Superficially this trade may look incredibly lopsided in Buffalo’s favour. It’s my honest opinion that this isn’t the case and after two games since the trade I’m feeling more and more confident in Gillis’ decision to pull the trigger on this deal.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that Hodgson will turn out to be a fantastic NHL player and probably make a great 1st line centre in Buffalo for many years to come but I don’t think this trade should be compared in anyway shape or form to the Neely or Naslund trades of the past.
Through 2 games I’ve been nothing but impressed with Kassian’s play. He’s quick for a guy that even through the T.V. looks big that’s a massive plus. He forchecks hard and finishes his checks better than almost anybody on the roster which is something the Canucks have missed since Cooke left town. He seems to keep his head up well and when it would be easy to just dump a puck in a corner to chase after somebody he takes the time to get his head up, use his size to advantage and look for a pass.
The luxury of being so far up in the points over Colorado who is 2nd in the division and over Pheonix who is in 3rd in the conference is that they can afford to experiment a little. I’d love for AV to use Kassian on all four lines and find out where the limits are. If he is able to keep up with the Sedins, which I think he can, than the Canucks have a big time game changer on their hands. If he is able to play with the Sedins, even in a year or two from now, then he will create space for them that even they couldn’t find before and shots thrown their way will greatly decrease.
Although he has only played one game Gragnani has impressed as well. He seems to skate extremely well and is definately not afraid to jump up in the play. His first passes out of the zone were crisp and accurate and although he did get caught early once, and took a penalty as a result, I never really saw him having to chase the play back into his own end. He sees the ice very well and on more than a few occasions had brilliant back door passes from the blue line. The nice part about having a player like Gragnani is that no matter what series the Canucks get into in the playoffs they have a nice mix of depth guys to fill certain roles. In a series against a better skating team you might see a third pairing of Gragnani and Ballard or in a hard fought tough series you might see an Alberts and Rome third pairing.
The versatility the Canucks picked up with their deals on deadline day will benefit them greatly through the post season. They were among the favourites before the deadline and of the elite teams in the league they were one of few to do anything to improve their team at that time. I really feel as though they have become a more dynamic team since last years run and have taken little away from their core to do so. With Booth, Bitz, Pahlsson, Kassian, Gragnani, and Weise all added since last years run they are tougher to play against, bigger, more physical and a better checking team than at this time last year. With the officials whistles slowly disappearing I truly feel that this team is more poised to win a Stanley Cup this year over last and God do I hope I’m right.