Since the trade deadline, Zack Kassian, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Paul Guastad, and a 4th round draft pick have traveled into the Western Conference. Granted, it’s only been 4 short weeks since finding a new home in their new cities, and particularly in the case of Zack Kassian, it’s too early to tell if he can be a Cancuk difference maker, but let’s take a look anyways.
Vancouver media was beyond ecstatic to receive Kassian into their playoff contending team, especially with the legend that came with him. What started out as expecting a player who would drop the gloves, be physical, all while putting points on the board turned into well, what we’ve grown to know Zack Kassian as. Though Canucks general manager Mike Gillis was aware of the amount of improvement Kassian would need in order to be the Milan Lucic-type player, he might have been hoping for a bit of a better showing this season than what he’s received.
As a Canuck, Kassian has played in all 13 games since the trade. He has gained just one goal and one assist, both of which came against the loss to none other than the Buffalo Sabres. His fifteen penalty minutes from the March 10th game against the Montreal Canadiens make up nearly half of what he’s acquired in his new jersey.
Viewing purely his stats per game, it’s safe to say Kassian has had a better season on the Sabres. With his 7 points in 27 games as a Sabre, he’s averaged .11 points per game in blue and gold, yet .07 per game as a Canuck. He also average more shots per game, a better shot percentage, and more shifts per game as a Sabre. However, it is important to keep in mind the role Kassian played in Buffalo as opposed to Vancouver, which will certainly alter his stats between the teams.
The Gragnani-Sulzer trade appeared to be essentially a trade of the benched defensemen, clearly not expecting either player to be a huge game-changing role, and definitely not “the” trade. Since the trade, Gragnani has played in 9 games and a healthy scratch for 4.
Excited to be under a new coach (and certainly not hiding the excitement), Gragnani, Canucks fans, and media alike thought perhaps a change of scenery might do him well. Stats-wise? Not so much.
In his 44 games as a Sabre, Gragnani registered just one goal, but eleven assists. He has been held completely off the scoresheet in Vancouver. In fact, while he was once the only player with a plus (and a high one at that) on the Sabres roster, he’s currently -3 as a Canuck. Currently, Gragnani plays somewhat of a similar role for the Canucks as he is in the line-up due to Aaron Rome’s injury.
Well, Paul Gaustad has been Paul Gaustad for the Nashville Predators. He’s still being talked about for his stick switching ability at the faceoff circle and a decent part of their trip to the playoffs this season. Though in his Paul Gaustad-like ways, he’s already missed three games due to injury. Two of which were right after the trade from the scrum he got into as a Sabre, and another after he stuck up for Pekka Rinne in the crease (don’t look so shocked!).
Goose has played in 8 games as a Predator, currently with zero goals, but four assists. He’s also managed to stay out of the penalty box except for a two minute minor. He’s had a slightly higher faceoff percentage, 56% as a Sabre, 59% as a Predator. Taking a look at overall stats, it wouldn’t be crazy to say Gaustad has been having better games in Nashville. Right now, he’s averaging half a point per game, even without a goal, while he was averaging .30 points per game in his blue and gold. Interestingly enough, he averaged more shots per game as a Sabre than as a Predator, and obviously had a better shot percentage. He’s also averaging more shifts per game right now, though at quick glance it’s less minutes overall than when he was under Lindy Ruff.
Then there were those players the Sabres got in return from Vancouver — Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer.
Vancouver fans were both shocked and saddened when Hodgson was announced as a part of the Zack Kassian trade. Despite being excited for what Kassian potentially would bring, most realized what they were losing in the skilled center who racked up 33 points in 62 games. Sabres fans, on the other hand, were ready to open Hodgson to the Queen City with open arms. A productive center? A productive center we may have drafted in Vancouver didn’t beat us to it? A productive center who played on the third line in Vancouver and still put up 33 points? Yes, we’ll take him.
Despite a slow start for Buffalo, with 10 games passing before even registering a point, Hodgson has been on fire in the past five games. In his fifteen games as a Sabre, he’s registered 7 points (3+4), all of which has come in his past five games. Overall, he’s averaging slightly less points per game as a Sabre (.47 versus .52), including a lesser save percentage. Though as expected, his shifts and time on ice has increased immensely with the Sabres considering his role went from a third line center to a top performing center, just as the Sabres needed.
Last, but certainly not least, Alexander Sulzer has been a welcome surprise for the Sabres. Sulzer has yet to play a full season for an NHL team and has spent the past two years on four different teams: Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators. The most games he’s played in one season goes back to 2010-2011 season when he played in 40 regular season games between the Predators and Panthers, when he registered a career high one goal and four assists. You’ll be happy to know he’s more than half way there right now with one goal and two assists in his Sabres jersey.
As of today, Sulzer has played the same amount of games this season as a Canuck and a Sabre, which makes it a bit easier to really compare his stats. As a Canuck – he registered one assist, was +6, had two penalty minutes, 11 shots, and took 258 shifts for a total of approximately 192 minutes. As a Sabre, he’s registered 3 points (1+2), is +3, has 6 penalty minutes, taken 14 shots, and has taken 268 shots for a total of approximately 216 minutes.
Despite watching Sulzer make a few silly mistakes, he’s definitely been a better choice in the line-up as compared to Mike Weber lately. Perhaps Weber’s play after recently being a healthy scratch will become as strong as it was through the end of last season, however I’m really liking what I’ve seen from Sulzer.
The best part of this trade however, hasn’t even been evaluated yet. There’s a first round pick lingering in the hands of Darcy Regier just waiting for the this year’s draft. It’ll be like Christmas again, WWDD – What will Darcy do?
Surely with such young players like Hodgson and Kassian being involved in this deal, it’s impossible to tell who “won” the Vancouver/Sabres trade, even though media likes to evaluate after every game it seems. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but it’s important to remember Hodgson has spent all season in the NHL, whereas this started out as Kassian’s first season in the AHL. And much to Ryan Miller’s dismay, trading Paul Gaustad hasn’t exactly hindered this team now, has it?
The great thing about these trades, at least in my opinion, is being able to watch their effect in the playoffs for their new teams. If Buffalo makes the playoffs, all traded players will (barring no injuries or healthy scratches) be competing for Lord Stanley. And in a crazy, crazy world, what if it came down to Vancouver vs. Buffalo in the end – the curse of the 1970 expansion teams, making history? Dream on, Brittany, dream on.