Friday, January 07, 2011

Ask it to Bulis: The Greatest Canucks' Moustache & Other Inquiries

Ask it to Bulis is a regular feature wherein casual readers and hardcore Bulies alike can put their questions to two guys no more qualified to answer than they are. Harrison and Daniel preside:


Greatest Canucks' mustache: Babych or Snepsts? -- @staticotaku

H:
Tough first question. I'm gonna go with Snepsts, and for totally subjective reasons. It was a slightly fuller, more unkempt mustache that covered a little more area. And because of its downward curvature, he looks the most like Mr. Johnson, the beleaguered blue Muppet who constantly makes the mistake of eating at Charlie's Restaurant, where Waiter Grover works. I have so much sympathy for Mr. Johnson, as there were clearly no other restaurants in Sesame Street (like the Red Robin in Maple Ridge), I can't help but love Harold Snepsts.

D: I have to disagree. Babych has the classier, more kempt moustache. It was big and bushy, but under control. Snepsts has a classic 'stache, but it's just a little too out-of-control for my tastes. There's a reason Babych is #7 on this list of top ten 'staches in all of sports and Snepsts doesn't even warrant a mention.

H: Because MSN.com has the last word on this, apparently.

Are they actively showcasing Schneider? -- @ttuckertweets

H: Yes and no. The Canucks don't play Schneider in games to actively showcase him to other teams. Organizations have scouts so that teams don't have to do that. However, the Canucks are definitely going to trade him eventually, and Schneider's great play is turning every one of his starts into a showcase. Effectively, and we've said this before, Schneider is showcasing himself.

D: Yes. Schneider isn't aware of this, but he's been placed in a Showcase Showdown wherein all 29 of the other General Managers in the NHL will be competing in various mini-games to test their financial acumen (Glen Sather isn't expected to get very far), presided over by a funny-looking man in a bad suit. No, not Drew Carey, I'm talking about Gary Bettman. Once they get to the Showcase Showdown, the two remaining GMs will attempt to guess closest to Cory Schneider's retail value without going over. If one of them gets the retail value exactly right, they get both Schneider and Luongo.

If Schneider continues to play well, what is his trade value in offseason? Do Canucks trade him then or wait? -- @sir_earl

H: I can safely say I have no idea what Schneider will fetch in a trade. His potential is immense, but there's little frame of reference for his open market value. Some people have pointed to Jaroslav Halak as a frame of reference (who fetched a decent prospect and a third), but I think it's a completely different situation. Schneider's younger, projects to be better, and, if the Canucks trade him this offseason, he won't require contract negotiations on the heels of a breakout postseason that could have been a fluke. Halak's situation was unique because his value spiked suddenly, and St. Louis got him for relatively cheap because they were willing to deal with that. That's why Schneider's value will be the highest if the Canucks trade him after this season: he'll still be on an affordable deal.

There are risks with acquiring Frecklesnoot too. His likely price means that he has to play like a starter for a GM to justify his acquisition. It's risky, especially since Schneider has still only played a handful of NHL games--his body of work is impressive, but it's a small sample size on which to judge the rest of his career. A hesitant GM could point to the team in front of him. You've probably noticed the Canucks are the best team in the NHL, and that tends to inflate stats. That said, Schneider still has the appearance and pedigree of a future stud, and there are teams out there I have to believe are eager to acquire his services.

The Canucks won't trade him until the offseason. Schneider remains an acceptable option if Luongo suffers a postseason injury or meltdown. And, if the Canucks go deep into the playoffs (or, perish the thought, win the Cup), then Schneider's value goes up yet again because he's got playoff experience on his impressive resume.

D: What Harrison said, mainly because we talked about this exact question over the phone and he stole all my answers.

Why and how did you pick Bulis as your blog's mascot? -- @artemchubarov

D: The phrase "Pass it to Bulis!" dates back to the 2007 playoffs, when the Canucks faced the Stars in the first round. As you may recall, game one of that series went an absurd four overtimes and was the 6th longest game in NHL history. It was an insane game: Brent Sopel had injured his back prior to the game picking up a cracker. The players needed intravenous fluids to stay hydrated between periods. Both Burrows and Cooke were injured early and ended up as the only players on the Canucks to play fewer than 20 minutes. Willie Mitchell led the Canucks with over 47 minutes in icetime. Crazy.

I was watching the game with a large group of friends. After regulation time ended, we started debating who would score the winning goal. There were votes for Naslund, Morrison, Linden, and, of course, the Sedins. I, on the other hand, figured it would be someone completely unexpected. Isn't it always the unlikely heroes that arise at such times? And who was the unlikeliest of potential heroes on the Canucks at the time? Clearly, the answer was Jan Bulis.

As time passed and the likely and expected heroes did not score, the more likely my suggestion seemed. Once we got into the second overtime, we began to shout "Pass it to Bulis!" at the TV every time the unhirsute one hit the ice. By the third overtime, we were shouting "Pass it to Bulis!" whenever the Canucks got possession of the puck, even if Jan wasn't on the ice. By the fourth overtime, we were weeping softly and muttering under our breath "will someone please, please pass it to Bulis..."

And then Henrik scored. And Jan Bulis finished with 2 points in 12 games in the playoffs. Stupid Bulis.

H: Stupid Bulis? How dare you speak ill about the patron saint of this blog! I would never.

What made Wellwood so endearing to you? -- @indelibleline

H: Well, he's adorable. But I think we've been drawn to Wellwood because he's such a unique personality. Welly's unique, but he's also uniquely self-aware in that he can speak honestly about his quirks. This is a guy who once called himself the weakest guy in the NHL, and he's never backed down from that or tried to fix it. He just doesn't like to work out. He's got incredible skill, but sometimes I think he kinds of regrets it, maybe wishes he did something else. He seems like the rare guy for whom it's just a job, and I think I admire that, because I recognize those feelings of wage-earners' ennui in myself. We are all Kyle Wellwood.

D: He's such an oddball that I'm dumbfounded that anyone could possibly dislike him. One of my favorite Wellwood moments came at the 2008 (or 2009 maybe?) Superskills. During one of the many lulls in activity, most of the Canucks were seated against the boards. Shane O'Brien was busy acting like a complete goof, entertaining many of his teammates. Everyone seemed to be in conversation, joking around and having a great time. Meanwhile, Wellwood was lounging in one of the faceoff circles, leaning on one elbow and idly playing with a puck with his stick. His ridiculous puck control while lying down in an incredibly lazy fashion while seemingly incapable of interacting normally with his peers pretty much perfectly encapsulated Welly. I also think he's a far more complete and effective player than most people, as illustrated by this adamant defense of Wellwood's defensive capabilities, and I think it's pretty natural to grow attached to a player that you're having to constantly defend.

Why are Canucks fans finding things to rag on Luongo about? Is he forever going to be the focal point of fans' whining? -- @camdavie

H: Yes. Luongo's been touted as the savior of a skeptical Canucks' fanbase, and they're constantly looking for flaws in his game to validate their pessimism. There are a number of other factors, too. First, people don't really understand the goaltending position or how situational it is. They don't understand that no goalie stops every shot, or that Martin Brodeur, widely believed to be the greatest goalie of all time, played much better behind a solid defense in a solid defensive system. Marty's not playing so well these days, but nobody's clamoring to strip him of his legacy. They understand he doesn't have the team in front of him that he once did. Luongo, on the other hand, takes the blame for every goal that goes in, because he has yet to achieve the Brodeur-like success people expect of him, and Cup-hungry fans examine those expectations in a vacuum.

D: Canucks fans are so used to ragging on their goaltenders that they simply don't know what to do with a goaltender who isn't terrible and isn't going anywhere. For a long while the Canuck net was filled with a series of mediocre goaltenders, none of whom were able to replicate the success of the most-praised goalies in franchise history, Richard Brodeur and Kirk McLean. Quite frankly, no goaltender will be considered to be "good" until they help carry the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals as Brodeur and McLean did. It's nonsensical, but true. The reason Kirk McLean is held in such high esteem isn't just because he was a great goalie (he was), but because he carried the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals and made The Save. No goaltender will be able to avoid the constant criticism in this market until he takes a team to the Stanley Cup finals.

Are the Canucks happy with Bieksa and Hamhuis as the shutdown pair or are we short a top stay-at-home D? -- @arby18

H: I think they're extremely happy with the pairing. Bieksa and Hamhuis are a shutdown defensive pairing that moves the puck exceptionally well, but if you want to know where their real strengths are, it's along the boards. Between Hamhuis' team-best hipchecking and Bieksa's team-best pinching, these guys control the boards in both zones, severely cutting down on the workload in front of their own net.

D: With Hamhuis and Bieksa constantly facing the toughest competition night in and night out and still posting fantastic +/- numbers, there's not really anything to complain about. It seems that Mike Gillis prefers to have a defensive corps that can all move the puck rather than having a mix of stay-at-home and offensive types.

Do we have a number one defenceman? -- @beninvictoria

H: Yes we do. His name is Alex Edler. Although I know what you're getting at. The Canucks rely heavily and equally on four guys. I think Canuck fans see guys like Lidstrom, Pronger, Keith, or Doughty, and assume we can't win unless we have a perennial all-star like that, and we don't.

But the assumption isn't true. Other Cup prerequisites that aren't true: you can't win with a Euro captain; you can't win with a high-paid netminder; a skilled team can't beat a gritty team; you can't win with a questionable fourth-line. Here's what happens every year: the best team in the NHL wins the cup, and then people extrapolate their strengths and claim that's the special formula for winning. Think about the previous Cup winners and how, every season, the radio guys claim the Canucks don't have enough of whatever that team's best element was. Carolina didn't have a defensive stud. Detroit had a Euro captain. Marc-Andre Fleury made five million a year.

The Canucks have a different model for their defense than Chicago did, relying equally on four guys rather than heavily on two. If it works out for them, you'll hear people saying you need two top pairings rather than one. If it doesn't, people will continue to clamour for a defensive stud to anchor the defense.

D: Yes we do. His name is Kevin Bieksa.

Kidding, kidding. I'm going to disagree with Harrison on this one and say that we don't have a number-one defenceman. As much as Edler has the potential to become one, he's not quite there yet. The top-four defencemen for the Canucks all average over 22 minutes a night. Edler is at the top of that list at 24:08, but there's not much of a gap in ice time between any of them. They all have a similar +/- and Edler and Ehrhoff's have similar point totals. Edler averages an extra shift per game, which isn't quite enough to vault him into number one territory.

Why is Samuelsson playing [badly]? -- @RE4713

H: He isn't. Samuelsson has been fourth in team points almost all season, and still remains the top scorer after the Sedins and Kesler. He remains one of the team's headiest players, and his patience and stickhandling continue to make room for his teammates. He plays a similar plodding style to the Sedins, however, and that confuses people who think: slow=bad; fast=good.

That said, he's not playing as well as last season, but last season was a bit of a peak year for him. An inordinate number of his goals were fluky (Sam's Surprises, we called them). He was bound to come back to earth, and he has. Unfortunately, this is why people are on him. Ignore the decreased goal totals and look a little closer: you'll see he's still making massive and valuable contributions.

D: Agreed. He's not playing poorly, he's just not matching the career year he posted last season. Also, with the emergence of Jeff Tambellini and the continued progression of Jannik Hansen, he's not going to see the same number of minutes that he did last season and won't be able to put up the same number of points. He's also not getting as luck as last season: his shooting percentage hit the lofty heights of 13.7%. His previous three seasons he had a shooting percentage of 7.4%, 4.4%, and 7.4%. His shooting percentage this season? 7.5%. Really, he's not playing poorly, this is just a regression to his normal self. And his normal self is still fourth on the Canucks in points.

One of my friends thinks the Sedins should be the first option for defensive zone faceoffs. He says that a team should send out their best players to defend their own zone against the opposition's top line because they have the skill to break up plays and exit the zone, with possession. I disagree and would like to hear your thoughts. -- Reid

H: The short version: you're right and your friends are wrong. The long version: zone starts are one of the ways a coach can manage the game from the bench, and it's a pretty simple principle. Get your offensive stars out in the offensive zone, where they have a headstart on what they do best. Conversely, get your top defenders out in the defensive zone for the same reason. Why do otherwise? Your best offensive players may stickhandle out of the defensive zone, but they waste their energy playing defense and skating through the neutral zone, then all they've got left is to dump it in and change. If you have a choice, you start them in the offensive zone and hope they stay there.

D: I'm going to be more blunt than Harrison. Your friends are stupid. You need smarter friends. Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra are two of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. The Sedins are decent in the defensive zone, but there's no reason to have them start there when Kesler and Malhotra are the other options. There's a reason the Sedins point totals have improved with the emergence of Ryan Kesler. One of the reasons is that he provides a secondary scoring threat that the other team needs to contend with, but the primary reason is that he (and now Malhotra as well) starts in the defensive zone against the opposition's best players, allowing the Sedins to get prime offensive zone starts.

There's a reason why the Sedins have one of the most favorable offensive zone start percentagesin the league and Manny Malhotra has one of the most unfavorable. It's not because Alain Vigneault is stupid.

H: Right. Your friends are the stupid ones.


If you have a question for a future edition of Ask it to Bulis, send an e-mail to passittobulis@gmail.com or tweet us at @passittobulis with the hashtag #askittobulis.

29 comments:

  1. d. is right for two reasons: snepst's mustache reminds me of my hair. h. knows the other one.
    madwag

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really well written analysis. Makes me question why paid sport writers are (generally) incapable of doing so. Maybe they don't put enough effort in.

    Enjoy this column. Will send my own question next time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I see said the blind man as he bumped into a pole

    ReplyDelete
  4. Funny is that Edler and Erhoff have more offensive zone start than Samuelsson...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, of course they do. They're the Canucks' top offensive D-pair. Vigneault's said a few times he wants Edler and Ehrhoff on the ice with the Sedins as much as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  6. good read. just wondering when i'm gonna see an article about tanner glass as a 4th line centre?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Probably after he plays as a 4th line center.

    So, you know, anytime after tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Haha Im glad you guys agree with me and thanks for sharing your thoughts. But, i feel the need to point out that my friend (Matt) is a very smart dude. Ive even heard others use the term "genius" in reference to him. Im serious.

    To support his argument, he used the Penguins strategy of using Crosby for defensive zone faceoffs quite often (only 47% of his faceoffs are in the offensive zone compared to 67% for Hank, per BEHINDTHENET.ca). Where he goes wrong is in implying that this strategy should be used by the Canucks who, unlike the Penguins, have two excellent faceoff men in Kesler and Malhotra to take care of the defensive zone and let the Sedin's work their magic in the offensive zone.

    Reid

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Reid. Let Matt know we don't actually think he's stupid. Just wrong.

    Crosby is an exception to every rule. Bylsma should play him sixty-five minutes a game, even when the game doesn't go into overtime.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Also, keep in mind that the Penguins have been missing Jordan Staal all season, who generally takes a lot of defensive zone faceoffs. Without Staal, the Penguins have had to rely even more on Crosby.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It will be interesting to see if Crosby gets more offensive zone starts when Staal gets back. Could he possibly put up even more points than the first half of the season?

    Matt will be happy to know that the internet now knows that he isnt stupid. Thanks for clarifying.

    Reid

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