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Tag:Vancouver Canucks
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:44 am
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Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:25 am
 

Pregame Skate: Randy Carlyle's Toronto debut

Carlyle

By: Adam Gretz

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

CanadiensMaple Leafs7 ET, Toronto at Montreal: Well, it is still technically a game in the playoff race, at least for Toronto, even though their chances appear to be hanging on be the tiniest of threads. And if the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, long-time bitter rivals, have anything in common this season it's that they both seem to be a complete, dysfunctional mess at the present time. Their meeting on Saturday night in Montreal will be the debut for new Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle after he was announced as the new bench boss on Friday evening, replacing Ron Wilson.

Is it a needed move to give the Maple Leafs a boost to get back into serious playoff contention? Or is it simply too little, too late for this season, and rearranging deck chairs on what looks to be a sinking ship?

Toronto has lost 10 of 11 entering Saturday's game, and suddenly finds itself behind Tampa Bay and Buffalo in the standings. The Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs since the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005-06, and the only other team that can make that claim is the Florida Panthers, and their drought looks like it has a pretty good chance to come to an end this year.

CanucksSabres10 ET, Buffalo at Vancouver: Thanks to wins in five of their past six games, and a 10-3-3 mark in their past 16 games, the Buffalo Sabres are another team that's found a way to work their way back into the playoff picture, and a lot of that, at least recently, is due to the play of goaltender Ryan Miller.

The veteran netminder has had his share of struggles this season, but over the past couple of weeks he has been playing like he did back in 2010 when he was the best goalie in the league -- and the Olympics -- and at no time has he looked better than he has over his past two games, recording back-to-back shutouts in wins over Anaheim and San jose.

Over their past wins, which have been by a combined score of just 3-0, the Sabres have allowed Miller to be peppered by 82 shots (that's 41 per game), many of them quality chances, and he's turned aside every single one of them.

Over his past six starts he's allowed just seven goals.

The only thing at stake for the Canucks on Saturday night is ... well, pretty much nothing. Even if they lose they're still going to be the top team in the Western Conference.

DucksKings10:30 ET, Anaheim at Los Angeles: Just 24 hours after picking up a huge two points thanks to a 3-2 win against Calgary, due to a last-minute goal from Ryan Getzlaf, the Anaheim Ducks have to jump right back into it on Saturday night in Los Angeles against one of the many teams they're still chasing in the standings.

The Ducks enter the game four points behind Los Angeles, and still seven points behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West, and as has been the case for the past couple of months, and will be for the remainder of the regular season, this is a game the Ducks pretty much have to win if there is going to be any chance to complete this late-season comeback.

At least Friday's game finally moved them ahead of one team -- the Minnesota Wild -- putting them at 12th place in the West.

The Kings, meanwhile, are fresh off a 4-0 win in Minnesota and need the two points just as much as Anaheim does. After Saturday the Kings hit the road for five of their next six games, and it looks to be a brutal stretch of games that includes matchups with Nashville, Chicago, Detroit (twice) and another game with Anaheim.

Others worth watching
7 ET, Tampa Bay at Carolina: After knocking off the New York Rangers on Friday the Lightning have an opportunity to continue their own late season playoff push in Carolina, and just to show how completely bonkers the playoff race currently is, the Lightning still have an outside chance of winning the Southeast.

8 ET, Columbus at Phoenix: Another tight divisional race is out west in the Pacific, as the white-hot Coyotes enter Saturday's game against Columbus two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks. The Blue Jackets recently played the role of spoiler by blanking the Avalanche in Denver, and the Coyotes are coming off what was their first regulation loss since the end of January.

10:30 ET, St. Louis at San Jose: And the team chasing Phoenix, San Jose, has an important -- and tough -- home game against the toughest team in the league to score against, the St. Louis Blues. Good news for the Sharks: for as good as the Blues record is, they've been pretty mediocre away from home.

Your promised miscellany
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:01 am
 

Morning Skate: Sabres creeping back in

Miller has wins in four of his last five starts. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

10:30 ET, Buffalo at San Jose

Well would you look at that, the Buffalo Sabres are back in the conversation. Somewhat miraculously it's true.

Ryan Miller is showing flashes of the goaltender America came to know two years ago. He's been up to the quality we've come to expect from him in recent games, including Wednesday's shutout of the not-long-ago streaking Anaheim Ducks. As a result -- and of the East's struggle at the bottom -- the Sabres begin the day only five points back of Washington.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time to remind everybody that the chances still aren't good and that's a lot of ground to make up still. According to Sports Club Stats, the odds the Sabres make the postseason are still only 4.1 percent. A win tonight in San Jose, however, then we're talking. They would hop two teams and move into 10th place, just three behind Washington (and we'll wait to see what Winnipeg does).

The Sharks meanwhile are still fighting for a playoff spot that is in no way guaranteed to be theirs right now. They just grabbed a huge 1-0 win over the Flyers the other night in San Jose to give them a little breathing room from the eighth-place chasers.

8 ET, Florida at Winnipeg

The Panthers are one of the rare teams that have had success this season in Winnipeg. They have played their twice and won both times. In those two games, Kris Versteeg scored five goals. To put that into context, he has 22 on the season, so nearly 1/4 of his goals have come at MTS Centre despite play 2/59 of his games there.

So the good news for the Jets? Versteeg won't be playing. That's a huge plus for a team that really needs this game at home. Winnipeg enters the night with four fewer points despite three more games played. Win this one and the Panthers stay within reach, fail to pick up any points and, well, that gets to be a big task.

But luckily for the Jets, the eighth seed in the East is still available too. They enter the night one point behind Washington there and can jump back into playoff position by the end of the evening. Again though, they have all those games in hand. That's why their margin for error is so slim, they need to pick up 2/3 of the points available the rest of the season to have a good shot.

9 ET, Calgary at Phoenix

The good news for the Flames as they head to face the Coyotes? The calendar no longer shows February. Phoenix was literally unbeatable (in regulation) for the month going 11-0-1 which included a comeback win in Calgary a week ago.

With that game a key culprit in the equation, the Flames have been slipping lately despite playing a home-heavy schedule. Perhaps getting away from home -- however unlikely that is -- might help them get back on track. It's about time they do if they want to keep in the conversation. Because right now they are four points back of being in with two teams in between them.

And it's not a terribly big secret why the Flames have lost four in a row. Miikka Kiprusoff can only be superman back there for so long. Without him it's hard to picture Calgary still being in the race. In the last four games, however, he has given up 15 goals as well as picking up a loss in two shootouts.

On the other side they face the hottest goaltender this side of ... well anywhere. You can already write Mike Smith's name in pen for the first start of the month of February. He was 11-0-0 in the month. My word.

Others worth watching

10 ET, St. Louis at Vancouver: Hoooo boy, this should be a good win. By virtue of a tie-breaker, these are the top two teams in the Western Conference. Heck, if the Blues win, they're in the lead for the Presidents' Trophy. Plus they have four straight wins on the road. Buckle up.

9 ET, Columbus at Colorado: The Blue Jackets might be out of it, but the Avalanche certainly aren't. They have the opportunity to move into the eighth spot in the West tonight. Pretty remarkable for a team that has been as streaky as they have.

7 ET, New Jersey at Boston: There isn't a whole lot here on the Devils' end. They are somewhat comfy in, but they'd like to start winning again to feel a little better. The Bruins actually find themselves in a division race. They have been mediocre (yes, really) for well over a month now.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • Rangers captain Ryan Callahan might be out for the Rangers' game against the Hurricanes tonight. (Rangers Rants)
  • A look through the mirrors back to an age of smoking in hockey. (SI)
  • The Ducks' slim playoff chances are getting even slimmer now and the team is showing some frustration. (O.C. Register)
  • ECHL coach Nick Vitucci lost his mind with the officials and went on one hell of a tirade. (Puck Daddy)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:40 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:51 am
 

Coyotes complete near-perfect February

TippettBy: Adam Gretz

This is Dave Tippett's ninth year as a head coach in the NHL.

During that time he has missed the playoffs just once, and as recently as a month ago it looked like this season just might in fact be the second time.

After a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, it not only looks like his Phoenix Coyotes are going to make a third straight postseason trip (all under Tippett's watch), but they're currently in first place in the Pacific Division thanks to a performance in February that saw the Coyotes go 11-0-1, with the only loss coming in a shootout in Vancouver back on Feb. 13th.

That also happened to be the only game during the month that goaltender Mike Smith did not start, and he pushed his personal winning streak to 11 games with a 39-save performance against the Canucks on Tuesday.

Smith, without much fanfare, signed to a two-year, $4 million contract on July 1 to join the Coyotes, and he has more than filled whatever hole was left by Ilya Bryzgalov when his free agent rights were traded to the Flyers over the summer. His numbers are almost identical to what Bryzgalov put up during his time in Phoenix, while Bryzgalov's production has completely fallen off the map in Philadelphia.

Is it the system? Perhaps. When I spoke to Smith before the season, shortly after he signed in Phoenix, he pointed out how Tippett's defense-first system was attractive and very friendly to goaltenders (keep in mind, Smith played under Tippett for a brief time in Dallas). But right now Smith is simply in a zone and is making every key save the Coyotes need him to make as they continue to grind out wins and chug along against all odds, completely shutting down every opponent they face. That includes the stop Smith made on Mason Raymond during Tuesday's shootout, stopping his spin-o-rama attempt in the second round (starting at the 2:18 mark of the video below).



It's a move that some goaltenders believe is nearly impossible to stop, but Smith simply did not flinch.

During the month of February the Coyotes allowed just 17 goals (not counting "team goals" from shootouts) in 12 games. That includes two shutouts and eight games where they allowed just one goal. What is most impressive about their performance in February is that it came against quality opponents nearly every night. They played just one team with a losing record (Edmonton), and had multiple games with Vancouver, Los Angeles and Calgary, and also knocked off Deroit, Chicago and San Jose. As far as Vancouver and the latter three are concerned, those aren't exactly lightweights in the NHL.

For the month the nine different opponents they faced had a combined record of 262-185-58, and the Coyotes rolled right through them.

After being one of the worst teams in the league in January, they were the best team in hockey in February, and it's put them right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:09 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 11:11 am
 

Fiddler's Bieksa imitation cracks Vigneault up

By Brian Stubits

Over the weekend, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was seen on the Vancouver bench in hysterics. For a guy who seems to have the same face during games at all times, it was a treat to see. He just couldn't control himself, trying to hide behind his papers and conceal his red-faced laughter.

Kevin Bieksa was giving a good chuckle on the bench too. But why, exactly? What happened?

It was one wicked Bieksa imitation from Dallas Stars forward Vernon Fiddler that at first appeared to escape the cameras, but oh no, there's video. Thank goodness there was video.

Well done Fiddler. That's worthy of a solid A.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:02 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:09 pm
 

Morning Skate: Playoff outcasts meet in Toronto

Florida and Toronto haven't made the playoffs post-lockout. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

7 ET, Florida at Toronto

Considering how the last six years have gone in the NHL, it's pretty amazing to think that we're talking about this game and playoff implications at the end of February. They are the only two franchises not to see the postseason in that stretch.

And there is certainly no guarantee both or even one are going to get in this go-round. That's especially true when talking about the Maple Leafs. In playoff position almost all season long, they have hit hard times in the month of February. The goalies are a mess (so it is still like the previous six years in Toronto). All told, the Leafs have lost four in a row and eight of their last nine. Their last regulation win? Feb. 6 vs. Edmonton.

Now they're three points back of Winnipeg (with three games in hand, mind you) and two behind Washington in the battle for that last playoff spot (five behind Florida if the Panthers fall out of the Southeast lead).

The Panthers this season, by the way, are 10-2-2 against Canadian teams. Not that that means all too much. But they're 2-0-0 against the Leafs including a 5-1 win in Toronto at the beginning of the season. And they've won three consecutive on the road.

Florida is guaranteed to be in first place still by the end of the night. But if they want to take their first Southeast crown in franchise history they'll need to win games like this against struggling teams like Toronto.

My question: Who will Capitals fans be rooting for while they're team plays the Islanders? The only way they're happy is as long as it's not a three-point game.

8 ET: Los Angeles at Minnesota

It's the same story, different day for Minnesota. If they lose you have to think they're done in the playoff race. I seem to write it all the time these days and every time they pull off the win. But chasing so many teams in the logjam ahead of them they aren't gaining much traction.

One of those teams ahead of them is in town on Tuesday night, so that helps. Especially when that team has about as hard a time scoring as the Wild. Actually harder, but they have a new addition in L.A. who is supposed to help out that department.

Coming into the night, the Wild continue to hang on by their chinny chin chin. They are five points back of the Stars and Avalanche who are tied with 70 points in the eighth spot. They're three back of the Kings. They have games in hand entering the night on all of them. So, you know, have to make those games count and all that, otherwise they're missed opportunities.

For the Wild keen an eye on veteran Matt Cullen. It might just be coincidental but he didn't have a single point in the Wild's seven-game losing streak but has scored a goal in three of the last four games. They are 3-1 in those games. I'll let you guess which one they lost.

10:30 ET, Philadelphia at San Jose

Welcome back home, Sharks. It must be nice to be swimming in friendly waters again after more than two weeks straight on the road. Philly is waiting for you.

San Jose's nine-game jaunt that began Feb. 12 in St. Louis wasn't very kind to them. They won only two of those games picking up five points in total. They lost a late lead in the final game and they're coach Todd McLellan was knocked out of the game by a fluke play near the bench. Oh, and they lost first place in the Pacific Division to the Coyotes.

So yeah, it's probably very nice to be back home.

And while they have to be tuckered out after playing that final road game on Sunday evening in Minnesota, the Flyers are going to be a well-rested group who has had some extra time to enjoy the sites of San Francisco and the Bay Area, having last played on Saturday in Calgary.

Philadelphia is comfortably in the playoffs, its fight is for the No. 4 seed. But San Jose? You will start to wonder if they're going to even make it here pretty soon if they lose tonight. I'm not saying it's panic time, it's certainly not. A road trip like that is brutal. But if they fail to get any points tonight, they will remain just one point ahead of the two teams in eighth. That starts making it pretty interesting.

Others worth watching

9 ET, Vancouver at Phoenix: Arguably the two hottest teams in the league right now (and not much argument for anybody else) this is a huge measuring stick game for the Coyotes. If they get at least one point tonight they will have earned a point in every game in the month of February. Only once so far have they failed to get two points this month -- a shootout loss to the Canucks, no less.

7 ET, Ottawa at Boston: These two renew acquaintances after the weekend's hotly contested game in Ottawa, a Bruins win. The spread is three in the division for the B's with games in hand, so head to head is Ottawa's best chance to gain ground. Look for some fireworks after last game and Kyle Turris' hit on Joe Corvo that avoided supplemental discipline.

7 ET, Islanders at Washington: Interestingly enough, the Isles are the only team from the Eastern Conference the Capitals haven't beaten this season. This is their third crack at them. With just one point the Caps vault into the eighth spot in the East with the Jets, two points give them the No. 8 spot all to themselves.

Your promised miscellany

  • Check out our brand new Facebook page and like us, because we like you!
  • Monday's Winners & Losers
  • After the Jets allowed four unanswered goals to the Oilers at home last night, Kyle Wellwod called it the "worst loss of the year." (Winnipeg Sun)
  • Did Cody Hodgson ask for a trade out of Vancouver? Canucks GM Mike Gillis won't say one way or the other. (The Province)
  • Sheldon Souray is back and it means the return of one of the best nicknames I've seen this season: Studly Wonderbomb. (Dallas Morning News)
  • Think Mike Mottau is happy to be a Bruin? “I always said that I’d take a puck in the teeth to play for the Boston Bruins,” said Mottau. “Now I’ll get that chance.” (CSN New England)
  • Lastly, here's a pretty neat inside look at what happens when NHL teams make a trade and the call they make to the league, this one the Hodgson-Zack Kassian swap. (Also, note that the Sabres and Canucks made two separate deals, Alexander Sulzer and Marc-Andre Gragnani were technically their own trade.)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 6:07 pm
 

NHL Trade deadline winners and losers

The Nashville Predators were the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline's biggest winners. (Getty)

By: Adam Gretz

It shouldn't be a surprise that Monday turned out to be, for the most part, a quiet day as the 3 ET trade deadline passed.

Increased parity around the league and the fact nearly every team in the NHL still thinks it has a chance to make the playoffs this season reduced the number of true sellers to no more than four or five (If that). That, of course, made it nearly impossible to strike many impact deals, not to mention the sky-high prices teams were apparently putting on their players.

In the end, Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket. Steve Ott is still a Dallas Star.  Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble are still Washington Capitals. Ryan Suter is still a Nashville Predator.

And speaking of the Predators, if they wanted to send a message to Suter and his partner in crime on the blue line, Shea Weber, not to mention the rest of the organization, the fan base and the NHL as a whole that they're ready to start going for it, they certainly did so on Monday.

Or attempted to, anyway.

The Predators were one of the busiest teams in the NHL over the past week, and after acquiring Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens last week for a couple of draft picks, they made two of the biggest moves on Monday by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from the Canadiens for two more draft picks, and then grabbed Paul Gaustad and a draft pick from the Buffalo Sabres for a first-round pick.

The Gaustad trade is a bold one. Perhaps even a little crazy given the price they paid for a role player that also happens to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. But he's a valuable player that is going to help, and now that everything has settled the Predators are a deeper, better team than they were at this time last week.

As general manager David Poile said "These trades have certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year."
NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage


Winners

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings big trade came earlier in the week when they landed  Jeff Carter from the Columbus Jackets, giving the team the goal-scoring help it desperately needed, and reuniting him with his long-time teammate, Mike Richards. As I pointed out the night of the deal, the Kings were able to acquire Richards and Carter over the past year in two separate trades that did not require them to give up any of their own franchise, core players, which is pretty big score.

Buffalo Sabres: When word surfaced early on Monday that the asking price for Gaustad would be a first-round draft pick, there was some disbelief, as well as the assumption that as the day progressed that price would drop. The Sabres didn't back down from their demands and ended up getting the first-round pick they wanted for a player that had chance to lose for nothing over the summer.

They also addressed their need for young talent down the middle by striking what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day, sending Zach Kassian to the Vancouver Canucks for Cody Hodgson.

Minnesota Wild: In what was simply a hockey trade that saw two teams swap different types of defensemen the Oilers shipped Tom Gilbert to Minnesota in exchange for Nick Schultz. The Oilers traded an offensive-minded player for a defensive one, the Wild did the exact opposite, but ended up picking up the better player. Gilbert is going to help Minnesota a lot more than Schultz will help Edmonton.

Ottawa Senators: Saturday's addition of goaltender Ben Bishop is one of those deals that could sneak under the radar but provide a big return. Bishop is a highly regarded prospect and with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak filling the position for the foreseeable future in St. Louis, Bishop wasn't going to get much of an opportunity. He might get it in Ottawa, especially in the short-term now that Craig Anderson is sidelined, and the Senators were able to get him without giving up much in return. Solid addition at a fair price at the right time.

Losers

Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets: The most shocking development to come out of the Rick Nash drama on Monday wasn't that he didn't get traded. For all of the rumors and speculation that followed his name over the past week, it's not a huge surprise that he's still a member of the Blue Jackets on Monday evening. The insanity really started to kick in when.general manager Scott Howson admitted in his Monday afternoon press conference that Nash initially approached the team and asked for a trade, putting the entire process in motion.

Why Howson would admit this is a mystery, but it's becoming pretty obvious that even though Nash will finish this season in Columbus, he's probably not going to be there at the start of next season. Especially now that his (current) general manager pretty much tossed him in front of the bus.

The only question that remains is whether or not Howson will be the man to make the inevitable trade over the summer. And given the return Columbus received on its two trades this past week, selling off Antoine Vermette and Jeff Carter for what amounts to Jack Johnson and some magic beans, not to mention the way he fumbled the Nash situation helping to put a nice bow on a season that only seems to get worse, it's worth asking who will be making that call from the general manager's office.

Of course, Nash isn't completely without blame in this mess either. His agent commented over the weekend that it would be best for a trade to be done sooner rather than later, and if Nash himself were really that desperate to get out of Columbus he wouldn't have limited the Jackets' potential trade partners by only offering to waive his no-trade clause for a short-list of teams, and one that his agent claims will not grow over the summer.

This appears to be a no-win situation for Columbus and its fans.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks goaltending and defense has been a sore spot this season, and their only major move was to add Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets. Not sure if that's going to be enough.

Carolina Hurricanes: After re-signing Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason, two popular names in trade speculation over the past month, the Hurricanes did not deal Bryan Allen or Jaroslav Spacek, two players that are eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, which means they could possibly walk out the door for no return. It's still possible that one (or both) can be re-signed, which could be exciting ... if you're interested in keeping together a team that's currently 14th in the Eastern Conference. 

Teams that stayed quiet

Pittsburgh Penguins: For the first time under general manager Ray Shero the Penguins did not make a move on, or near, the NHL's trade deadline. With the way the team is playing right now and the makeup of its roster, with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal leading the way, a move wasn't really needed. This team is playing well enough as it is, doesn't appear to have many holes and looks like a team that can be a favorite and top contender for the Stanley Cup.

But the mindset around Pittsburgh seems to be that the lack of a move is a positive sign that Sidney Crosby could be on the verge of a return, or that he will eventually be "the big addition" for the roster. That's all well and good, and if it works out that way, fantastic. But assuming anything right now regarding Crosby is a major stretch. Nobody knows for sure when he'll be back, and it's worth pointing out that his last return lasted all of 10 games. Still a lot of uncertainty around that entire situation.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals were expected to be one of the busiest teams on Monday, especially after their decision to move center Nicklas Backstrom to the long-term injured list, opening up a pretty significant amount of salary cap space ahead of the deadline.

In the end the Capitals did nothing, which seems to be a pretty big shock around the NHL. But is it?

The Capitals could have certainly used a center, but with the way this team has looked for much of the season it's hard to imagine there being a move out there that was going to help this team get over the hump this year. Why give up significant long-term assets to chase after the No. 7 or 8 playoff spot when a deep postseason run doesn't look like it's a legitimate possibility?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 3:56 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 4:08 pm
 

Canucks ship Hodgson to Sabres for Kassian

By Brian Stubits

The biggest trade of the day -- by far, if you ask me -- came down some 40 minutes after the deadline. The Vancouver Canucks shipped young star Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres for former No. 1 draft pick and top prospect Zach Kassian as well as defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Even on a more normal (see: busier) trade deadline day, that deal is going to make a lot of news. Hodgson is a big-time player who has been blocked from getting good ice time in Vancouver. But the idea of trading him didn't seem to be much of a good one with his potential. The problem is he plays center and the Canucks sort of have some good ones ahead of him. You might have heard of Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

This season playing bottom-6 minutes, Hodgson has 16 goals and 17 assists. He has been a player that the fans in Vancouver have rallied behind to get more ice time, but again there wasn't much of it for him to take.

So he gets sent to Buffalo for Kassian, who won't be blocked at the center spot. He's a true power winger who is rough and skilled. The best way to describe him is as a freight-train type on the ice, he isn't soft out there to be sure.

The addition of Gragnani for Sulzer in the deal makes it a lot more appetizing for Vancouverites. Sulzer is a bit of a journeyman defenseman who plays in the No. 5/No. 6 role when he actually does play (only 12 games with Vancouver this season) while Gragnani is inexperienced but still very young. This was the first season in which he played more than 10 games, appearing in 44 so far for the Sabres while scoring a goal and 11 assists while sporting a plus-10.

Giving up Hodgson definitely comes as a surprise but apparently he was expendable. And it helps the Canucks get something they could use, a little more grit and toughness. It's hard not to view this addition of Kassian as partly in preparation for a possible rematch with the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final based on last year's series. Bruins or not, it's a move to get a little tougher.

For Buffalo, it will be interesting to see if this satisfies the fan base's desire to see the team do something. It's been a very disappointing season, particularly based on the expectations for the Sabres so it was expected they'd do something. They waited until the very end by first trading Paul Gaustad to Nashville for a No. 1 draft pick and then this bombshell.

It's pretty easy to say that Hodgson is the big piece of this deal and he goes to Buffalo. But Kassian will have a role to fill in Vancouver without a doubt.

For the Canucks it was part of a busier day where they were determined to add some forward punch. In addition to the Kassian/Gragnani acquisition, they also landed Sami Pahlsson from the Blue Jackets and finished the day by getting Andrew Gordon from the Anaheim Ducks.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com