Rob The Hockey Guy

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Hodgson trade: method to the madness? By Nathan Lusignan

This morning, a friend of mine decided to go on a rant about the Cody Hodgson trade. His name is Nathan and he’s currently traveling in Brazil, but he’s a huge Canucks fan and is a season ticket holder. He’s an awesome writer and he knows hockey, so I figured this rant was blog worthy. Enjoy!

Hello from Brazil. No amount of beach can take my brain off hockey at this time of the year. It’s like the relentless beat of the samba down here. Omnipresent. So here are some thoughts on the trade.

I felt as gut wrenched as the next Canuck fan when I heard that Hodgson had been traded. He was having the best rookie season this town has seen since Pavel Bure. And that’s an empirical fact. He came up big in most of our big games this year scoring timely goals against Boston, San Jose, Montreal and Detroit. He was first star in a couple of those games. He also quarterbacked our 2nd power play unit and single-handedly made the 3rd line a scoring threat.  As far as skill and scoring go it looks like the Canucks got hosed in this trade. At least in the immediate future.

But what Gillis is trying to do is change the size and mentality of this team. The size differential between the Canucks forwards and those of San Jose, Chicago and Detroit is striking. Let alone Boston. There’s no downside to having a third line that scores, but there is a downside to having one that plays like a scoring line. The best example of this is the total disintegration of Jannik Hansen’s checking game. In this fan’s humble opinion, his checking game was on par with a Ryan “Selke” Kesler in last year’s playoffs. Hansen has gone on the record to say he’s changed his game to suit his more scoring oriented line mates (Hodgson and Raymond). And speaking of Kesler, have you checked out his battle level recently? He spends more time pouting on the ice after being knocked down than he does terrorizing the other team.

The Canucks are having a great season. They are winning, but just barely most nights. And superior goaltending has played a big part in that. Gillis wouldn’t have made a move if he didn’t see an issue and it’s consistent with all the moves he’s made since last summer. David Booth? Big body, great skater. Byron Bitz? Huge, tough and great hands. Pahlsson? Big, gritty and has a ring. Kassian? Check out the way this guy can skate and throw his weight (and fists) around. He has Milan Lucic written all over him. And you know what? He had 16 goals in 30 games in the AHL this year and that is a tough league to score in. It’s not a great sample size, but that’s more goals per game than Kesler, Burrows, Grabner or Hodgson had in their best seasons in the AHL.

The potential offense the Canucks are getting back in this trade is actually underrated. Not only has Kassian ripped it up in his first season in the AHL, but Gragnani brings some pretty serious upside. At 24 he’s a point-a-game guy in the AHL and had 7 points in 7 games for Buffalo in last year’s playoffs. People saw this deal as a Hodgson for Kassian, Gragnani for Sulzer trade, but I think it’s more of a Kassian and Gragnani for Hodgson type situation. Sulzer, 27, hasn’t shown he can play at the NHL level and was more of a throw-in.

This trade will be analyzed for the next 5-7 years. Hodgson is well on his way to being a top 6 forward and who knows what he would have done in Vancouver. The Canucks have done a phenomenal job of developing young players. Burrows was pegged as a 4th line forward, Kesler was a checkinh centre and the Sedins were (hopefully) 2nd line players. Its tempting to fantasize about what Hodgson and Grabner could have done with Hansen or Raymond on their other wing. Who needs toughness or size when your third line can score 60 goals a year? But the same organization that developed Kes, the Sedins, Edler, Schneider and many other players on this team is going to develop Kassian and I have faith he’s going to be one heck of a player for the Canucks.

A few final thoughts…

1) It’s worth noting that this signifies a shift in Gillis approach to young talent. His first three top end draft picks with the Canucks were all under 6 feet tall. In fact, Rodin and Schroeder are pip squeaks compared to Hodgson. Nicklas Jensen, drafted last June after the Canucks lost in the finals, is built more like Trevor Linden than Cliff Ronning.

2) The Canucks are still a Sami Salo injury away from looking mighty thin on defence. Edler has emerged as a genuine star, but has proven that his body can’t take the pounding when he gets physical. And he’s a monster when he’s physical (check out the LA series two years ago or Chicago last year). Bieksa’s defensive game has taken two steps back and he can be a genuine liability because of his penchant for give aways that lead to transition scoring chances, high risk outlet passes and lapses in his coverage. Plus, we’re missing 25 minutes a night in Christian Ehrhoff. And sorry to the many Aaron Rome fans out there, but he’s not the answer. Here’s hoping Chris Tanev just keeps getting better.

3) Healthy this is what the Canucks line-up looks like going into the playoffs. Definitely harder to play against than last year’s forward group.

FORWARDS
Sedin-Sedin-Burrows
Booth-Kesler-Raymond
Higgins-Pahlsson-Hansen
Kassian-Malhotra-Lapierre

Depth: Bitz, Weise, Duco

D-MEN
Edler-Salo
Bieksa-Hamhuis
Ballard-Tanev

Depth: Alberts, Rome, Gragnani

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