The newest Canuck insider: this guy eavesdropping on a phone call at JJ Bean

It was a big Friday for the new Vancouver Canucks regime, with three trades in very short order, just hours before the draft. And it was also a big day for Michael Falcon, who went from undersized customer experience blogger to hockey insider in the span of an afternoon.

Falcon knew about Jason Garrison before it happened. He was on Derek Dorsett a half hour before that surprise deal. He even knew that the Canucks would draft Jake Virtanen. But how? How does a guy go from zero to legitimate NHL source, with connections deep in the know, as they say, in the span of an afternoon?

Simply, he walked into the JJ Bean in Yaletown and happened to overhear a telephone conversation.

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Canucks take Jake Virtanen, who is good at hockey, 6th overall

A lot of fans aren’t thrilled with the Canucks’ decision to select Jake Virtanen, simply because more creative players with higher upside like Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander were still available. It’s easy to let that disappointment override Virtanen’s many positive attributes, however, and his talent is getting lost in the kerfuffle.

The issue with Virtanen is that he’s a risky pick, comparing as well to the likes of Kyle Beach and Alex Picard as he does to Jeff Carter and Ryan Johansen. There’s hope that he could be the next Jamie Benn, but he could just as easily be a complete bust and he is, perhaps, a greater risk to be a bust than Nylander or Ehlers.

What he has in his favour, however, is a wealth of raw talent. He can skate, hit, and shoot at an incredibly high level. Those are reasons to get excited about Virtanen, along with the fact that he’s a local kid out of Abbotsford, BC.

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Jason Garrison traded to Lightning, as Canucks part with fifth-best defenceman

Jason Garrison came to the Canucks after spending the first four years of his professional career in Florida. And now, after two seasons in the blue and green, he’ll be going back whence he came, like those boots Cletus found on the telephone wire.

Well. Not precisely whence. Garrison came from Sunrise, Florida. He’ll be returning a little northwest of there, as the Canucks have traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 5oth pick in Friday’s NHL draft.

It’s not an unexpected move. Garrison had four years remaining on a deal that paid him $4.6 million annually, and it was pretty clear from his play last year that he’s descending into the “not worth that kind of money” zone.

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Canucks trade Ryan Kesler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and 24th overall pick

In the 2010-11 season, Ryan Kesler had 41 goals and 73 points en route to winning the Selke award for best defensive forward in the NHL. He then scored 19 points in 25 games in the playoffs, most of them in an electrifying performance against the Nashville Predators that saw him score the series winning goal while basically playing on one leg.

On the trade market, that Kesler could have netted the first overall pick, a top pairing defenceman, a blue chip prospect, raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens. Toss in a third round pick and the Canucks probably could have traded Kesler for any other player in the league.

That’s not the Kesler that the Canucks traded on Friday before the 2014 draft. The Kesler they traded is 30-years-old, is just one year removed from significant shoulder and foot injuries, and managed just 43 points in 77 games last season, albeit under the offence-destroying John Tortorella.

Add in Kesler’s insistence on a limited list of trade targets and it’s not surprising that the trade return is underwhelming. Fans were expecting the moon and the Canucks didn’t land any stars.

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Five can-miss Canucks games in 2014-15

Suppose you’re in a committed relationship, and you have but one television. That’s a recipe for conflict. If you made the grave mistake of falling in love with a non-Canucks fan, for instance, your need to monopolize the TV during primetime three nights a week probably isn’t going to sit well with your partner — or you, for that matter, since, as much as it pains me to say it, occasionally, as a show of good faith, you’re going to have to skip a game. Sorry.

But don’t fret! Some games are more skippable than others. We marked the can’t-miss games on Tuesday, and today, just as we did last year, we’re going to take you through the can-miss games, so that your two loves — hockey, and that dude or lady who sleeps in your bed — can live in harmony. Here are five games you can probably do without:

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Stick in Link: Canucks could make biggest trade and second-biggest trade at The Draft

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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Five can’t-miss Canucks games in 2014-15 (plus a bonus sixth)

There’s a lot to like about the Canucks’ 2014-15 NHL schedule. Their total miles traveled is the lowest it’s been in seven years. They get a bunch of teams on back-to-backs, which means tired visitors. Plus, they don’t play a single California team in October. Considering how badly visits to and from the California three went last year, it was nice of the league to spare us those guresome sights for at least the first month. Gives us time to get our hopes up.

But enough about the overall schedule. Let’s talk individual games. Which one should you most be looking forward to? Granted, if you’re a true fan or whatever, you’re looking forward to all of them, we know, but let’s not be silly. We’re sure you’re going to try to catch them all, like Pokemon, but in a pinch, we all know some games rise to the top while others sink to the bottom.

Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me the 11am road game versus the Detroit Red Wings slated to air on CityTV has you excited? Yeah. I didn’t think so. Here are five standouts.

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Willie Desjardins meets the media, says very little, but hopes to do a lot

In a shocking move that absolutely no one saw coming, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning announced the hiring of former Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins to be the next head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. This came completely out of left field and no one could have possibly anticipated it.

Really, though, this was largely a formality where Linden, Benning, and Desjardins got the opportunity to say nice things about each other and give vague, nice-sounding answers to the questions posed by the assembled media. Desjardins sounded thoughtful, intelligent, and passionate about the game, but so did John Tortorella one year ago.

The most substantive information we received came just after the press conference. For example, it was revealed that Willie Desjardins signed a four-year contract. That’s two more years than what Pittsburgh offered and his contract will expire the same time Tortorella’s would have if he wasn’t let go.

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Eight important facts about the Canucks’ 2014-15 schedule

The NHL released their 2014-15 schedule on the weekend, because what better time to make a major announcement for your league than on a Sunday during the biggest sports tournament in the entire world?

That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t start listing better times in the comments or we’ll be here for all week and we’ll miss the draft.

This is about the time we start looking for the big games on the schedule: meetings with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, Roberto Luongo’s return to Vancouver as a Panthers, and Ryan Kesler’s return to Vancouver as a big pain-in-the-neck. But really, the answer to the question, “Which games should I watch?” as a Canucks fan is, “All of them, because I am a glutton for punishment.”

So let’s look at the schedule a bit differently: how much will the Canucks travel? How many back-to-backs will they have? And how much do those factors matter? Is this a friendly or unfriendly schedule for the Canucks? Here are 8 important facts about the Canucks’ 2014-15 schedule.

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Make Way for Willie: Desjardins in as coach, rounding out Canucks’ Three Greenhorns

It seems weird to feature John Tortorella and “succeed” in the same sentence, but alas, time (and John Tortorella) makes fools of us all. The Canucks announced Monday that Willie Desjardins, formerly of the Texas Stars, would be the man to succeed Tortorella behind the bench.

Who’s to say the Canucks don’t have any prospects? Their front-office is all prospects now. That makes it a clean sweep in terms of NHL front-office rookies, as Desjardins shares Benning and Linden’s inexperience in his new role. All hail the second coming of The Three Greenhorns, who built this city, and will now be tasked with rebuilding its hockey team.

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Seven reasons for Willie Desjardins to choose the Canucks over the Penguins

After spending much of the offseason courting the season ticketholders, the Vancouver Canucks finally did something this week for another important section of their fanbase, the puerile Internet commenters, by reportedly landing Willie Desjardins.

Think about it: they just hired a guy named Willie, who comes from an organization based in “The Big D” and was raised in the small-town of Climax, Saskatchewan. Climax! That sound you hear is hundreds of childish Canuck fans tittering while they Twitter (and then Twitter-tittering again upon hearing the word “titter”). I mean, come on. A Willie from Climax? That’s almost too good to be true. (Granted, the other way around, it’s usually too good to be true, too.)

This is also a dream come true for those of us that cater to the puerile Internet commenters. While coachspeak already tends to lend itself to double entendres, having a guy named Willie behind the bench — hopefully coaxing a bigger PP out of his team and helping his scorers rediscover their stroke — provides a whole new tool, as it were.

But the Canucks almost failed to get their hands on Willie. Reports as recently as Thursday night had him going to Pittsburgh before something changed. What was it? Did the Penguins pull a boner? Or did Willie simply feel Vancouver was a better city in which to show his stuff? Here are seven potential explanations for why he might have chosen Vancouver over Pittsburgh:

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Willie Desjardins joins Canucks, as Penguins resume coach hunt

We’ll likely have to wait for the Canucks to spend a few days whispering it to the season ticket-holders before it’s announced, since that’s what they do now, but it would appear the club has found their new head coach in Willie Desjardins.

This is according to reports from Kevin Weekes, and the always-trustworthy Bob McKenzie.

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Why the Canucks will move heaven and earth (and their 1st) to get Sam Reinhart

It’s hardly breaking news that the Vancouver Canucks covet local boy Sam Reinhart something fierce, since every team covets Reinhart, who currently captains the WHL’s Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. This in mind, he’s sure to be off the board well before the sixth pick in next week’s NHL Draft, which currently belongs to Vancouver.

But I’m of the mind that no team in the league is more motivated to move up than the Canucks are, and not just because they’d hate to see Reinhart have to leave the province unnecessarily: the centre fits with their offseason plan perfectly.

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Booth buyout, Kesler trade will give Canucks a terrifying amount of capspace

For years, the Canucks have been one of the biggest spenders in the NHL, spending right up to the limit of the salary cap. With Laurence Gilman’s cap wizardry navigating the way, the Canucks have deftly used every trick in the book to squeeze their roster under the cap, sometimes making it just by the skin of their teeth.

That’s no longer a major concern. With Roberto Luongo’s $5.3 million already off the books, David Booth’s $4.25 million cap hit bought out this week, and Ryan Kesler’s $5 million contract almost certainly about to go elsewhere, the Canucks are in unfamiliar territory.

With technically only five roster spots to fill, the Canucks will have over $21 million in cap space heading into free agency. While that’s not including any potential return in the Kesler trade and some of that money will be eaten up re-signing Mike Santorelli and restricted free agents like Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, and — maybe — Jordan Schroeder and Yannick Weber, that will still leave the Canucks with plenty of room to spend big money on a big-name free agent or two.

This is absolutely terrifying. Why? Because it is remarkably easy to royally screw up in free agency.

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Stick in Link: Canucks have Fin, so they don’t need Thornton; coach hunt continues

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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Canucks’ wedding gift to David Booth: cash (in the form of a buyout)

David Booth is set to get married later this month at the field in Montana where he bagged his biggest deer. (He’s a weird dude. This has been established.)

So what do you get as a wedding present for a dude this wacky? Coonskin cap? Bearskin rug? A something-skin something, most definitely, unless you want to go the route the Canucks have reportedly opted to go, and just give him cash.

It’s a pretty impersonal gift, granted, but the Canucks probably don’t mind, since this one doubles as compliance buyout. Late Monday evening, new Canucks GM Jim Benning called Booth’s agent Mike Liut to inform him that the left winger would be bought out.

The David Booth era in Vancouver is, sadly, over.

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Did Alain Vigneault really say the 2014 Rangers were closer than the 2011 Canucks?

After watching his opponent hoist the Stanley Cup right in front of him for the second time in his pro career, Alain Vigneault returned to Madison Square Garden with his Rangers not to play a Game 6, as hoped, but to clean out their lockers for the summer.

Naturally, with two Final losses now weighing heavily on his mind, the head coach couldn’t help but conflate both experiences, and in trying to explain a Stanley Cup Final series that felt a great deal more competitive than most that end in five, he took the approach of contrasting it with the Canucks’ loss.

Then, according to Rangers beat writer Andrew Gross, he said a truly wacko thing: that the 2014 Rangers were closer.

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The Prospector: introducing Jeff Costello, catching up with Joacim Eriksson, Joseph LaBate, Patrick McNally

With the NHL finally over officially, it’s time to look to the future. The NHL draft is just a couple weeks away, where every draft-eligible prospect will be endlessly compared to current NHL superstars and past Hall-of-Famers and fans will look for every scouting report they can find to assure themselves that their team’s newest prospects are surefire franchise players.

Before we get too wrapped up in that, however, let’s take a look at some of the players already in the Canucks’ prospect pool who may have slipped under the radar since being acquired or drafted by the team. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Canucks Prospects YouTube account, we have a plethora of highlight videos available. We’ll look at four players today, three of them from the NCAA.

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Adorable kids think Canucks need more practice, have no faith in Eddie Lack

Canucks fans all seem to agree that hiring John Tortorella was a big mistake. But here’s a question that most fans haven’t asked: could a small child have done a better job at coaching the Canucks than Tortorella?

The answer might just be yes. At least, that’s the impression I got from reading the advice a number of elementary school kids sent to Trevor Linden. The first piece of advice offered by the vast majority directly contradicted one of Tortorella’s biggest coaching philosophies: practice more.

They also differed from Tortorella in how much trust they put in Eddie Lack. Tortorella repeatedly started Lack after the Olympic break, including in the Heritage Classic, alienating Roberto Luongo and leading directly to his trade to the Florida Panthers. The kids, on the other hand, don’t seem to even consider Lack a goaltender , with many under the impression that the Canucks have no goalies at all.

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Why Ryan Kesler’s trade demand could be a blessing for the Canucks

The above photo was snapped by Jeff Vinnick for Getty Images, and here’s what you’re looking at, according to the caption: “Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks steps off the ice for the last time in the season during their NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena April 13, 2014.”

Be assured that Vinnick arrived at Rogers Arena that night intending to get this exact photo. Why? Because he knew, just as many of us knew, that it was possible Kesler wasn’t just heading off for the last time in the season. If the Selke-winning centre gets his wish, this will soon be a photo of him stepping off the ice for the last time as a Canuck.

The regime change in Vancouver didn’t lead to a mind change for Kesler, as TSN’s Darren Dreger said last week. “He wants a fresh start and to move on from Vancouver; he met with Benning earlier this week to talk about that. It’s believed that Kesler still has six teams on his list that he’s willing to be traded to.”

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Stick in Link: Oral history of 1994, moving on up, and coach Desjardins?

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, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Hear the Canucks’ lost 1975 theme song, “We’re With You” [VIDEO]

When it became clear that the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks weren’t playoff-bound, the team launched a concerted effort to focus on the past. 1994, to be specific. But let’s overshoot 1994 by a couple of decades, and go a little further back, to the halcyon days of 1975.

Back then, the Canucks’ goaltender was a guy by the name of Gary “Suitcase” Smith, so named, during this era when hockey players were better at nicknames, because he was an NHL journeyman. It was the year of the Canucks’ playoff debut, as the team won the Smythe Division in its first season after realignment. And it was the only year in Canucks’ history in which they played without a team captain.

They didn’t need a captain, you see, because they got all the inspiration and motivation necessary to win the big games from their new theme song, “We’re With You”. Yes, the Canucks have a theme song, and to my mind, it rivals “Here come the Hawks”. But I’m biased.

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Canucks won’t be trading the 6th overall pick [Report]

There was a lot of fuss made last week over rumours the Canucks would be trying to trade up in the upcoming draft. Some of that fuss was made by us.

Most of the rumours surrounded the idea that the Canucks could package their first round pick at 6th overall with a roster player or prospect to trade with the Florida Panthers for their pick at first overall. Since the Panthers are reportedly looking for a top-four defenceman, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev were quickly tossed into the rumour mill. Ben Kuzma decided, for some reason, that it made sense to package Bo Horvat with the pick. It doesn’t, for the record.

In any case, the entire speculative discussion is now a moot point, as Jim Benning apparently has no intention of trading the 6th overall pick.

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Spitballin’ on Dan Bylsma, Ryan Kesler, and Simpsons-themed Canucks logos

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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Canucks interested in Sam Reinhart; should they trade for the first overall pick to get him?

The first overall draft pick has been traded just five times in NHL history. Somehow, the Florida Panthers have traded away three of them.

The first of those trades can be somewhat excused, as it came months before the draft, well before the Panthers knew they were going to win the 1998 draft lottery and select first overall. They traded their first round pick, along with Dave Lowry, to the San Jose Sharks for Viktor Kozlov. The Sharks eventually traded the pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who used it to select Vincent Lecavalier.

The other two trades were made on the day of the draft. In both 2002 and 2003, the Panthers traded down from the top pick to the third overall pick. In 2002, the Columbus Blue Jackets used the first overall pick to select Rick Nash. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Penguins used it to take Marc-Andre Fleury.

Once again, the Panthers hold the first overall pick and rumours are swirling that they are once again willing to make a trade. If they go through with it, it would be an astounding fourth time the Panthers have traded the first overall pick. The thing is, it actually made perfect sense to trade the pick in 2002 and 2003 and the same is true this year.

The rumour mill, in the meantime, has kicked into high gear, with Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail suggesting the Canucks are “desperate” to move up in the draft in order to select Sam Reinhart.

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