When news first broke of Cody Hodgson's trade to the Buffalo Sabres for power forward Zack Kassian, fans were divided on the move as some lamented the loss of a young, stud contributor in Hodgson for an unknown prospect mere months before the playoffs began.
"When something isn't broken, don't fix it" was the prevalent logic of the day, and the reason why the move baffled and eventually frustrated some fans as it became clear that Kassian needed more time to develop.
It wasn't until Mike Gillis finally touched on the subject at the end of the year, perhaps out of exasperation, that fans finally realized why the popular forward was first traded. As it turns out, it seems like the relationship between the team and player was poor and beyond repair, causing Gillis to build up his value before dealing him for a player with size.
While we won't know who "won" the trade until these players have had a chance to mature and establish themselves, it should be noted that Kassian has a lot of offensive upside and he could become an integral part of this team down the road.
If he can develop and refine his game, becoming the bull in a china shop that he was in juniors, then the Canucks will have a physical, offensive player they can use up and down their roster for years to come.
In the meantime, the team has to begin looking to their farm system for young players to bring up and use in an effort to get younger, and there are several who will most definitely get an opportunity to earn roster spots this fall.
Chicago Wolves Statistics:
C: Jordan Schroeder, 76 games, 21 goals, 23 assists, 44 points
RW: Mark Mancari, 69 games, 30 goals, 28 assists, 58 points
LW: Bill Sweatt, 71 games, 16 goals, 18 assists, 34 points
D: Kevin Connauton, 73 games, 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points
LW/RW: Nicklas Jensen, 6 games, 4 goals, 0 assists, 4 points
Mike Gillis has endorsed 2009 first-round pick Jordan Schroeder on numerous occasions, maintaining that he's close to being ready to make the jump up to the NHL. The speedy forward enjoyed a very strong second half to the year, and has become a more complete player for the Wolves, killing penalties and improving his faceoff numbers this past season.
While his small stature arouses questions about his effectiveness in the league, it doesn't change the fact that he's probably the most deserving and closest prospect Vancouver has to making the team next year. He should be a shoo-in to take Sammy Pahlsson's spot next year.
Then there's Nicklas Jensen, Vancouver's 2011 first-round pick from Denmark. Jensen is coming off two strong seasons for the Oshawa Generals, where he recently posted 25 goals and 33 assists in 57 games.
After concluding his junior season, he went to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL for six games, recording an impressive four goals. He has NHL size and skill, and looks to be a bright piece of the future in Vancouver. The question is, how near in the future? Some believe that Jensen is a dark horse to make the roster next year, and replace a struggling forward like Mason Raymond.
Both Mark Mancari and Kevin Connauton are long shots to make the roster, as Connauton still needs time to round out his game, while Mancari has not been able to establish his offensive game at an NHL level.
It's also worth mentioning that Chris Tanev, a player that's been up and down between the Canucks and Wolves for the past two seasons has earned a starting spot next season, likely ushering journeyman player Aaron Rome out of town.