Mike Gillis surprised everyone Monday with the announcement that beloved nerd Cody Hodgson had been traded to the Buffalo Sabres for budding power winger Zack Kassian. Many simply didn’t know how to take it. Some were sadder than Sad Cody and Sad Keanu put together. Some were angrier than angry Bieksa. Others could only make nonsensical Luongo faces.
Emotions were flying high. (Frankly, it’s a wonder there were no police cruisers overturned. Clearly, the Heart of a Canuck fan re-education campaign is working. We tip our hat to you, kinder, gentler Canuck nation.)
But now, with the benefit of a good night’s sleep behind us, we at PITB thought it might be time to recompose ourselves, gather our wits (obliterated as they were after yesterday’s gruelling all-day chat), apply a little reason to the situation, and weigh the pros and cons.
PRO – Zack Kassian could be the next Cam Neely, except this time the Canucks traded for him rather than trading him away. Just this past September, at the Traverse City Rookie tournament, Grantland’s Katie Baker observed that Kassian was a man among boys, meaning he’s not just big — he’s hockey big. But he’s got great skill and soft hands, too. If he reaches his potential, Kassian could be, like Neely, one of the NHL’s elite power forwards.
CON – Kassian could also be the next Alek Stojanov, except this time the Canucks traded for him rather than trading him away. The fact is that Kassian, unlike Cody Hodgson, has yet to even begin proving himself at the NHL level, and there’s never a guarantee that he gets to where some say he will. Naysayers will point out that he has just 3 goals and 4 assists in 27 NHL games.
PRO - That’s a stupid comparison. Not only are Kassian and Stojanov very different players, but Kassian already has the same amount of points as Stojanov had in his entire, 107-game NHL career. Kassian’s already a better player. And as for the Hodgson comparisons, in Hodgson’s first 27 games, he only registered 4 more points. It’s still far too early to draw any conclusions from Kassian’s NHL returns.
CON- Hodgson’s NHL returns were already coming in, and they were great. He was 5th in scoring among rookies with some pretty limited icetime. The Canucks get a guy still looking to establish himself as an NHLer; the Sabres get a Calder candidate centre who has scored 33 points in 63 games and was on pace for 43 points in his rookie season.
PRO – You know what slowish, savvy centre had 45 points in his rookie season? Kyle Wellwood. And sure, Hodgson has a stronger work ethic and he didn’t have the benefit of playing with Mats Sundin, but it’s not like Cody did it with no help: he scored those points in feather soft minutes on the third line. Even looking at his monster January, his generous deployment inflated his totals. If he can’t continue that production against stiffer competition, the Canucks may have just sold high on a guy whose coach managed to obscure his weaknesses while highlighting his strengths. Cam Charron has also suggested this.
CON- Either way, the Canucks lost an offensive weapon, a fact that’s even more glaring when you consider that Sami Pahlsson, his replacement, has 11 points this season. Trading away Hodgson hurts Vancouver’s scoring depth, weakening the second unit powerplay and making the third line less offensively potent with the playoffs coming up.
PRO - The Canucks also lost a defensive liability, which may have been a more pressing concern going into the playoffs. Hodgson’s a questionable backchecker and skater, and would very likely have been a weak link for opponents to attack. Pahlsson, on the other hand, is a far superior defensive player and will give the Canucks two quality checking lines and zero defensively suspect pivots.
CON – Hodgson was seen as the future of the franchise by Canucks fans. Furthermore, with his skillset, his leadership abilities, his likeable demeanor (he played chess!), and the fact that he was a natural centre, many saw him as the next Trevor Linden. This, of course, stirred all sorts of emotions and caused all our fears to melt away, much like the effects of staring into Trevor Linden’s dreamy eyes.
PRO – We won’t have to wait long for another Trevor Linden comparable. Every young centre the organization drafts who even has a whiff of leadership ability gets slapped with that tag. There will be other next Trevor Lindens.
CON - Yeah but Linden was clutch and Hodgson is clutch.
PRO - Clutch is a myth. Seriously, it’s not a quality players have. It’s an adjective we use to describe plays that happen in a narrative vacuum. Yes, Cody Hodgson scored some “clutch” goals in January, but you know what wasn’t clutch? Allowing a big goal to the Red Wings on the shift after he scored a clutch goal last Thursday. Now that Hodgson’s gone, someone else on the Canucks will score clutch goals and we’ll forget all about this nonsense.
CON - All Cody does is win.
PRO - One imagines this narrative will will lose some of its steam after a few seasons in Buffalo.
CON – Kassian’s comparable is Todd Bertuzzi. This is a con, of course, because fans hate Bertuzzi unequivocally now. Because of how his tenure with the franchise ended, with broken necks and vociferous refusals to play defence, “Next Todd Bertuzzi” simply doesn’t give the franchise the warm and fuzzies like “Next Trevor Linden” does. Perception is not on Kassian’s side. The notion of Kassian as a mindless thug is reinforced by his barfight arrest and his history of dirty hits.
PRO - Negative connotations aside, Bertuzzi comparables are a good thing. While this may be blasphemous, at his best, Bertuzzi was better than Trevor Linden at his best. Sure, Linden’s number is retired, his legend is revered, and the dude was and remains a stud, but Bertuzzi had more raw hockey playing ability. Granted, Bertuzzi being better than Linden doesn’t mean Kassian is better than Hodgson, but the Canucks need a star power winger more than they need a star centre (they already have two). Said our old pal Wisp: the Canucks got a shiny round peg that fits into their round hole. Unfortunately, they had to trade their shiny square peg for it.
CON – Previous power forwards with potential acquired via trade from the Buffalo Sabres, Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier, didn’t turn out so well for the Canucks. It doesn’t help that both Pyatt and Bernier were, like Kassian, first-round picks touted as the next great power forward. Pyatt was drafted 8th overall; Bernier was drafted 16th overall.
PRO - By the time Pyatt and Bernier came to the Canucks, they were already underachievers who hadn’t lived up to expectations; Kassian comes to the Canucks with all of his potential intact. Kassian’s a highly-rated prospect who remains highly-rated enough to command a Cody Hodgson-level prospect in return. Pyatt and Bernier were reclamation projects on their way to their third NHL teams and had for a draft picks — a 2nd and 3rd for Bernier, and just a 4th for Pyatt.
CON – Kassian may not be able to contribute in this year’s playoffs.
PRO - He should be able to contribute in two very distinct ways: first, as bottom-six grit that can actually play and move up the lineup if necessary (perhaps with a little more offensive punch than, say, Tanner Glass), and second, in terms of his playoff beard-growing ability. Kassian’s got chops.
CON – The debate over Cody Hodgson’s ice time is over, meaning we have nothing left to talk about. And the Daniel Wagner/Ritch Winter slap fight will, sadly, never happen.Tags: Cody Hodgson, pros and cons, trade deadline, trade repercussions, Zack Kassian