Maybe proclaiming it's an era is a bit much...but judging by the number of people who are inching closer to roof edges on the news that Cody Hodgson (and Alexander Sulzer) were swapped in exchange for Zack Kassian (and Marc-Andre Gragnani) there's a certain amount of buyer's remorse before the ink is even dry on the deal.
I recognize it sucks to lose a player we've seen go through so much since he was drafted four years ago. With all the issues regarding his back injury and how he would never crack the roster, Hodgson rewarded that patience this season with strong play and 33 points in 63 games. He grew into a valuable role on the third line. However, not unlike Cory Schneider (hint hint), we now know this was ultimately a showcase for Hodgson since it would have been next to impossible to unseat Kesler or Hank ahead of him in the depth charts. With the addition of Pahlsson (presumably the pivot for the third line now) Hodgson had less of a role to play. The Sabres moved Paul Gaustad earlier today and Hodgson appears to be the main benefactor of that deal. So, as fans of Hodgson, we should be happy he landed in a place to blossom in a top six role, something he wouldn't have gotten in Vancouver with the current line-up.
I think those who are the most upset with Hodgson leaving forgot that not every trade can be for a few late round picks. At some point, MG has to give some in order to get some. He pulled that trigger today. So what did we get?
Let's start with the fact Zack Kassian is projected to be what Hodgson isn't: a power forward who likens his style to Milan Lucic's. Stop and mull that over; if he develops into a Lucic or Bertuzzi-type player that is a game changer for the organization for years to come, especially when some of the smaller skilled guys make their way up from the minors. The 13th overall pick in 2009 is rated as the NHL's 13th-best drafted prospect in THN's 2012 Future Watch. Last season with the Windsor Spitfires he notched 77 points and 16 more in the post season. Kassian joins Jensen and Schroeder as the best young RW'ers in the system.
This season he has been hot and cold for Buffalo and has seven points in 27 games, used primarily on the third line with Leino and Luke Adam. It'll be AV's job to help mold Kassian from a checking winger to a second (dare we say first?) line offensive threat. When on his game Kassian's speed, size, forechecking and vision makes him the exact type of player Vancouver doesn't have but could desperately use. For all the chatter about Vancouver's lack of size and grit, Kassian could change that. If he does AV then has the potential of rolling the Sedins followed by Kesler/Kassian as the one-two punch. That's a gamble, in my opinion, worthy of moving an asset like Hodgson.
The 6'3, 205-pound right winger is a power forward prospect. He has imposing size and has shown a willingness to use it. While he may not have as much offensive upside as other forwards at the top of the draft order, Kassian's total package of size, checking, and energetic play make him an appealing addition to a club looking for a top-six forward who can open up the ice for other teammates. An ability to put the puck in the net adds to his value as he has proven he won't be an offensive liability with more skilled teammates.
In moving Sulzer GMMG swapped a swift defensive prospect (who has never going to crack the line-up) with a slightly bigger, younger offensive defenseman
(who will also likely not crack the line-up anytime soon) who played in the Mens World Championships for Canada last summer. Gragnani is the more experienced of the two and his offensive upside (1-11-12) could push him into one of the bottom pairings sooner rather than later. He's been labeled with the dreaded "inconsistent" tag this season but perhaps a change of scenery and the style of play can help him become more consistent.
This is a big trade, potentially the biggest MG has made in so far as the lasting impact on the franchise is concerned. How happy are you with the decisions made?