West Coast Bias: The trade nobody won

Zack Kassian. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian. It may go down in history as the trade that helped neither team.
Today, the two 24-year-olds are mired in awful seasons, having combined for four goals and 14 points 76 games this season. Hodgson is minus-20 in Buffalo, Kassian minus-8 in Vancouver, and each of them have fallen out of favour with their respective head coaches. Both have been healthy-scratched, the ultimate sign that a coach is at his wit’s end with a player.
“We have to find a way to get it out of him. Maybe by sitting him out and getting him angry, maybe that will work,” Sabres head coach Ted Nolan told The Buffalo News’ John Vogl. Nolan watched Hodgson in the pre-game skate in Vancouver — the organization that drafted Hodgson 10th overall in 2008 — then informed the player of the scratch in the moments between the pre-game and the anthems.
“This job, you can’t take it for granted,” Nolan said. “You just can’t assume you’re going to play. That’s with everybody, especially when you’re trying to turn around the cultural side of where we are right now in order to win.”
“I still think I can score in this league,” Hodgson told The News. “I still think I have confidence in my abilities to do what I need to do on the ice, making plays, getting shots on net, generating offense. It just comes back to the ability to do that, and I still think I have it.”
In Vancouver, Kassian has lost his job to upstart Latvian Ronalds Kenins. On Tuesday, with a big, physical Winnipeg Jets team in town, head coach Willie Desjardins chose Kenins over Kassian, and the Latvian scored in a 3-2 OT win. Kassian, who has just tow goals and six points in 26 games this season, was a healthy scratch again Thursday vs. San Jose.
“Right now, when he goes through something like this, he’s going to gain respect by shutting his mouth and working hard,” captain Henrik Sedin told the Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre. “He’s going to get a chance to come back and show that he can play. He has shown that he can play at this level, but he needs to be more consistent.”

If any other team were five points out of the playoffs with four teams to pass on Feb. 6, we’d all be writing them off. But that’s what the Los Angeles Kings are, and it seems unfathomable to say the defending Cup champs won’t even make the post-season this spring.
“We’ve got to figure this thing out in a hurry,” centre Anze Kopitar told reporters after a 4-0 loss in Washington this week. “We’ve talked enough. Now we’ve got to do it on the ice.”

Having won two Cups in the past three seasons — and gone to the Conference final in between — no team in the NHL has played more hockey in the past three seasons than L.A. Toss in Slava Voynov’s lengthy (and deserved) suspension, the decline of Mike Richards, and another veteran in Dustin Brown whose production continues to erode (on pace for 13 goals), and it’s fair to wonder if Los Angeles has the horse power to make up this deficit down the stretch.

Of their remaining 31 games, 18 are on the road. The Kings currently have the 29th-best road record in the NHL.
The last time a Cup winner missed the playoffs the following season? The Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07.
My two cents on Evander Kane: The announcement on Friday that he’s going in for season-ending shoulder surgery — after playing 20 minutes a night in his last five games — tells me the team is done with Kane for this season. They’ll take care of his shoulder and have a healthy asset to move at the June draft, where there will be 29 interested teams as opposed to the March 2 Trade Deadline, where the cap system limits the trade market.
If somehow, and we know this is a stretch, the two sides kiss and make up then he’ll be healthy and ready to go when next season starts. I will be shocked, however, if Kane is not moved at the draft. (And to the Twitter follower who suggests a Jordan Eberle trade for Kane? If Kane didn’t like Winnipeg, he won’t like Edmonton either, I’d bet.)

Regardless of his immaturity, Kane is still an extremely valuable asset. He has size, toughness, an above average shot and good speed off the wing. But of all the major professional sports, I am not sure there is one that puts team ahead of self more than hockey. Getting NHL players to talk about themselves has been my job for a long time, and many times they’ll wax eloquently about a teammate, yet clam right up when the topic shifts to their own accomplishments.
Kane is a bright young man however, and whatever behavioural issues he has can be righted. I recall a time when Chicago’s Patrick Kane was deemed to be partying too much and without a sharp enough focus in Chicago. Today, he has become a respected member of the Blackhawks core and a leading face/spokesman for the NHL. Patrick matured. So too can Evander.
Speaking of Patrick Kane, he tells this story about the resurgence of the Blackhawks in Chicago: “I remember one of the first home games, the 2007 pre-season. I wasn’t in the lineup that night, and I remember sitting in the crowd and watching the game with my family. There were only 3,000, 4,000 people there at a pre-season game. I don’t think anyone knew who I was at that time. I watched the game in the stands with my family. After the game I went down (to the dressing room) and went home.
“If you did that now you’d get mobbed by fans.”
Of the four Canadian teams in the West, obviously only the Oilers stack up as sellers at the March deadline. The Jets, Flames and Canucks all fit into that category known as “The Careful Buyer.” None are at the point where they’ll give up young prospects to win right now, but all three can spot a position (or two) on their team that needs shoring up for a playoff run.
In Edmonton, UFA defenceman Jeff Petry will be dealt. Pittsburgh is very interested, among others. Petry is the quintessential defenceman who plays above his grade on a poor team in Edmonton, but would look much better getting less minutes/responsibilities on a better D-corps.

Also up for auction will be UFA goalie Viktor Fasth, though the market for backups is never strong at the deadline. And what about Derek Roy as a depth centreman for a playoff run? Many people believed Roy was done when he arrived in Edmonton around New Year’s, but he’s got four goals and nine points in 16 games. He has made the Oilers better, there is no question about it.

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