Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

The Hodgson Deal

22

The trading of Cody Hodgson probably won’t go down well with a lot of fans, but I’m giving Mike Gillis props here. Gillis probably hasn’t made the team any better for this year, but I don’t think their chances are any worse either.

I’ve said several times that Cody Hodgson – like Cory Schneider – was going to have to be traded because Vancouver does not have a suitable job for him now and they won’t have a suitable job for him over the next several years. The challenge, I thought, would be to make a good trade. How do you get any real value when you can’t take salary back in the deal? The only type of deal that makes sense is to trade Hodgson for a young, promising player who is a better fit. That isn’t an easy trade to make.

Elliot Pap is quite correct when he says that this trade looks like the Naslund-Stojanov deal with the Canucks on the wrong end of it. Unfortunately, this can’t be helped. (And the fact that Kassian is superficially a similar type as Stojanov is a meaningless coincidence.) If Cody Hodgson is going to become a Naslund quality player, it will be somewhere else. It could not be in Vancouver any more than Naslund could get the ice time to become Naslund in Pittsburgh.

This deal is not really a deadline deal. It is a hockey trade. (One of the most interesting things about this year’s stupidly overhyped trading season is the number of actual hockey trades made. Carter was a hockey trade. Gilbert for Schultz. Even Aulie for Ashton.) Gillis thinks he is getting value for Hodgson now and we won’t find out whether he’s right for several years. Still I credit him for pulling the trigger as soon as he could find somebody willing to swap a young, promising player for him, particularly when the deal is sure to be unpopular at least initially.

In the meantime, I don’t think the Canucks are any worse today, even if Kassian can’t contribute much. They are bigger, faster, and better defensively and I think that’s enough to offset the offense Hodgson contributed. (Mind you, I have an inordinate fondness for Sami Pahlsson so I can’t believe adding him to the lineup can possibly hurt a hockey team very much.)

Postscript: For what it is worth, I’m still not entirely sold on Hodgson. I love his shot and his offensive instincts. His footspeed and defense, not so much. He’ll score enough to be a good player, but I don’t think Vancouver traded away a Markus Naslund.

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Comments

22 Responses to “The Hodgson Deal”
  1. tantalum says:

    You hit the nail on the head Tom.

    Tant

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the clarity amongst the chaos.

  3. Magicpie says:

    I’ve agreed with almost every move Gillis has made in his tenure with the Canucks so far, but count me among the majority that hates this deal.

    First of all, it’s a crap hockey trade. Hodgson had 33 pts in 60 games as a rookie this year (and was the Canucks 5th highest scoring forward btw) while playing third line minutes (12:43 a game) mostly on a shutdown line. He even chipped in 10 on the 2nd unit powerplay. It’s hard to deny that he’s going to be a very good future NHLer. You could argue he’s a pretty good one already.

    Kassian only played half of Buffalo’s games this year and had 7 points in 27 games. Disconcertingly, he only managed to take 1.3 shots per game in that span. That’s allright for a shutdown defenceman, but not for the power forward he’s supposed to be.

    And yeah, you can argue that Hodgson was drafted one year earlier so he’s further along in his development, but he also missed one year due to his back issues so I don’t know how much weight you can put on that. The bottom line is that this is both Hodgson and Kassian’s first full season in the league and Hodgson’s been an effective contributor on one of the best teams in the league, while Kassian hasn’t even managed to crack the lineup half the time on a team that’s 12th in the East right now.

    Now maybe Kassian will develop into a quality power forward, but maybe he won’t. Personally I think it’s just as likely that he’s another player who got pushed along because he’s big and plays physical, so people assume he’s going to be the second coming of Cam Neely without bothering to consider whether he can actually play hockey or not.

    As it stands the Canucks traded what’s essentially already a proven commodity in Hodgson for a lottery ticket in Kassian. It doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying it was necessarily wrong to trade Hodgson for a young player. But I am saying it was wrong to trade him for THIS young player.

    I also don’t get why the Canucks had to make the trade right now. As you said, this trade doesn’t make them better in the short term, and given that our window is only likely to be a few years, you’d think that any trade they make now is made considering first and foremost how it’s going to affect our cup chances this year. This isn’t really the time to stockpile prospects with an eye on few years down the line.

    If they wanted to get rid of Hodgson it would have made a lot more sense to wait until the summer. At the pace he’s going his value is only likely to increase (while Kassian’s likely wasn’t going to). I don’t know how many other teams were busting down Buffalo’s door this deadline looking for Kassian, but I think it’s pretty likely that if they still wanted Kassian this deal would have still been there for the Canucks this summer. That way you could at least keep Hodgson for the playoff run, and maybe have time to find something better down the line.

    Maybe there’s some internal stuff I don’t know about, but it’s not like there was some burning need to get rid of Hodgson right this minute. The team’s doing just fine with him in the lineup. At worst the Canucks have a fairly cheap and effective third line center for this year and the next. They had plenty of time to sit back and wait for the right deal to come along, there was no need to make a last minute deadline deal like this, especially when there’s probably a good chance could have gotten something better if they held on to Hodgson and waited until the summer.

    Anyway that’s my two cents. Crap hockey deal. Makes us worse for the Cup run. No good reason to do it now. I don’t think the team’s doomed or anything, but this was probably a misstep for the Gillis regime.

    • I actually like this deal for the Canucks. Kassian and Hodgson are almost exactly a year apart, so that makes comparing them at the same age quite a bit easier. And in terms of AHL offense, Kassian has been better than Hodgson last year as a rookie pro: 0.87 points per game compared to 0.58 for Hodgson with very similar shot rates (3.13 for Kassian and 3.19 for Hodgson).

      Hodgson has established himself well this season, but he also benefited tremendously from the percentages. He’s shooting 15.5% this season. Only seven players have been better than that in at least 400 shots since the lockout, so I’d be betting against Hodgson sustaining that over the long haul. He also has the best on-ice shooting percentage five-on-five on the Canucks (10.8%), which again isn’t likely to last. I also don’t see how you can argue he’s doing this while on a shutdown line. Vigneault isn’t using him a lot in the defensive zone, and generally hasn’t used him to play against the opposition’s best. Seems more like “protected line” than “shutdown line”. After a season lost to injury and an iffy pro debut last year, I think Gillis has done well to sell high here.

      You made mention of Kassian’s shot rate above, but it’s actually higher than Hodgson’s during five-on-five play. Kassian has taken 6.67 shots on goal for every hour of five-on-five ice time compared to 6.57 for Hodgson. If we include missed shots, the gap increases with Kassian taking 9.30 compared to 8.67 for Hodgson. I don’t know that Kassian will become a great power forward, but his size does add a dimension to his game that Hodgson doesn’t have, and it seems to me that Kassian is at least as good a bet as Hodgson to become a solid NHL player of one stripe or another.

      • Tom says:

        I don’t know Kassian and I’m not making any guesses on him until I see him play. But I’m not convinced about Hodgson. Some Canuck fans think he has the potential to be an elite player. I’d be shocked. Most fans think we gave up a lot more than I do.

        He is not a good skater. If you notice him in the defensive end it is not for something good. He does very little to help move the puck from one end to the other. What he does do is suddenly appear in the middle of scoring opportunities. He’s got an excellent shot and great instincts around the net. He finds open teammates and he makes plays. He’s a finisher.

        It is going to be interesting to see how he does in Buffalo. He’ll get more ice time, but he’ll spend a lot of that extra time in his own end.

        • Trevor says:

          I find some of this criticism unfair. Hodgson isn’t a good skater, but he has made some progress in that regard between seasons. You know who also aren’t great skaters? The Sedins. As for his defensive ability, I find it hard to criticize any rookie NHLer’s defensive game, which is usually the last aspect of a player’s game to develop, and one that takes time to do so.

          What Cody already did prove was he had excellent offensive vision, which is something very hard to find. Granted, something even harder to find is a power forward, but Kassian is I think far more of an unknown than Hodgson when it comes to who appears more likely to realize their potential and become a top two line player.

          • Tom says:

            Kassian is I think far more of an unknown than Hodgson when it comes to who appears more likely to realize their potential and become a top two line player.

            Perhaps so, but Hodgson was not going to become a top six forward in Vancouver. He is not now – and very probably never will be – as good as Henrik Sedin. He is not now – and very probably never will be – as good as Ryan Kesler.

            As someone who was of the mind that Vancouver lost in the playoffs because they lacked scoring, not toughness, this deal doesn’t make sense in the short term to me.

            The Canucks did not – and do not – lack scoring. They just lost. There was no “because” except perhaps that they ran out of healthy bodies. They might have lost anyway, but there is absolutely nothing Gillis can do if critical players get hurt again. Having Hodgson would not help much if Henrik or Kesler went down.

          • Tom says:

            I find some of this criticism unfair. Hodgson isn’t a good skater, but he has made some progress in that regard between seasons. You know who also aren’t great skaters? The Sedins. As for his defensive ability, I find it hard to criticize any rookie NHLer’s defensive game, which is usually the last aspect of a player’s game to develop, and one that takes time to do so.

            Maybe it is unfair. For me, the jury is still out. The Sedins aren’t great skaters so they are not good defensive players either even though they are responsible and they have good sticks. But they can get to chasing and they take penalties when they do. For them, the best defense is a good offense. So it will have to be for Hodgson.

            How good can he be? I don’t think elite although he could surprise me. I think somewhere between Kyle Wellwood and Mike Ribero.

      • Quis says:

        Excellent precis on Hodgson vs Kassian. If I could I would post it everywhere for all the reasonable people to ruminate over then see what their response is to the trade.

        I’m afraid most people are responding emotionally to Hodgson. He’s definitely done a fantastic job of coming back from a horrible situation. And, like my daughter says, he is definitely cuddly looking. so his is a feel good story. To win the west and then win the Studly Cup you need to be nasty. Big mean grindy pounding nasty.

  4. Tom says:

    I also don’t get why the Canucks had to make the trade right now. As you said, this trade doesn’t make them better in the short term, and given that our window is only likely to be a few years, you’d think that any trade they make now is made considering first and foremost how it’s going to affect our cup chances this year. This isn’t really the time to stockpile prospects with an eye on few years down the line.

    You make a lot of good points, MP. I can’t argue about Kassian because I don’t know him. This will turn out to be a bad deal if the Canucks are wrong about him and he does not turn out well. I’d make two points, though. First, Hodgson lost that year of development. He doesn’t get it back. Second, the reports say Kassian can skate and he did put up 27 points in 30 games in the AHL. That counts for me. And note, Kassian doesn’t have to end up being a better player than Hodgson to make this a good deal for Vancouver. Hodgson could not realize his potential in Vancouver anyway.

    The “internal discussions” Gillis refused to divulge are pretty obvious. Gillis, Cody and Cody’s agent all knew that sooner or later he was going to be traded. Everybody except Tony Gallagher understood that. Like Schneider he had to get traded to advance his career. They’ve talked about it lots. Hodgson was surprised that it came up now, but he knows it is a great move for him.

    I agree about the timing – I’d probably prefered to do nothing this year – but I don’t think it is quite as easy to find a team willing to trade a top prospect as you think. That is what has worried me. About Schneider, too. The deal was there now and so Gillis made the move now.

    I disagree with the entire concept of a window. I want to be like Detroit, so I’d turn this argument around. I don’t think this deal made the Canucks worse now, and it will make them better in the future. I go for that every day.

    One last point: No matter when this deal was done, the reaction was going to be negative. The Canucks were always going to get a player behind him in development. A player ahead of him – a deal the fans would like – costs money, cause cap problems.

  5. peanutflower says:

    GMMG has a good history of getting the right players, and when it doesn’t work out he fixes it quick. AV has a good history of getting the best out of players with particular skill sets. I never thought Cody was all that. Sure, he had a good shot and everyone is in love with his “story”, sniff, but in the end there was no place for him on the team. The Canucks want a Stanley Cup. I want a Stanley Cup. I don’t care who is on the team, and I don’t care who isn’t on the team. I trust the general manager and the coach to make those decisions. I’m betting that there was some iffy karma going on between GMMG, AV, Cody’s publicly schizoid agent and apparently overbearing parents. Those add up to not worth the trouble. Being a girl, I have to laugh at all the “love you, Cody” stuff — that has no place in the hockey business. The emotion will be when I get to, after 42 years, watch my beloved team hold that cup up high. The team that brings that home will hold the place in my heart, to be totally schmarmy about it.

  6. Roberto says:

    I’m surprised there has been no mention of Marc-Andre Gragnani on this board. The deal wasn’t Hodgson/Kasian. It was Hodgson/Sulzer (you could just as well write ‘bag of pucks’ in for Sulzer) for Kassian/Gragnani. While it looks like MAG has taken a bit of a step back this year, that is not uncommon for young defensemen. He is also only 24 years old with some serious upside, coming from a very bad team where he posted a +10 while averaging > 16 minutes of ice time. That was the best +/- by far on Buffalo, so he must have been doing something right.

    After watching Kassian tonight, I have to give props to Gillis. He found a place for CoHo to play outside the conference, and got back what looks to be an excellent forward prospect, an excellent defensive prospect and ice time for Pahlsson in his proper position and role, and all he had to do was throw in a bag of pucks.

    • Chris says:

      “That was the best +/- by far on Buffalo, so he must have been doing something right.”

      You’d be wrong. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him well however.

    • I know that Tom doesn’t give this stuff much weight, but Gragnani also had the best Corsi numbers of anyone on the Sabres. Doesn’t tell you a lot about Gragnani in isolation, but it does let you know that the Sabres were pushing the play into the offensive zone when Gragnani was on the ice. It seems to me that he could also be a very solid addition to the power play. I agree that he’s a good (and cheap) prospect who helps to make the Canucks better on defense right now.

      • Tom says:

        I haven’t really mentioned Gragnani because I don’t know him, any more than I know Kassian. It’s hard to discuss a trade when you only know one half the deal. I think that is an attraction of something like Corsi, and hey, its something positive about Gragnani that might or might not mean anything.

        I do think this is a nice part of the deal, though:

        1) He’s cheap and he is going to be cheap for at least one more contract no matter how well he turns out.

        2) The Canucks have the best transition game in the league because the defense is mobile and can move the puck to speedy forwards. Gragnani has skills the Canucks covet most in all their defensemen.

        3) This management team has earned the benefit of my doubt. If they think he can play, I’ll give him a long look.

  7. Dennis Prouse says:

    Good sound analysis, Tom. It cuts through some of the hysteria that can go both ways on deals like this. (“Worst trade ever!” “Amazing deal – the Cup is SO ours!”) Unspoken so far, and I think a key to this, is the fact that Hodgson was unhappy here, and wanted out. Gillis didn’t deny that Hodgson and/or his agent had asked for a trade, which I took as a tacit admission that they had. Hodgson knew he wasn’t going to get to be “the guy” here, and now he has that chance in Buffalo.

    Count me as someone who is nervous about this deal, although I understand the reasons why it was done. My red flags on Hodgson are that he is a little soft, and a little injury prone. Even if he can’t be a true first line centre, though, he will always be a productive offensive player, and as such will be an NHL player for a number of years. On the chance he does become an elite centre, he at least does it in another Conference on a team the Canucks only face once a year. Dealing Hodgson out of the Conference was no doubt another consideration, and the reason why he wasn’t made available to Dallas.

    Kassian is a legend in the OHL, but I think people fell in love with him for what he could be, rather than what he is. When I saw him a couple of times in the OHL, I thought of Jim Sandlak, a guy who can play it physical, dominated other teenagers, but who might struggle to score in the NHL.

    Obviously the playoffs are the key – if Kassian can create some room out there and bang in a few key goals, then the trade starts looking a lot better. If he’s a liability only getting a few minutes a game, then this starts looking like a bad deal very quickly. I’ll say this, though – no one can ever accuse Gillis of lacking confidence, or being afraid to make a deal. The easiest thing to do would have been to stand pat…

  8. Trevor says:

    As someone who was of the mind that Vancouver lost in the playoffs because they lacked scoring, not toughness, this deal doesn’t make sense in the short term to me. Hodgson (and by extension, the entire third line) had to be protected, yes, but Cody gave the Canucks three scoring lines and a checking line, whereas now the Canucks are solidly in the “Two scoring, two checking” line mode. This takes some defensive pressure off of Ryan Kesler and the second line, sure, but it also puts more offensive pressure on him and the Sedins, in a season where all three are not quite at the offensive level they were last year. (Nor should anyone expect them to match last year’s amazing season, especially after all the hockey they’ve played in the last year and a half.) Hodgson also made the second unit PP a threat, as opposed to what it will likely revert back to, a collection of spare parts with no natural center.

    Does anyone think that the Canucks don’t run into at least one elite defensive team (Phoenix, Nashville, St.Louis, New York), one Norris worthy D-Man, one Vezina worthy goalie during a playoff run this season? Does anyone think there’s a good chance the Sedins and Kesler will go through the playoffs injury free? And if so, they’ll be in the same position they were last year, a team that scored eight goals in seven games in the finals and required a herculean one man performance to beat the Predators.

    • Tom says:

      Does anyone think that the Canucks don’t run into at least one elite defensive team (Phoenix, Nashville, St.Louis, New York), one Norris worthy D-Man, one Vezina worthy goalie during a playoff run this season?

      They will for sure. But you do not beat teams like this with offense. You beat teams like this with defense and grinding it out. It seems to me that the Canucks are better positioned to beat a Nashville or a St. Louis after the trades.

  9. GetReal says:

    Bottom line is you traded a guy with 16 goals this year on a team that almost NEEDS to win the cup this year……. for a dude with 27 games and 7 points.

    Taking 16 goals from your third line isnt a good move.

    Compensate much?

    • Tom says:

      Bottom line is you traded a guy with 16 goals this year on a team that almost NEEDS to win the cup this year…

      What terrible thing happens if the Canucks don’t win this season?

  10. J21 says:

    I can understand the logic of making the deal in general. I can’t understand the logic of making it now.

    Your point is taken that “the deal was there now, so Gillis took it,” but I find it hard to believe he couldn’t have gotten a better return by shopping Hodgson — and making it clearer to many more GMs — in the offseason. Who doesn’t like a young, already good player on a cheap contract? The Canucks could have had a massive return for him.

    This was a sellers’ deal — the type of thing I expect them to do with Cory Schneider on draft day, not with Hodgson on the trade deadline. They didn’t even get the direly needed RH defenseman!

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