What’s behind the Canucks’ poor starts? Severe Kesler deficiency.

The Canucks clearly miss Ryan Kesler right now in every facet of the game. Kesler wins faceoffs, kills penalties, scores on the powerplay, and wins battles against tough opposition, areas where the Canucks are struggling to start the season. But there’s a very specific area where his absence is causing some major problems: the first shift of the game.

A rough start has been the common theme through the first 6 games of the 2013 season for the Canucks, as they frequently seem to get outplayed during the first few minutes and depend on their goaltending to staunch the bleeding until they can turn things around. That first shift of the game is where it all starts.

Some call it “setting the tone,” while I call it “not getting hemmed in your own zone.” Ryan Kesler is excellent at both.

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The Canucks gave Cody Hodgson two makeovers this year

Considering when news of Cody Hodgson’s trade to Buffalo broke — at around 12:30 PST, well after the trade deadline had passed — you could be forgiven for thinking it was a last-minute deal, like the one that brought Chris Higgins to the team at the 2011 cutoff. And, after Hodgson’s agent Ritch Winter claimed in the aftermath that he and Hodgson had met with the Canucks the weekend prior about icetime, you might even think it was a kneejerk move.

But on Tuesday morning at Mike Gillis’s season wrap-up presser, the Canucks’ GM had some interesting things to say about the circumstances surrounding Hodgson’s departure. Most notably, while he never quite said it, it’s apparent that even if Buffalo didn’t get onboard until later, the team had been working on a Hodgson deal since December at least.

Remember how Hodgson’s teammates gave him an off-ice makeover? Turns out the coaching staff gave him one too.

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Drance Numbers: The Official PITB Advanced Stat Glossary

Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance defines some terms.

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Drance Numbers: Investigating Cody Hodgson’s monster January

I don’t need to tell you that Cody Hodgson’s performance in the month of January was incredible. Cody Franchise picked up 6 goals, 4 assists, 10 points and an “NHL Rookie of the Month” Award, catapulting himself into the Calder trophy discussion, something I considered a longshot as recently as 10 days ago.

It was also revealed yesterday on Twitter, that Chicago Wolves captain Nolan Baumgartner has a nickname for Hodgson. That nickname is Dr. Headson. Apparently “the Franchise” always knows what’s up with his teammate’s injuries.

It makes sense that a nerd like Hodgson would fancy himself a doctor: it fits in well with his poorly dressed, chess-master persona. Also, considering many Canuck fan’s summer obsession with finding “Vancouver’s answer to Mark Recchi,” it’s nice to finally have a doctor on the team.

The last four weeks of Hodgson’s rookie season have been an unmitigated, high-profile success. But looking at the underlying numbers, there is some pretty interesting stuff going on with Hodgson’s deployment, possession and on-ice percentages. I figured we’d delve into them, and look at what exactly happened with Hodgson in the first month of 2012.

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