Cody Hodgson, the game within the game, and inattention to detail

Photo by Kevin Hoffman, via US Presswire

I don't like the Vancouver Canucks, but I admire Mike Gillis. Despite running into a hot goaltender and falling in 5 games this playoff, the Canucks will still be a Western Conference powerhouse for quite some time. As a successful team architect with a sound philosophy on how to win in the post-lockout era, Gillis shot straight with the media this week on the Cody Hodgson trade. If you missed it, here are his comments regarding the pouty young man he sent packing at the trade deadline:

"I spent more time on Cody's issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years. We made a determination that he didn't want to be here, we built him into something we could move," Gillis said. "We put Cody on the ice in every offensive situation we could, I don’t think he took more than 5 or 6 defensive zone faceoffs – that was by design."

It's probably not surprising that teams, especially successful ones like the Canucks, map their players to specific roles. Some guys like Malhotra and Pahlsson start 15 feet from Luongo or Schneider, while the Sedins and apparently Hodgson, while he was with the team anyway, tend to start 15 feet from paydirt. What's surprising in this case is that the Canucks sustained a plan to shelter Hodgson, pump his stats, and ultimately parlay him into a more useful player, all while staying on pace to win the Division and ultimately their second consecutive President's Trophy. During the regular season the Canucks won the games that people paid tickets to go see, and seemingly won the game within the game by augmenting the perceived value of Hodgson and making their team better for the longer term.

This isn't going to become a coherent article, but a few random thoughts that I'd be keen to hear your feedback on:

1) What do you think the Buffalo Sabres will make of Gillis' honest admission? Do you think they paid attention to things like zonestarts, or mused about Hodgson's QualComp or RelCorsi figures before dealing away Zack Kassian?

2) How often do you think this occurs in the league? Certainly the Oilers had an opportunity to try and turn Linus Omark, a guy they clearly outed a long time ago, into a productive asset. Imagine if the Oilers had obtained Zack Kassian, instead of the 4th rounder they're likely to wind up with as compensation for Omark. It's not like it would've hurt the Oilers playoff chances to have Linus ride shotgun beside Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall for parts of this past season.

3) I almost want to applaud Mike Gillis for holding his tongue until the Canucks season was over, but then realize that was the book move in the first place. Why would Gillis go public with Hodgson's issues before dealing him, or before the season concluded? Doesn't it make you wish Tambellini had quietly kept Souray in the fold and turned him into something of value? Like, what did the Oilers net, aside from embarrassment, from making their issue with Souray public in the first place? It's not as if Big Sex couldn't find a contract or a home once Tambellini bought him out.

Neither the Hodgson for Kassian trade, nor any of the Oilers' failed moves can be described as franchise-altering. All of them are fairly modest in importance, but I tend to think that attention to detail has its merits too. What's interesting to me is that by trading Hodgson, a guy who was for a long time Vancouver's best offensive prospect, the Canucks engineered a minor re-build in the middle of a successful season on the ice. A move that will appear to pay dividends down the road.

The Oilers, on the other hand, seem undecided on their definition of re-build. One thing that is for certain is that re-build has superseded the game on the ice, and has become the prime focus of the organization - the objective of the team, despite what they serve up to the media, hasn't been to field a competitive team in present-day but to put ourselves in position to compete in the future. While their scorched earth approach can be applauded for its future potential as they collect a cluster of same-age assets, it's puzzling to me why the Oilers have failed at the game within the game to maximize the talent level of the club for that fine day in the future when the re-build in all its depravity is finally behind us.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this FanPost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the staff.

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