A quick perusal of the comments section on our recent Cody Hodgson trade post shows that it wasn’t quite well-received. There were two predominant criticisms: 1) Cody Hodgson is God, and 2) Alex Sulzer is twice as God. I suspect there’s no convincing those of you who espouse the former, so let’s jump straight to the latter.
Several people objected to my (conscious) choice to ignore the back half of the deal, the D-for-D swap of Alexander Sulzer for Marc-Andre Gragnani. After all, this part looks like a massive win for Buffalo as well. Sulzer has been the most prolific scorer of the four men moved, with 9 points in 15 games and 5 points in his last 3. Who in the Sam Hill saw that coming?
Canuck fans are up in arms. You’d think Sulzer was dipped in the River Styx on his way to Buffalo. But if he was, someone was holding him by his defence.
Consider the Sabres’ recent, 6-5 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game they were lucky to win. (For example, they were down by two twice, but they were playing the Leafs. That’s lucky.)
Now, Sulzer had 2 goals and 1 assist in this game, but he was actually on the ice for 7 goals — 4 for Buffalo and 3 for Toronto. And of those 3 goals against, he was directly responsible for 2.
Here’s Joey Crabb’s tally, which made it 4-2 for Toronto. Just as he was in Vancouver, Sulzer is no. 52.
Why yes, that is Sulzer being ever-so-gently nudged out of the way so Clarke MacArthur can score. You can’t hear it, but MacArthur says “excuse me, sir” when he arrives at the crease. Seriously, there are hoarders that think Sulzer was easy to move.
Fortunately, the Sabres were able to get that one back pretty quickly. And then this happened: Again, keep your eyes on no. 52.
Yes, you did indeed just see Sulzer get absolutely embarrassed by rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner.
Now, I could probably find video of pretty much anybody making a bad defensive play, because it happens. And, again, Sulzer gave the Sabres’ 3 points and even got the Gardiner goal back only 4 minutes later.
But these aren’t just defensive gaffes — they’re high-level defensive cluster[swears] that led to the Sabres going down by 2 goals twice in the 3rd period of a game they had to win.
And yet, Canuck fans are wondering why Alain Vigneault didn’t want to play Sulzer, and why the team was okay letting him go before the games really start to mean something.
One more thing: let’s not react as though Sulzer’s 9 points in Buffalo were 9 points he would have gotten in Vancouver. Sulzer left a depth chart on which he was the 8th defenceman and landed on a depth chart on which he was a borderline top-4. Potentially season-ending injuries to Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff thrust him even further up the ranks. He’s currently playing on the top pair with Jordan Leopold.
Now, it’s entirely possible that this really is Sulzer’s coming-out party. But it’s also quite possible that Sulzer is experiencing what we might call “The Baumgartner effect”, which occurs when a borderline NHLer suddenly looks like a stud because injuries to the studs lower the curve. Recall that Nolan Baumgartner, now the captain of the Chicago Wolves and an emergency option at best in the NHL, put up 34 points in 2005-06 after injuries to Ed Jovanovski and Sami Salo earned him a promotion to the top four and the powerplay. (Subsequently, these injuries also brought Kevin Bieksa up to the bigs, there to stay.)
In case it wasn’t clear that injuries and a small sample size can make a guy look better than he is, this was the same season that Ottawa Senators’ third-string goalie Alex Auld won the Canucks’ team MVP award.
All of this said, I think it’s safe to say the real winner in the Cody Hodgson trade was Alex Sulzer, who closes out a contract year with a plethora of points in a perfect situation, and will likely earn a better contract than he deserves as a result. Hooray for Sulzer!
One final note: please don’t misunderstand our three most recent posts. We’re not claiming the Canucks won the Cody Hodgson trade at all. We’re just pointing out that looking only at offensive production yields a skewed perception of it. From a defensive standpoint, the Canucks aren’t regretting the deal in the slightest.Tags: Alain Vigneault, clusterswears, cody hodgson trade, defence matters, sulzer, the cody hodgson trade will yield posts for years