The Odd Couple: Benning and Linden seem like they'll need each other

Thomas Drance
May 23 2014 04:59PM


New Canucks general manager Jim Benning faced the fans and media for the first time on Friday, and it was quickly apparent that his commendable accomplishments over a long career in hockey stand out far more than his public speaking skills. Though he was forthright and balanced, Benning doesn't seem to have the sharpest tongue. He ducked multiple questions on Friday with the old "it's my first day on the job!" dodge, he started a large number of sentences with a distracting, drawn out "well," and his syntax is littered with "like" and "y'know." 

In a telling moment towards the end of the Q&A with season ticket holders that preceded Benning's formal introduction on Friday, the modest lifelong scout was asked about his immediate plans for the near future and he listed an itinerary. No seriously.

"From here I'm going to the announcement," Benning joked, "then on Sunday we're flying to Toronto, and we start the scouting combine on Monday, so we're going to be there through the following week interviewing the players for this years draft, after that we'll start in on interviewing for the head coaching position and from there we'll head right up to our meetings in Whistler, and that's about where it ends for me right now..." at which point Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden jumped in, put a halt to the rambling, and talked about "definitely hitting the ground running" and interviewing "the next crop of Vancouver Canucks, which is really exciting." Essentially, or at least as it seemed to me, Linden threw his new general manager a lifeline in that moment.

Read on past the jump.

It's not that my first impression of Benning was wholly negative on Friday, because it certainly wasn't, he came across as knowledgeable, and humble, and hard-working, and honest. But in this new Canucks front office structure, it's clear where the energy and big-picture strategic vision is coming from - and it's coming from the handsome, well-spoken guy with the final say on hockey matters.

Which of Benning or Linden would have their finger on the button for real was perhaps the biggest question going into Friday's introductory press conference, and it was ultimately answered about 30 minutes before Benning and Linden took any questions from the press. "I believe in a collaborative approach," Linden said during the Q&A with season ticket holders, while complimenting Benning's experience as a scout, a "builder", and a guy who has "certainly ... been involved in transactional situations." Benning meanwhile was deferential: "On every decision we're going to sit down, we're going to talk about it, we're going to talk to our people, and at the end of the day Trevor will make the decision." 

In describing their interview process, and their shared vision for the team, Benning and Linden both used words like "character," "high-chracter," and "the right kinds of players," to describe their high-appraisal of the Canucks' core - lambasted as "stale" by outgoing head coach John Tortorella just six weeks ago. "Our core players are high-character people," Benning explained of why he's optimistic this club can turn their fortunes around quickly. "For whatever reason things didn't go right last year, but I think we'll be able to turn it around this next year."

That "core", stale or high-character depending on who you ask, is mostly comprised of guys on no-trade clauses, and Benning put a target on their backs when he indicated that he'd be willing to approach such players about waiving their no-trade clause if it would result in a deal that might improve the team. As for the one guy in that core who is willing to move on, to one-of-six teams at least, Benning sounded like a guy who was reluctant in the extreme to see the Ryan Kesler era in Vancouver come to an end. 

"I love the way Ryan Kesler plays, he plays hard, he competes hard, he's a big bodied guy, he plays the way you win with," Benning opined during the Q&A, and later during his introductory presser he referred to Kesler as a "warrior." Continued Benning: "But I haven't met Ryan Kesler yet, I haven't had a chance to talk to him, so I don't know what his thoughts are. If it's up to me I'd like to try and keep him." That meeting should happen in the next week or so and its outcome will presumably dictate much of Vancouver's off-season.

Benning and Linden both also gave their young goaltenders, the Brynas duo of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, a strong vote of confidence. Linden told a story (twice, actually) about how Canucks goaltending coach Rollie Melanson inserted structure into Jose Theodore's game and helped him become a star, and Benning essentially said that he'd "trust" Melanson and Linden's judgement in net. 

Quality goaltending has covered any number of sins for the Canucks over the past decade - from Byron Ritchie on the power-play, to Andrew Ebbett on the third-line. Going into next season with Lack and Markstrom between the pipes seems an enormous risk for a club that seems dead set on qualifying for the postseason again. Of course, it's also super affordable, and for a team that's desperate to add depth; spending just over $3 million in cap-space in net is desirable to some extent. 

If Melanson, Lack and Markstrom can pull it off then it begs the question: has a goalie coach ever been nominated for the Jack Adams?

On the subject of coaching, Benning and Linden both suggested that NHL experience isn't a must. Linden talked again about his "profile" of a desirable candidate, and it sure sounds like he'll have most of the input on who is behind Vancouver's bench next season. From the qualities he listed - a guy who has won at different levels, a communicator etc. - it sure sounded to me like Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins has a serious shot at this.

At the conclusion of the press conference, I came away with the overall impression that not much is likely to change this summer with the Canucks. The organization will chase some "grit" for the bottom-six surely, they'll try to keep Kesler of course, they'll roll with inexperience in net (unless their expressions of faith on Friday are some sort of cynical effort to further drive down the asking price of Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller), and they'll find a new head coach. 

Under Linden and Benning the Canucks are not suddenly assuming a "banners fly forever" all-in posture, and neither are they dismantling for the future - they're looking for sustained success, which was essentially the mantra under Mike Gillis, Dave Nonis and Brian Burke. Miss the playoffs as a Canucks general manager, after all, and you're out. Beyond those internal forces of inertia, this press conference just sounded significantly less radical in scope and ambition than Gillis' introductory presser back in 2008.

Maybe that's not a bad thing. What Benning lacks in charisma, Linden lacks in experience. Benning may not seem like he has a pulse when he's asked about, say, his immediate schedule as he takes on his new job as Canucks general manager, and Linden sounds like a bold guy with all of the world's energy when he takes on the same question. Benning springs to life talking about his resume in hockey, however, and Linden's resume in hockey, aside from his accomplishments as a player, isn't a thing that exists.

"I started from the ground up," Benning explained of the path he took to become Canucks general manager. "I started as a part-time scout, then I became a full-time scout, then director of amateur scouting, then director of player personnel, to assistant general manager. So I learned every step of the way and at this point I feel I'm ready...

"I have a good foundation about what it takes to win... I was happy every step of the way, but I'm grateful for the opportunity today."

Between the two of them they'll be trusted to steer an 83 point team back to the postseason, and quickly. An odd couple, like Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, it'll be fascinating to see how they complement or clash with one another going forward. On Friday, at least, they seemed like two guys with a shared vision, two guys who are going to need each other a whole lot. 

3136ae487fac57943f99a50e66e4d6cf
Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#51 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 11:51AM
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@Boston Wrong

This is a hockey forum. I'm not here to debate conspiracy theories.

The one thing everyone can agree on regarding the Boston bombing and 9/11 is that they were terrible tragedies.

And that's all I have to say on that matter.

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#52 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 12:01PM
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@R-Type

See: my above response to Boston Wrong.

Beyond that, believe and trust whoever you want to. You're entitled to it and I won't try to stop you.

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#53 JFR
May 25 2014, 02:37PM
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HPC wrote:

why not talk about who's going to be making decisions for the club? It's not like the Clavens here ever talk about the real problems with the Canucks, ahem..the players? so what, people are not supposed to talk about the players, the management, the scouts? what's left? Oh, I know, let's all sit around and talk about stats and stats and more stats because stats will make the Canuck players show up for the games. Hahaha... sure.

Obviously you missed the point of my post. You hire people that have the same philosophy and let them do their jobs.

Why on earth are you and anyone else obsessed with the players at this point? tThe playoffs are only at the conference finals and the draft is yet to come?? What is Linden supposed to do, just toss players in the street and call up the AHL club....

The offseason hasn't started yet. I always wonder why non fans bother to log in, read the articles and posts then just spew non sense like" it's the players duhhh" like I believed Linden and Benning were going to suit up again. Go watch videos on youtube, play more Minecraft or just stare at a wall for an hr. Something more productive than waste your time reading about a team you obviously despise.

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#54 andyg
May 25 2014, 03:38PM
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@JFR

Now it is you that is feeding the trolls. :)

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#55 HPC
May 25 2014, 03:42PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

You debate conspiracies all the time. It's called the Canucks and why there are people who keep defending a club who's never won anything in 44 years. hahahaha!

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#56 HPC
May 25 2014, 03:44PM
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@andyg

Stop feeding the Canucks. It hasn't worked.

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#57 Boston Wrong
May 25 2014, 04:21PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

You know you can;t explain the logo less black gray "commercial airplanes " and you stick to your spoon fed US government theories. Don;t reply to my original comment if the only information you ever had was from one us gov source or have never did any other research on it. It makes you look like an ignorant arrogant know nothing know it all...kind of like the majority of Canucks fans.

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#58 R-Type
May 25 2014, 04:41PM
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@Boston Wrong

What do you expect from a guy who is oblivious to the complete and utter failure that is the Canucks franchise? Monkey see , monkey hear no evil. In one ear and out the next and here he wants others to consider what he's saying when he's dismissing others. No, he's not delusional and a follower of anything at all...

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#59 R-Type
May 25 2014, 05:33PM
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@R-Type

I'm talking about buffaloeman.

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#60 Lemming
May 25 2014, 05:33PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

This is why I don't post here anymore. The only ones posting are idiots and trolls. The articles are decent sometimes, so I keep coming back, but these comments sections have really gone to hell over the past year.

Also, I think the odds that the Canucks and Oilers will trade are slim to none. For one thing, the last the Canucks need is ANOTHER strong team in the division.

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#61 islander
May 25 2014, 05:42PM
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Boston Wrong wrote:

You know you can;t explain the logo less black gray "commercial airplanes " and you stick to your spoon fed US government theories. Don;t reply to my original comment if the only information you ever had was from one us gov source or have never did any other research on it. It makes you look like an ignorant arrogant know nothing know it all...kind of like the majority of Canucks fans.

You have a mental illness. Seek help.

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#62 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 06:56PM
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@Boston Wrong

Thanks for assuming I blindly listen to US Government press releases. No, my line of thinking is more aligned with this guy: http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=911_morons

And though he won't address your concern of "black gray 'commercial airplanes'", allow me to: How do you make 2 767's, 2 757's and hundreds of civilian passengers disappear without a trace or even a rumor while you crash unmarked planes into targets?

You don't. For the same reason all the morons who claim that NHL hockey is rigged are wrong. How do you silence 600 odd players, as well as countless coaching, front office and auxiliary staff on the subject?

Again, you don't.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: Canucks Hockey.

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#63 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 07:08PM
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@Lemming

I can certainly respect that outlook. The articles are largely high-quality, and I appreciate the metrics-centric approach of the writers.

But you're correct about the comments section; it does seem to be overrun with trolls. Time to blow up the comments section and rebuild.

Great point about the Canucks not needing yet another strong team in their division - though personally, after years of being the big fish in the positively tiny pond and dominating the Wild, Flames, Oilers and Avalance, I welcome the new Pacific Division - but it seems as though an actual hockey trade could be struck between the two clubs. Specifically, a high-quality, reliable d-man who can set an example from the Canucks for a budding, young forward with scoring potential from the Oilers.

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#64 Boston Wrong
May 25 2014, 07:19PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

"You don't. For the same reason all the morons who claim that NHL hockey is rigged are wrong. How do you silence 600 odd players, as well as countless coaching, front office and auxiliary staff on the subject?"

Referees are blind. Game managers they are .

Second, how do you keep people from talking? threat of either death, or in most cases, you talk and you lose your job, your benefits.

Would you open your mouth if |i told you by tomorrow you would lose the means to earn a living and put food in your kids mouth? Didn't think so. But we all know that people in general, in government or not can never commit crimes for money.

And people have opened their mouths, on the the assassination of JFK and 911, it's just that "mainstream" media never reports it. Just like how the canucks never talk about their real problems. If they don't mention it, then it must not be true or happening. By the way, FB is also a CIA creation. But you wouldn't believe that, and you certainly wouldn't believe you're being spied on even as Snowden tells you, because the media says he's traitor and becasue they said so, then it must be true.

Now go to Sea world with your children and watch all the whales they keep as slaves in a small pool not because of making money but because your kids need to know how orcas live in a cage pool.

You want to be heard but you are incapable of opening your ears? Ha. Then don't talk. Don;t reply.

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#65 HPC
May 25 2014, 07:25PM
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@Lemming

If you think that's what a troll is, you need to go on CNN comment section and see what real pro trolls and shills sound like. LOL

Face it, no one but you and the 5 Clavens here believe the BS that comes out of a club that's NEVER won squat in 44 years. But you want everyone to believe, and those who don't are trolls to you. Hot diggity dog, momma run for the hills, we have non believers!

I don't trust a team that has never won anything is 44 years. I don't trust their fanboys and i certainly don't trust any one or organization that does not do what it says its sets out to do and has failed for so long.

Once bitten call you shy, 44 years bitten call you a shill. LOL

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#66 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 07:27PM
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Ugh. I should've known better than to feed the trolls...

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#67 Boston Wrong
May 25 2014, 07:38PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

civilian passengers disappear without a trace or even a rumor while you crash unmarked planes into targets?"

And I never said that. READ my post properly. i said two unmarked so called commercial airlines hit the towers. i never said nothing hit the towers. Try reading what I post before you change the subject. And because two towers fell down at near free fall speeds while turning into dust and fine power which is scientifically impossible means that the official story is true? Yeah, two planes hit those towers alright, but unmarked planes are NOT commercial airlines. There's one smoking obvious gun right in front of your nose, yet you refuse to see it right? If they told you that monkeys flew the plane you would believe it too, because hey, you saw two unmarked planes fly into the towers and so it must be true!

they were 2 logo less unmarked commercial planes buddy. did you hear that? the gov claims that 2 commercial airlines where hijacked, yet 2 unmarked logo less planes hit the towers. That's like the Canucks telling that their team is a winner despite having never won anything.

Two Unmarked Commercial airlines buddy. did you read that properly? Now that's just one glaring inconsistency among many many more. Get yourself something called simple logic before you start bringing up another subject. you can't even explain why logo less unmarked commercial airlines were flying through the air and yet you bring up a new subject? BTW there was and is still no flight manifesto for whomever was on board those planes which by law all planes are supposed to have. but you don't need that because the US media has already told you on their news that so and so terrorists where on the plane and that's good enough for you because we all need to trust what we hear on TV. Just like what we hear from the Canucks brass.

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#68 Boston Wrong
May 25 2014, 07:44PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

You're a rube. And like the Canucks fanboys, you want everyone else to be sucker like you. and if they don't go along with the party line, then they must be trolls, or conspiracy theorists. What do you call the Canucks plans for winning? Also a theory because it has yet to happen.

Hey don't worry, just cast your vote for the 3 parties and that will surely make a change. God knows how people in your world are not corruptible and governments and Canuck hockey teams are angels. This world doesn't run on money and BS and greed, it runs on fairy dust and new clothes for the emperor.

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#69 Boston Wrong
May 25 2014, 07:50PM
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@islander

Say that when your politicians get you to pay for skytrain, icbc, cheese, milk, gas, property tax, all for you won good and because your government loves you.

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#70 HPC
May 25 2014, 08:01PM
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@Lemming

Hey man, a troll by definition is -

is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community..

First of all, all my comments have been about one thing and one thing only. Why the Canucks are lousy and why everything they have said is BS based on 44 years of losing.

Second, I don't start buy upsetting people but if it's not my fault if they get upset because I pointed out the fact that the team hasn't won anything in 44 years. Those are called "facts". You see, trolls usually make up and hide facts to serve their purpose. Ask any of the folks here, I have never claimed anything about the team that isn't true. Canucks, never won a cup - true.

Third, it's not me that has choked on the ice in the last 44 years, it's the Canucks. I'm only pointing out the obvious. Always have, always will point that out. The 44 year drought isn't fiction, it is true. You're not a winner when you don't win, you are a winner when you win. so if the canucks have not won anything in that time then they are not winners. and winners who don't win are called losers. We are idiots because we refuse to drink the kool aid? Are you a kool aid drinker? You must be, it's been 44 years and has that kool aid helped the team win? No, right? So by doing the same you should expect different results. You are truly a genius. How many cups has the team won to vindicate that hypothesis?

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#71 PB
May 25 2014, 08:07PM
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Troll (HPC, Boston Wrong, whatever handles your other personalities go by) I think you might need to go get a room. A padded room. You can entertain yourself all you want there, with your conspiracy theories about everything from politics to the Canucks. Grassy Knoll! A second shooter! Atlantis! Vaccines!

There's a lot more out there. Why waste your energies on this poor lot? You should be out there educating the masses with your wisdom.

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#72 HPC
May 25 2014, 08:29PM
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@PB

Hahaha! many folks are not believers in many things, namely the Canucks. You, like many others in the world are believers, in the Canucks and you believe the government judging by what you just wrote.

You truly are a believer. It must take alot of divine strength for you to believe in -39 Edler. No , I need a padded cell while you make love to losers like Edler. Loser lover. LMFAO

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#73 HPC
May 25 2014, 08:32PM
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@PB

Plain and simple. You defend and lover Edler -39, worst in the league. Edler is a loser -39 = you defend losers = you love losers = you love losing.

Surprise, a Canuck fan who loves to defend losing! How fresh and new! Ahahahahaha!

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#74 andyg
May 25 2014, 08:34PM
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@PB

Hears a thought!

It is time they start monitoring this site and keeping it to true Canuck topics.

If I had an add on here I would pull it.

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#75 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 08:43PM
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@andyg

That'd probably help quite a bit.

For my part, I apologize for getting into it with the 9/11 troll, but it would certainly help if there were a moderator in charge of removing off topic posts (I'm lumping my response to his absurd posts into that catergory, too).

It's sad that internet forums always seem to eventually need a "sheriff," though.

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#76 PB
May 25 2014, 08:57PM
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It's slightly funny to poke the bear (HPC et al. who seem more and more likely to be the same person) but in truth it's really rather sad. I am guessing the thought is that he/she/it will eventually tire of it (especially during a slow offseason) and retreat back to whatever basement they crawled out of, but perhaps a more serious medical intervention is needed?

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#77 HPC
May 25 2014, 10:17PM
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@PB

-39 is still -39. Adding, subtracting, dvision -39 is still -39.

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#78 HPC
May 25 2014, 10:18PM
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@andyg

If I could trash your comment I'd trash it -39 times.

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#79 HPC
May 25 2014, 10:20PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

44 years is what you and the team should apologize for.

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#80 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 10:57PM
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@HPC

Ooh.

I can trash your comments and prop my own, too.

Try to remember while you're making agitating posts on various internet forums from the DNA-encrusted laptop in your mother's basement to go to bed before 4:00 AM or so.

If reality is anything like it is in the Hobbit, trolls turn to stone when in direct contact with sunlight.

On a different subject, who are you cheering for this summer, the Stampeders or the Eskimos?

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#81 HPC
May 25 2014, 11:08PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

minus thiry niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. Haha!

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#82 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 11:14PM
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@HPC

Yup.

And it's still one of the most useless stats in the league.

Any new micro brews worth trying out there in Alberta?

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#83 HPC
May 25 2014, 11:47PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

LOL. Keep telling yourself that if it dulls the pain of putting on the haloween jersey. LOL

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#84 #FireLinden+Players
May 25 2014, 11:53PM
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Does anyone here but me notice that Av and his Rangers are now leading 3-1 in the series thanks to St. Louis? St Louis made such a contribution right after the dramatic sad event of the passing of his mother.

Flashback to the Canucks. their coach Torts goes into Calgary's dressing room to stir it up and stand up for them in another much less dramatic event and the players repay him by playing like SH&T.

The cwoach made me bwock shwots....gave me oowie! Fire the coach!

The Canuck circus is going to be so much more fun than anything the PNE can do next year.

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#85 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 25 2014, 11:59PM
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@HPC

Take it easy, son,

You can't even spell "Halloween" correctly anymore. Put the bottle down William, Bert, Tom, or whatever it is your real name is and go curl up and go to sleep in your cave; the sun will be coming up soon.

LOL.

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#86 HPC
May 26 2014, 02:30AM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

My real name is BuffoloeShillsofhockey, kid. LOL

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#87 PB
May 26 2014, 08:04AM
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@HPC

Your obsessions with Linden and Edler are so cute.

I eagerly await the 45 nonsensical responses your Tourette's compels you to post.

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#88 HPC
May 26 2014, 08:26AM
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@PB

Your obsession with minus 39 Elder is so lazy.

I eagerly await the typical endless excuses for 44 years of failures your shill master compels you to post.

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#89 PB
May 26 2014, 09:05AM
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@HPC

Just one response? You're off your game, though it's nice you took the time to still prop yourself.

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#90 GeezMoney
May 26 2014, 09:19AM
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#FireLinden wrote:

Hey man, here is another great Einstein quote you may have heard of.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein.

Yep, that sounds like the Canucks 44 year plan alright. LMFAO

BTW | propped you man.

Sounds exactly what you do here in the comments section, looney tunes.

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#91 HPC
May 26 2014, 03:02PM
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@PB

Nah, I like to trash you though.

-39

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#92 Lemming
May 26 2014, 05:18PM
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@GeezMoney

Well said lol

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#93 pheenster
May 26 2014, 07:31PM
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BuffaloBillsOfHockey wrote:

That'd probably help quite a bit.

For my part, I apologize for getting into it with the 9/11 troll, but it would certainly help if there were a moderator in charge of removing off topic posts (I'm lumping my response to his absurd posts into that catergory, too).

It's sad that internet forums always seem to eventually need a "sheriff," though.

Nothing that a little moderation wouldn't fix. At some point the devolution of this comments section into a cesspool complete with its own resident tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic will outweigh the page hits Nation Network gets from said devolution. But with the Canucks on vacation and decreased interest among the faithful resulting in less people reading Canucks blogs, I suspect they're taking those views wherever they can get them at the moment. And hey, apparently we're still here, so it can't be that bad, right?

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#94 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 27 2014, 12:22AM
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@pheenster

I wouldn't be so certain.

The troll infestation is pretty bad.

However, on the "+" side of the +/- troll debate, I've deduced the identity of said troll based on his repeated references to Edler being -39 for the season.

It must be Don Cherry, the only person old enough to both watch hockey and still use the +/- stat.

Now that we have that settled - as Grapes has been unmasked and is telling me that he "would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling adults" - I hope someone deletes all of Don's "insightful" comments under his various aliases. Then people who actually follow the team can get back to having worthwhile discussions.

Y'know, the kind that don't end with "LOL," and garbage like that.

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#95 HPC
May 27 2014, 03:45AM
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@pheenster

What are you doing here? Isn't it time for you to give Daniel Sedin an ego bath?

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#96 HPC
May 27 2014, 03:47AM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

There you go again, pointing your finer and blaming someone else. Wake up rube, Canucks haven't won a ting in 44 years, the most important stat in the NHL. Talk about being dense.

LOL LOL LOL 44.

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#97 BuffaloBillsOfHockey
May 27 2014, 09:12AM
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Yeah, exactly like that.

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#98 HPC
May 27 2014, 02:38PM
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@BuffaloBillsOfHockey

Keep deluding yourself.

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