One month ago, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks were the talk of the NHL trade deadline, as the teams combined to make the biggest move of the day. The Sabres sent Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani packing, in exchange for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer.
I think the exchange also included the Canucks trading Buffalo ten Wayne Gretzky mint condition rookie cards for a Mike Wilson 8×10 photo in return. Maybe Darcy Regier can call Mike Gillis this summer and propose a Derek Roy-for-Ryan Kesler deal.
Check your sweaters gentlemen, because so far, someone got fleeced.
In his 14 games with the Canucks since the trade, Zack Kassian has a measley 2 points, with both points coming in his game against the Sabres. For comparison, career journeyman role-player Samuel Pahlsson has more points (5) in the same number of games for Vancouver. Andrew Ebbett, playing for his 5th team in 5 seasons, also has more points (5) in the same number of games. Even Byron Bitz, similarly sized to Kassian, managed to have more production in less time, with 4 points in 8 games. Undrafted minor-leaguer Mike Duco matched Kassian’s 2 points in only 6 games. Most amusing of all, is that goaltender Corey Schneider has as many points as Kassian.
Marc-Andre Gragnani has fared even worse since the trade. Gragnani has ZERO points in 10 games, to go along with a plus/minus of -3.
Meanwhile, Cody Hodgson has been heating up for the Sabres. Hodgson struggled initially during his adjustment period with Buffalo, going pointless in his first 10 games. Since then, Hodgson now has 7 points in his last 5 games after being paired mostly with Thomas Vanek. This pairing has helped Buffalo with finally rolling their lines, as Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have fared well together, and the line of Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford-Marcus Foligno is the hottest in the NHL, combining for 36 points in their last 8 games. It took Hodgson 15 games to get 7 points with Buffalo; it took Kassian 27.
Alexander Sulzer has been a revelation as well. Sulzer has 3 points in 12 games and a plus/minus of +3, but his contributions are beyond stat lines. Sulzer has been calm, dependable, and poised with the puck (unlike Gragnani) while making good decisions (also unlike Gragnani). His pairing with Christian Ehrhoff has also boosted the play of Ehrhoff, and the tandem has played excellently during the great run the Sabres have been on.
The silver lining of the trade? Moving out Kassian has made room for Marcus Foligno. His hard work and energy has sparked the team, and helped create a better attitude on the bench and in the locker room. It also paid off for Foligno, as he became only the 6th active player to score 6 goals in his first 9 NHL games– the others being Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Devin Setoguchi, Evgeni Malkin, and Teemu Selanne.
All of the changes have led to the Sabres being the best team in the league over the past 10 games, at 7-1-2. Picking up 16 of the last possible 20 points has propelled Buffalo into sole possession of the 8th and final playoff spot, and put them in control of their playoff destiny.
So, thank you Mike Gillis. Let me know if you need a frame for that Mike Wilson photo.