Hodgson’s departure hardly a loss for the Canucks

By Adam Ovenell-Carter

The 2012 NHL trade deadline was unofficially known as “Rick Nash Watch”, as the superstar winger was placed on the market by the floundering Columbus Blue Jackets. However, he wasn’t dealt, and as a result, Monday’s biggest shocker was the trade that sent former Canuck Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for big Zack Kassian.

This season, Cody Hodgson emerged as one of the league’s hottest rookies despite playing limited minutes. Since his junior hockey days, Hodgson has been a star. He was the Canadian Hockey League player of the year in 2009 and he also led Canada to a gold medal victory at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships. But his development as an NHL star has been anything but smooth.

Prior to the Canucks’ training camp in 2009, the Canucks medical staff had apparently misdiagnosed Hodgson’s back injury from his training during the off-season. As a result, Hodgson decided to seek alternative medical options regarding his back after being cut from training camp. This created a media-instigated conflict between Hodgson and the Canucks coaching staff after head coach Alain Vigneault called the young centre out for what he believed to be an excuse for his poor play that led to him being cut.

Eventually Hodgson recovered from his injury and participated in the Canucks’ training camp last season. Although he did not make the team, he began the season playing for the Canucks’ farm team, then the Manitoba Moose. Hodgson was eventually called up late last season and was a part of the Canucks playoff run.

This season, playing limited minutes, Hodgson has been challenging for his place as rookie of the year. He has shown Vancouver fans that he may have had the most natural skillset on the team.

Although Hodgson had success this season, he continued to struggle to find a place on this team. With Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler ahead of him on the depth chart, the ice time was not going to increase. For more ice time, Hodgson would have to play on the wing but it’s not as easy as switching positions as it is in say, NHL 12. He is most comfortable and natural at the center position, but he wasn’t going to get a chance to shine there in Vancouver. Now, he’ll get that chance in Buffalo.

Many fans were outraged at the deal, but the trade ironically responds to what every Canucks fan has wanted since last year’s Stanley Cup defeat: someone to keep the Milan Lucic’s of the world honest. In Zack Kassian, the Canucks received a young power-forward who is tough and has the skills to become a premiere goal scorer, a la Todd Bertuzzi circa 2003. Kassian is no scrub; he is a former first-round pick and is a year younger than Hodgson. And if you need a reason to care about him, just remember it took Cody Hodgson to get him

With an almost guaranteed top three position in the Western Conference standings, the new acquisitions of Kassian, Sami Pahlsson, and Marc-Andre Gragnani are answers to the short-term needs of the Canucks in preparation of another deep playoff run. Pahlsson is more than capable of slotting in for Hodgson’s vacant spot. And, with Kassian’s toughness, Byron Bitz, and Dale Weise may be pushed out of the regular line-up in favour
of the young forward with a bit more scoring touch. As well, Gragnani adds depth to the defense core.

What remains to be seen are the long-term consequences of this trade. Sure, Hodgson was not going to take ice time away from Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler but what about in a few years?

Kesler is still young but with the gritty and rugged style that he plays, he is more prone to injuries than Henrik Sedin. It would not be a surprise if Kesler’s play deteriorates sooner than later. The Canucks got what they needed for the present, but what will define this deal is how each player pans out for their new teams.

However, if the Canucks win the Stanley Cup in the next few years, it’s safe to say the Canucks would have made the right decision trading away Hodgson.