Cody Hodgson stickhandles and floats, which is not uncommon for him.
While the swap of two high-end rookies isn’t exactly the sort of thing that can be assessed in a month, the early returns in the shocking trade deadline deal that sent Cody “Dr. Headson” Hodgson to Buffalo for Zack “Mama” Kassian don’t flatter the Canucks.
On the surface, there’s enough there for Sabres blog Sabre Noise to take a cursory glance at the production of the two men since the trade and call it — brace yourselves — a fleecing for Buffalo. Kassian’s been toothless (both figuratively and literally) since arriving in Vancouver. Until his assist on March 30 bumped his point total to 3, his production since the trade matched Cory Schneider’s. Meanwhile, Hodgson has a much sexier 8 points, all of which have come since being promoted to a line with Thomas Vanek 8 games ago.
But the Canucks were well aware that Cody was light years ahead of Kassian offensively. At the end of February, Cody had 33 points to Kassian’s 7. Coaching and management’s concern was that, without some serious sheltering, Hodgson’s defensive deficiencies would undermine his production and make Vancouver easier to play against in the playoffs.
It would appear that these concerns were justified.
Since arriving in Buffalo 18 games ago, Hodgson has been on the ice for 15 Buffalo goals. However, he’s been on the ice for 18 of the Sabres’ 44 goals against. That’s 41% of them.
Worse, the Sabres have been outscored 13 to 7 at even-strength with Hodgson on the ice. He has an even plus-minus on the year; he was a plus-8 when he left.
To be fair, some of this is due to bad bounces, but Cody’s not doing himself any favours: the Sabres control 44.6% of Fenwick events when he’s on the ice, which is a fancy way of saying the opposition has the puck a lot. Since the trade, only fourth-liner Matt Ellis has a worse Fenwick rating among Sabres, and he’s been out with a knee injury for 3 weeks.
Basically, Cody remains what he was when he left: a gifted offensive player whose skating and backchecking problems would send the blood pressure of a defensive-minded coach like Alain Vigneault through the roof. Like the kids in Edmonton, Hodgson can score, but he can’t yet outscore his defensive deficiencies, and he’s not ready to star on a contender at this point.
Consider Cody’s output the past week: with the Sabres’ quest to make the playoffs currently hanging in the balance, Buffalo has lost 2 of 3 and nearly 3 of 3, surrendering 14 goals. Hodgson has been on the ice for 9 of them. You can’t tell me that’s helpful right now.
Here’s a video of one of the 9, and you can get a pretty good picture of where the young centre continues to struggle at the NHL level: backchecking. That’s Hodgson, wearing no. 19 at the left side of the screen.
Hodgson is beaten up the ice by nearly everyone. Worse, he stops skating at the blue line, then makes a vain attempt to take away a passing lane. Were he to continue skating, he might have been able to disrupt Clarke MacArthur dipsy-doodling into the middle of the zone.
Now, in Hodgson’s defence, he was at the end of a minute-long shift. But a backcheck like that gets you stapled to Alain Vigneault’s bench without qualification.
All this said, Hodgson is undoubtedly contributing more than Zack Kassian, but let’s not forget that Kassian isn’t the player that replaced Hodgson on the third line. That’s Samme Pahlsson, and here’s where things get interesting.
Since the trade, Pahlsson has been on the ice for the same amount of goals as Hodgson at even-strength: 7. However, rather than watch the red light go on 13 times, Pahlsson has only been on the ice for 5 even-strength goals against.
Furthermore, Pahlsson is boasting a Fenwick rating of exactly 50%, and this is more impressive than it sounds: consider that Pahlsson’s line has been playing against top lines and eating up defensive zone starts. Adjusted for these zone starts, Pahlsson’s Fenwick is actually 58%. In effect, match the Swedish centre up against the best forwards in the league and he’ll win the shift more often than not. The same cannot be said for Hodgson.
Thus, the Hodgson trade isn’t quite the fleecing it appears to be — at least not yet. Heading into the playoffs, Mike Gillis was able to do what you do in the Legend of Zelda: turn a weak Link into something that can go up against the most powerful enemies in the land. And that’s a win.
s/t to Thom Drance for doing my math.Tags: Cody Hodgson, Cody Hodgson Controversies, Defence, meanwhile alex sulzer is playing amazing, trade, Zack Kassian