Above the 49: Canucks' decision to deal Hodgson baffling
By Daniel Fung
Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) -
Fans in Vancouver aren't used to questioning the decisions of Mike Gillis, who, in just his fourth season of running the Vancouver Canucks, can already be considered the most successful general manager in the 42-year history of that franchise.
But there were plenty of shocked and confused members of Canucks Nation on Monday after the team dealt away Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres in a surprising move at the NHL trade deadline.
Hodgson, who is among the NHL's rookie points leaders and was the fourth- leading goal scorer on the Canucks at the time of the trade, was sent packing along with seldom-used defenseman Alexander Sulzer in exchange for a pair of rookies in forward Zack Kassian and blue-liner Marc-Andre Gragnani.
The deal, on some levels, has its merits.
|Cody Hodgson was fifth in rookie scoring in 63 games with Vancouver. |
Hodgson was not going to surpass fellow centers Henrik Sedin or Ryan Kesler on the depth chart this season - and perhaps several seasons thereafter - and seemed to be miscast as a third line center despite being lauded for his two- way play. The Canucks, obviously, thought so and brought in veteran checking center Samuel Pahlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in an earlier trade on Monday as a precursor to the Hodgson deal.
But for a team that, appropriately, fancies itself as a top contender to come out of the Western Conference for a second straight year, the move was baffling to say the least.
Hodgson may not be a proven commodity, but he's certainly more so than either Kassian or Gragnani. The latter two have tremendous upside and could be key contributors to the Canucks for years to come. But that is of little comfort for a fan base that expects to win now.
It is possible that both could play significant roles for the Canucks this spring, but it is just as likely that both could find themselves parked in the press box by the time the playoffs roll around. Kassian and Gragnani have been used sparingly by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff this season and it's hard to fathom a situation in which both would become instant impact players on a Stanley Cup-contending team.
Hodgson, on the other hand, had excelled despite averaging less than 13 minutes per game this season with Vancouver. He had suited up in all 63 games for the Canucks leading up to the trade and seemed to have a penchant for saving his best performances for the biggest games. Seven of Hodgson's 16 goals with the Canucks came against the so-called league's elite teams, including three versus the San Jose Sharks, two versus the Detroit Red Wings and one each versus the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
Monday's move may have been precipitated in part by a request from the Hodgson camp to be moved to a team where he would have an opportunity to play in a top-six role - a suggestion that has been vehemently denied by the emerging star - but even if Hodgson did force his former general manager's hand, it is puzzling why a move involving Vancouver's most valuable trade asset aside from netminder Cory Schneider couldn't have waited until the summer when Hodgson's trade value would certainly have gone up with potentially a Calder Trophy in his back pocket.
While the popular opinion is the Canucks, particularly through their acquisition of Kassian, are a much tougher team and are in a better position match up against a team like the Bruins that managed to push them around during the Stanley Cup Finals last June, it's important not to forget the Canucks managed to score a grand total of just eight goals in that seven-game series.
Vancouver may end up regretting the loss of the added offensive threat that Hodgson brought to the table especially if the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, or Ryan Kesler are neutralized the same way they were in the series against the Bruins last year.
Hodgson is the third former first-round pick of the Canucks to be dealt away by Gillis since he took over the reigns of the team.
In 2009, Gillis shipped 2007 first-rounder Patrick White off the San Jose Sharks in a trade that netted Christian Ehrhoff in return. Ehrhoff led all Canucks defensemen in points in his two seasons in Vancouver. White never played a game with the Sharks and is now plying his trade in Germany.
Last summer, Gillis dealt away 2006 first-rounder Michael Grabner at the NHL Entry Draft as part of a package to obtain blue-liner Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers. Grabner was subsequently waived by the Panthers but went on to be a Rookie of the Year finalist last season playing with the New York Islanders.
Ballard, who is still with the Canucks but is currently sidelined with a concussion, was a frequent healthy scratch during Vancouver's run to the Stanley Cup Finals and appeared in just one game during that series.