Vancouver Canucks: Costly Mistake Makes Team Biggest Loser at Trade Deadline

Ian MathesonContributor IIIFebruary 27, 2012

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JANUARY 17: Goalie Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings stops the shootout attempt of Cody Hodgson #9 of the Vancouver Canucks during the shootout in NHL action on January 17, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Most contending teams enjoying a comfortable spot at the top of the league's standings generally approach the trade deadline with caution and purpose.

Minor moves are expected for improved depth and insurance of course, but usually a team doesn't tamper with their core players for fear of rocking the boat at the wrong time of the season.

Then there's the Vancouver Canucks, a team that entered the deadline looking to land a depth defenseman and gritty forward to avoid holes throughout the grind of the postseason.

When the news of Cody Hodgson being traded initially broke, I felt physically sick to my stomach.

With Sami Pahlsson already picked up for a pair of late picks and a prospect, I suppose I should have seen something coming. But still, it wasn't inconceivable that Pahlsson could fill in on the team's fourth line as an insurance acquisition.

Cody Hodgson traded? It just couldn't be true. Then TSN analyst Bob McKenzie confirmed my worst nightmare: Vancouver's talented rookie center had indeed been dealt to the Buffalo Sabres.

Now, anytime a team deals one of their prime assets, the only thing you can hope for is that they got equal or greater value in return, something that the Canucks missed horribly on in this deal. Tough winger Zack Kassian has a whopping seven points in 27 games to show for his time in the NHL and has yet to establish himself as a full-time player in the league.

Cody Hodgson, on the other hand, has 33 points in 63 games, despite playing just over 12 minutes per game, and with grinders no less. To make matters worse, this trade doesn't just hurt Vancouver in the stats columns, but everywhere.

Not only has Hodgson shown tremendous ability to overcome adversity, injury problems and public scrutiny to produce and thrive in an extremely limited role, but he's done it while providing leadership and displaying a tremendous amount of maturity for his young age.

He's almost single-handedly run the team's second unit power play, and he helped players with lesser skill sets like Jannik Hansen or struggling forwards like Mason Raymond produce as well.

Despite not being used by Vancouver on the penalty kill, he can man that position too.

Hodgson is a complete player whose offensive ceiling will surely be discovered playing second-line minutes in Buffalo, and perhaps his departure was imminent.

So why do I feel like the Canucks just traded away Cam Neely for a bag of hockey sticks again? And why trade him now, with a tough, exhausting playoff run coming up where his contributions could be invaluable?

Vancouver's other expendable asset, Cory Schneider, faces a similar situation and fate as Hodgson, and his name will likely change sides during the summer as a result. 

With the team's season in the books for better or worse at that point, they would have been smarter to try and engineer a package that included Hodgson and Schneider together to grab a game-changer like, say, Rick Nash. 

Now admittedly, I know very little about Zack Kassian, except for the fact that he's huge, tough and hailed as a talented player. And sure, his punishing style of play will be useful and he brings some much needed sandpaper to the lineup, but giving up Hodgson was too much.

The best case scenario for Vancouver out of this would be if Kassian turns out to be as dynamic and dangerous as Milan Lucic in Boston, though that question likely won't be answered in the near future.

So the question still remains, why trade a guy that's given you clutch goal scoring, consistent production, special teams stability, leadership, character and mouth-watering flashes of his potential for an unproven bruiser?

Could GM Mike Gillis not have found a way to add toughness without subtracting a key, young forward at a crucial time?

Only time will tell how this plays out, but unless things somehow even out down the road, the Buffalo Sabres have just walked away with the steal of the year.


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