zack kassian:

Hodgson/Kassian Swap Stupefies Vancouver/Buffalo Press


So who won this trade?

On BSN, we’re (at least I) am pretty excited at the potential that Hodgson brings to our offense. Being on pace to join our best 10 rookies in scoring in team history is nothing to scoff at. It’s something to relish. It’s exciting. Kassian, meanwhile, had been a problem project for the Sabres from the start, and oddly had begun to play a softer game in Rochester this year that set off a bit of a tiff with reporters. Aside from that, Kass just doesn’t have the upside and NHL-natural ability that CoHo possesses. We’ll find a another beefcake grinder soon enough.

Hodgson is special.


But readers of the Buffalo News might be far more wary of Hodgson as a prospect, let alone a player, this morning. From a Bucky Gleason column yesterday:

Upper management apparently was thrilled when Regier completed the deal for Hodgson, the one-time poster boy for Canadian junior hockey. He was selected two picks ahead of Tyler Myers in 2008. The following year, he played on a line with John Tavares and led Canada in scoring on their march to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships.

The Sabres were desperate for help down the middle, and Hodgson could be the playmaker they needed. He had 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games, putting him on pace for 20 goals and 42 points for the season. Not bad considering he played on the third line behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

Hodgson is a right-handed shot, so you can envision him opening more ice and feeding left winger Thomas Vanek at some point in the future. He was on the Canucks’ second power-play unit, too. Perhaps he can find chemistry with Nathan Gerbe and Ville Leino in the coming years and Brad Boyes this season. Who knows? He could be a young Daniel Briere.

It could be an ideal fit.

So far, it all sounds good.

Let’s not start the celebration just yet. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to reserve judgment on Regier’s decisions and not overreact to what appeared to be a good move. Expectations soared when he added three players last summer, but the Sabres were in 12th place Monday. It’s a recent example among many.

Remember, the object is winning the whole thing. To me, the Sabres weren’t big enough and tough enough before the deadline, and they came away smaller and softer afterward. Kassian is a big winger who was physical when willing. At times, he was the only one playing with bite that had been missing for far too long. He could turn into the nasty power forward Buffalo has been missing (see: Lucic, Milan).

The Sabres are puny down the middle with lightweights Roy and Hodgson tipping the scales at 185 pounds and featherweight Tyler Ennis all of 157 pounds. Questions remain about whether Hodgson, who had back problems last season, will validate predictions that he was a can’t-miss No. 1 center in the NHL.

Hodgson’s stats are impressive when you consider he played less than 13 minutes a night, but they’re less so when you realize he had been playing against the third defense pairings while opposing teams tried matching up with the Sedin twins and Kesler on the first two lines. He’ll get more ice time in Buffalo, but he might not be as effective with less talent around him.

And there’s this simple question: Whom would you trust more to make the proper evaluation at this stage, Canucks GM Mike Gillis or Regier?

…Was Monday a good day Buffalo? Short-term, probably not. Long-term, let’s wait and see.

In short: looks like a good trade, but this is a very guarded assessment. It almost seems like it was written to correct his previous column, in which he missed the mark in roasting Regier pre-deadline:

What should Regier do Monday?

Not much of anything, really.

OK, perhaps he could ship out pending free agents Paul Gaustad and Brad Boyes for midround draft picks or prospects in cap-clearing deals. But if there’s even a sliver of doubt inside the organization about retaining Regier — and there is — he should otherwise keep his hands off the roster.

You want Derek Roy or Drew Stafford or Ryan Miller on the next bus out of town? Fine, but that’s a decision for the next GM. The sooner Pegula and his upper-management team realize Regier is not the man who will build a Cup winner, the sooner they can get to work on winning one.

At this stage, Regier can’t be trusted to lead the Sabres in the right direction. Any move Monday should be greeted with suspicion because there’s a good chance he’ll make the wrong one. Anyway, there aren’t enough players available who can rescue this team after so many listless efforts and so many losses.

The damage is done.

Oops. Remember, this is the 1st full season of Regier/Pegula. GM’s can be defined by their owners, or at least by the constraints of their owners’ wallets. This is no longer the Golisano/Regier Era, and the future performance of Darcy should not be judged as such. Pegula/Regier is an entirely different animal.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Hodgson’s ability was clear, as was the impact of his loss to the Canucks. Or was it? From an Elliot Pap column in the Vancouver Sun, from yesterday:

Here’s the first thought that came to mind when word came down the Canucks had dealt 2008 first-round pick Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for 2009 first-round pick Zack Kassian: Is this Markus Naslund and Alek Stojanov all over again, only in reverse?

In 1996, former Canucks GM Pat Quinn acquired Naslund from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Naslund was a skill forward, not terribly big, and a first-round pick who was chaffing with his playing opportunities behind the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

Stojanov, like Kassian, was huge (6-4, 230), had a mean streak and was considered more than pure cement. He had butted heads with Eric Lindros in junior and was expected to do that again in the NHL against not only Lindros, but all the large players of the day. He was also a first-round pick. In fact, he went nine spots ahead of Naslund in the 1991 entry draft. (Stojanov was the seventh overall pick, Naslund the 16th.)

We probably don’t need to tell you how Naslund-Stojanov turned out. Naslund struggled for a couple of seasons in Vancouver before blossoming into the best left-winger in the NHL, an Art Ross runner-up, a Ted Lindsay award winner, long-team team captain and the Canucks’ all-time leading scorer. Naslund’s No. 19 Canuck jersey was raised to the rafters last season.

Stojanov, meanwhile, was plagued with shoulder problems and played just 45 games as a Penguin, scoring two goals. Naslund scored 346 for the Canucks in 884 games. That trade is widely regarded as one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history.

…In any case, all trades take time to shake out.

How will we look back on Hodgson-Kassian in five years? Hopefully for long-suffering Canuck fans, it will be a positive one.

The comparison to the Naslund/Stojanov trade is a fun read but is, at best, just more guarded speculation. Although it does hint at the offense Hodgson will bring to Buffalo, it actually defines nothing concrete. 487w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Sports analysis should not be fence sitting, no matter how cute it reads.

Meanwhile, Iain MacIntye of the Sun had this to offer up:

We don’t know how good Cody Hodgson might have become for the Vancouver Canucks.

We know he can score, but we don’t know how much. Will he be merely good or great? Is his offensive ceiling 60 points or 90? Would he have developed into a leader, a captain? Could he have helped the Canucks win a Stanley Cup?

And the problem with judging this stunning trade is we probably would never have known how good Hodgson could be in Vancouver because he was stuck behind centres Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler and was not going to get the minutes to be a star here.

…It will be years before Hodgson or Kassian becomes whatever it is they’re going to be in the NHL.

Years? He is already 3rd on the Sabres in goals, tied for 6th in assists, and 4th in points. Heck, he’s a Calder candidate – was the rookie of the month in January, and is second in goals scored for all rooks.

Yes, he’s going to spend more time in top 6 minutes now, and thus against better defensive pairings. But, as we pointed out here yesterday, he’ll also see more power play time, and likely will butter his stats with some ice time between snipers Vanek and Pominville.

Kassian needs more development before we know just how good he may be, but from what we saw from him in Rochester and Buffalo, there are concerns over his progress already. The future for CoHo is now – he’s been dynamic at the NHL level, and will only get better. We have “years to go,” yes. But we also have measurable performance and stats to back it up.

Guarded assessments aside, I abhor how all of those columns ended.

…Was Monday a good day Buffalo? Short-term, probably not. Long-term, let’s wait and see.


…In any case, all trades take time to shake out.

How will we look back on Hodgson-Kassian in five years? Hopefully for long-suffering Canuck fans, it will be a positive one.


…It will be years before Hodgson or Kassian becomes whatever it is they’re going to be in the NHL.

That’s our expert analysis from Vancouver and Buffalo? That’s disappointing press. It’s magic 8 ball stuff. It’s safe, wait and see, ne’er-be-wrong-now-or-years-from-now fluff.

This whole Kassian/Hodgson thing is pretty darn clear. Top six-ish grinder for a top 6 scorer. Hodgson is a hell of a hockey player.

No one is truly this incredibly baffled over the futures of Kassian and Hodgson in the NHL. The real let-down is in the lack of insight in these columns.

There’s nothing wrong with a little excitement, folks. Don’t let the doubt-mongers dull your senses.

Go Sabres.

Edit: Oh yea – “Who won this trade?” Well, between sportswriters, we’ll call it a definite draw.

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Zack Kassian Recalled: What to Expect

Kassian has finally arrived in the B-lo.

Buffalo’s 13th selection of the 2009 draft, the Sabres picked up Zack Kassian in an effort to bulk up their team. It’s convenient now to mention the comparisons to Milan Lucic that he was receiving then. Sabres fans might have preferred him brought up a couple days ago – but he’s here – and now it’s time to see what he can do. 600w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

A pic from the draft, taken moments before Kassian chewed up the puck, spat it out in a hundred pieces and called it a wuss.

I think my initial thoughts on Kassian during the draft were pretty spot on.

Kassian has been compared to every power forward from Cam Neeley to Milan Lucic to Brad May.

With the 13th pick, the Sabres weren’t looking for Cam Neeley, but did score a second or first or second line power forward who will bring a balance of size back into the Sabres smallish lineup.

The best comparison right now is Steve Bernier, a player that Buffalo fans know well. Kassian will hit and fight more than Bernier, but the offensive output should be about the same.

In other words, we can expect the toughness and grit of Lucic, but maybe not to much the talent. Still, he’s tied for the team lead in goals with the Amerks (at 7, with fellow ’09 draftee Marcus Foligno). Kassian also leads the Amerks with 14 points. Those numbers have made for a fine pro debut for the big guy, but what about that featured toughness? From Keith Wozniak of “Let’s Go Amerks:”

Plus: Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno are so far having great rookie seasons each having scored seven goals already.  Kassian also has seven assists compared to one for Foligno.

Minus: The lack of a physical play from players like  Zack Kassian and Brayden McNabb who were known for that at the junior level.  This doesn’t mean going out there and fighting but besides a hit here and their they aren’t having a real presence on the ice.  They’re strong and use their bodies but playing a more physical game could help change the pace of some games.  It’s likely how Buffalo has asked them to play which is understandable but it’s an element of the game that could be a difference maker at times.

(Follow Keith on the Twitter at @LetsGoAmerks.)

Indeed, that’s the style of play we saw from Kassian during the pre-season, and it’s the style we should expect from him tonight. He’s going to fight along the boards, he’s going to go to the net, and he is going to hit. Just don’t expect him to explode onto the ice and immediately hit every player not wearing a Blue and Gold sweater.

The Sabres have been stern with Kassian, ensuring that his game wouldn’t be as reckless as it was when he was a junior. If you recall, Buffalo even postponed negotiating a contract with him after he slugged a guy in a bar in Canada.

If his play at the AHL level tells us anything, it’s that the Sabres efforts and patience are paying off. Again, he’s going to work the boards, get to the net, and hit some bodies, but he’s not going to do anything reckless.

He is certainly not going to do anything to get him demoted. This is Kassian’s chance, folks. He needs to prove to the Sabres’ brass that he is going to play things their way. That’s how it works for guys who make it to the NHL. For the Sabres, they’ll get a first taste of the promise of the size and toughness that they picked up in the ’09 draft, something they sorely need before going into the playoffs again.

Good luck tonight, Zack.

Go Sabres.

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