp: 34 forwards, 21 defencemen, and 6 goalies. Over the next few weeks, this combination of veterans, prospects, invitees, and tryouts will vie to survive through to the team’s final, 23-man, opening day roster.

As we do every year, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this list, as the Canucks work to trim it down to a more manageable number. But first, a role call. Here’s the complete training camp roster, barring any last-minute adjustments or tryouts.

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Who are these media guys Ryan Kesler is talking about?

Unwilling to adjust to waking up one to three hours earlier, Ryan Kesler forced a trade within the timezone this summer, joining the Anaheim Ducks. The centre will still be around Rogers Arena quite a bit, of course, since he just had to go to a team in the division, but he is no longer one of us. Now he is the enemy.

But Kesler doesn’t view Canucks fans the same way. He doesn’t hate you, Vancouver — just select members of your media.

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Did Frank Corrado’s decision to attend the Youngstars Tournament backfire?

Frank Corrado didn’t have to head up to Penticton last weekend to play in the annual Youngstars prospect tournament. He had already been to two of them: he was a standout in his first tournament back in 2011, then was dominant at both ends of the ice in 2013. With a full season of professional hockey in the AHL — along with a total of 22 NHL games, including 4 playoff games — under his belt, another Youngstars tournament didn’t seem to be necessary.

But the Canucks reportedly asked Corrado if he’d like to participate in the tournament and he said yes. One can understand why: with a new management team and coaching staff in Vancouver, Corrado has an all-new group of people to impress if he wants to make the Canucks out of training camp, and what better opportunity to make a good first impression than dominating a tournament featuring younger, smaller prospects, many of whom will never play even one game in the NHL, let alone 22?

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Corrado struggled to establish his game, looking a lot more like a raw kid than someone ready to make the jump to the big leagues.

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J.T. Wyman gets Canucks training camp tryout; does he have a chance?

J.T. Wyman was the 100th draft pick in 2004, just nine spots after Alexander Edler (and 186 before Jannik Hansen). After the draft, he committed to four years at Dartmouth, where he played with former Canuck Tanner Glass, and then signed with his big-league team, the Montreal Canadiens. He played 3 games with them in 2009, probably encountering Perry Pearn, who was an assistant coach in Montreal at that time.

Five years on, Pearn and Wyman are set to reconnect. Pearn is an assistant in Vancouver now. And Wyman is on his way there to join the Canucks’ training camp on a professional tryout contract.

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Stick in Link: Jim Benning says some things; features on the new guys

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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Complete statistics from the 2014 Youngstars Tournament

The 2014 Youngstars Tournament did not go particularly well for the Canucks. While their prospects managed to take two of three games to overtime, they still lost both in the end, then got thoroughly tromped by the Flames’ prospects in the tournament closer. While wins and losses aren’t really the point of a prospects tournament, [...]

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Camp Cuts: Miles Liberati returned to Junior, invitees sent home

With the conclusion of the Youngstars Tournament yesterday, it was just a matter of time before players started to get cut. And, by “a matter of time,” I mean “no time at all.” The first cuts were announced shortly after the Canucks’ prospects ugly 6-1 loss to the Flames’ prospects.

Like every year, PITB will be here to explain every cut as they happen or, rather, slightly after they happen. To start off, the cuts will be pretty easy to explain, with just one actual Canucks prospect getting the boot.

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Here’s what happened at the Canucks’ third Youngstars game

The Canucks prospects didn’t look like a team hungry for their first win in their third and final outing at the YoungStars tournament. Instead, they looked like a team that was hungry for real, and they were only too glad to let the Flames hand them their lunch.

After dropping two close ones to open the tournament — falling in overtime to Edmonton’s kids, then doing the same versus Winnipeg’s, these Canucks were never really in game three, closing the training camp tune-up (for some) with an ugly 6-1 loss. It was a total blowout. You’d have thought they feared overtime, having been hurt before, and wanted to make sure there was absolutely no risk of it.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 2: Youngstars Tournament and the Meaning of Life

The Canucks prospects are in Penticton, working like mad to impress an all-new management group. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on our behinds judging those prospects, their skill, and their effort. In general, we’re pretty positive about the prospects of these prospects.

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Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat are totally all about playing their game

Among the takeaways from the Canucks’ first two games at the Youngstars tournament: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk have some chemistry.

It’s really a shame that Horvat and Shinkaruk probably won’t get to play together when September ends, what with Shinkaruk likely headed to the AHL after Canucks training camp, and Horvat looking at an NHL-or-bust scenario, where bust means “back in juniors for another year”, not “failed prospect”. The two look good together. An optimist might even imagine a future where they replace the Sedins as the next prominent duo in Vancouver.

Granted, they didn’t share a womb, which puts them behind the eight ball a little, although, heck, if the Canucks are smart, they’ll convert Mike Gillis’s now-abandoned “mind room” into a “utero room”, then put Horvat and Shinkaruk in there for nine months or so, just to really cultivate this chemistry. First one out succeeds Henrik as captain.

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Here’s what happened at the Canucks’ second Youngstars game

Everything went horribly wrong for the Canucks prospects in the first 40 minutes of this game: they gave up three goals on five shots in the second period, looked horrific defensively, and couldn’t get anything going offensively. To make matters worse, Dane Fox fought before the puck was dropped on a faceoff and was tossed from the game.

They entered the third period down 4-1 to the Jets’ prospects and, while the score doesn’t really matter in a prospects tournament, a close game is far more pleasant to watch.

Cue the third period comeback: the Canucks’ prospects scored three goals in the third period, including two in the final two minutes with their net empty, forcing overtime. It was borderline thrilling.

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Here’s what happened in the Canucks’ first Youngstars game

The Canucks prospects dropped their opening night tilt with the Edmonton Oilers’ prospects 4-3 in overtime on Friday night. That’s the short version. Here’s the long:

Clearly looking to make the transition from the team that closed last year to the team opening this one as seamless as possible, the Canucks opened the 2014 Youngstars tournament playing some ugly and ineffective hockey versus their Alberta rivals. Watching the first period of this thing, you’d have thought they picked up right where they left off: Vancouver couldn’t get the puck out of their zone, they couldn’t get a shot through, and their goalie was being hung out to dry.

Fortunately, the Canucks have a way of ensuring that this team doesn’t look too much like last year’s team: white helmets for some reason! In keeping with Youngstars tradition, all the prospects wear safety hats whiter than wedding dresses, I think to signify their relative hockey chastity or something, I don’t really know.

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Canucks prospects to watch at the 2014 Young Stars Tournament

I love this time of year. The lead-up to training camp and the start of the NHL regular season is a time of positivity and optimism. After a long off-season with no Canuck hockey, the wait is finally over. Sort of.

Tonight is the start of the annual Young Stars prospect tournament, as the Canucks prospects take on the Oilers prospects at 7:30 pm. The game will be streamed live on Canucks.com and the Canucks’ YouTube channel, which means that even if you can’t make it out to Penticton, you can still watch the game.

Normally, this is when we’d get our first look at the Canucks’ recent draft picks, but, for a variety of reasons, that won’t really be happening this year. Just two of the Canucks’ seven 2014 draft picks will be at the tournament and they were the Canucks’ last two picks of the draft. Neither of the Canucks’ first round picks will be playing: Jake Virtanen isn’t cleared for contact yet after his shoulder surgery and Jared McCann has mononucleosis.

The Canucks’ second round pick, goaltender Thatcher Demko, is already back at Boston College, while their third and fifth round picks, Nikita Tryamkin and Gustav Forsling, are back in Russia and Sweden. That leaves just sixth round pick Kyle Pettit and seventh round pick Mackenze Stewart from the Canucks’ most recent draft.

Fortunately, there are many other Canucks prospects to get excited about, from the obvious to the more unheralded.

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Spitballin’ on betting odds, bad systems, and Bo Horvat

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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Meet the Canucks’ 2014 Young Stars Tournament invitees (Part 2)

We are this close to hockey being back. If you can’t tell, because it’s the internet and you can’t see me, I’m holding my thumb and forefinger about a centimetre apart.

It’s Thursday, September 11th, which means that the Canucks or, at least, a team wearing Canucks jerseys and white helmets, will be playing a game tomorrow. Or, if you’re reading this Friday, today. Or, if you’re reading this sometime after Friday, in the past. That’s how close hockey is to returning.

The Canucks prospects will be playing the Oilers prospects on Friday, starting at 7:30 pm. According to their website, the Canucks will be broadcasting the games live on Canucks.com, so you can watch something approximating Canucks hockey tomorrow, today, or in the past. This is crazy.

Along with the drafted and signed Canucks prospects will be ten unsigned and undrafted invitees. I profiled five of them on Wednesday and it’s time to look at the last five. Are any of them potential Canucks prospects? We’ll find out starting on Friday: if any of them impress, they could earn a contract or, at the very least, an invite to Canucks camp.

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Stick in Link: It’s going to be the best season ever, says everybody

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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Meet the Canucks’ 2014 Young Stars Tournament invitees (Part 1)

The annual Young Stars Tournament starts on Friday in Penticton and, as per usual, the Canucks have invited a number of undrafted and unsigned players to don a Canucks jersey. These invitees always intrigue me, as finding a diamond in the rough can easily and cheaply bolster the team’s prospect pool.

This year, the Canucks mostly looked to the WHL for their invitees. Eight of the Canucks’ ten invitees played last season in the WHL and a ninth is just a year removed from the Dub. That means the Canucks invited just one non-WHL player, Cordell James out of the OHL.

The thing with these invitees is that we generally know very little about them. Unlike the team’s drafted prospects, the invitees aren’t subject to profiles on the team’s website or breathless breakdowns of their potential from Pierre McGuire. So, every year, I take it upon myself to track down as much information on the Canucks’ invitees as possible. Here are all ten that will be in Penticton with the Canucks this year.

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