Short answer - next to nobody? But perhaps the signs were there nevertheless...
Orca's don't usually make splashes that shake an entire coastline but today, Canucks fans could feel the ground shifting beneath their feet...
Initially, when I heard that Cody Hodgson had been sent to Buffalo for Zack Kassian, I was shocked - as no doubt everyone was. Who doesn't love the way he has played for Vancouver - who didn't imagine his future as a Canuck? He was bringing that extra something. Kassian on the other hand seems like a question mark when it comes to his readiness to play a significant role at the NHL level, whereas Cody has erased any question marks this season, quite emphatically. An uneasy feeling of disbelief started to set in, tempered only by the sense that, as Brad May expressed, there must be more to it. Moments pass by, and wondering about Kassian turns to the idea that this may be ok - this might be a downgrade in terms of pure skill, but Kassian is that rare player - a skilled giant, and if he lives up to his potential, this could still be a relatively balanced deal. This is a deal Gillis made, after all, and he doesn't make moves like this on a whim. Imagine Kassian alongside Booth and Kesler, and the second line takes on a whole new beastly tone. He may not be ready for that role - he may play some useful minutes on the fourth line in the interim, or need some time in Chicago - who knows? He may just surprise us, but one thing is certain - all eyes will be on the youngster, and he may require us to remember that a little patience is a virtue.
A few minutes later, a bit more relief sets in, as the announcement that Marc-Andre Gragnani, the second piece in the deal, was disclosed. When you consider the young defenseman Gragnani, it becomes easier to let up on the fear of losing the young and much loved Hodgson. Gragnani could turn out to be the element that makes this trade a great deal for the Canucks. It might be rather inaccurate to describe Gragnani as a "depth" defenseman, a term that has initially been thrown around - a puck moving defensemen, he may be a depth guy to start with, but his potential seems far greater than that. His numbers before reaching the NHL are very impressive, his playoff performance last year certainly raises eyebrows at a point a game in 7 games as a rookie, and for what it is worth, more impressive than his offensive numbers this year is the fact that he stands out on the Sabres at a remarkable plus 10 on a team with only three plus players; the next closest skater being a plus 3. In addition, he is apparently capable of playing as a forward. How many times have the Canucks had a defenseman suffer an injury, leaving five guys to play taxing minutes? If that proves to be the case, Gragnani is an asset that is also particularly valuable as insurance against injury in the playoffs, potentiallly allowing seven defensemen to be dressed. Moving forward with young defensemen like Tanev and Gragnani, in addition to a solid core of veterans, and prospects Connauton and Sauve still developing, the blueline starts to look extremely deep for the long term.
I had wondered if it might be Kesler that may be moved to make room for Hodgson, but the fact the Canucks acquired a pair of top notch young prospects in return for Hodgson is a very favourable factor in this deal, and probably better than many of our mere fantasy scenarios. As difficult as it may have been, there is the feeling lurking that something had to be done. Cody may have felt "weird" upon hearing the news, but somehow he didn't seem as shocked as may have been expected. Given his agent's apparent knack for meddling and dramatics, it seems like there could quite possibly be more to the circumstances than meets the eye. Or was all the ice-time controversy and foreboding just an obsession of Tony Gallagher's?
The controversy around Cody Hodgson's ice-time may have hastened a move somewhat, and trading Cody's agent may have played a role in moving the young centre as well, but as balanced as the Canucks are, there also remains the fact that they were strongest at the centre position. The scoring balance Hodgson helped bring was certainly valuable, but there was also the repeated suggestion that his "handlers" were not satisfied and were not consenting to the limits of his role. If those appearances were in fact the case, Gillis has to be commended for managing to turn the trade that he did out of that situation. Regardless, I wish Cody all the best, and am glad that he will not be playing for a rival in the Western Conference. Before getting terribly disappointed, it is probably worth keeping in mind the context of Cody's success this year, surrounded by a solid, deep team - and ask Ehrhoff how easy that success is to replicate in a different context in Buffalo.
Aside from what appears to be similar outstanding talent coming back to Vancouver, I am equally excited about the fact the Canucks added a pair of young players. Kassian and Gragnani could not only play as substantial long-term role as we had envisioned Hodgson to, but balancing the club with talented young players also buys a few years of easing off the pressures of the salary cap - in the cap era, it seems vital to manage this aspect of age-balance wisely. Moving a young star like Hodgson would have hurt much more if an expensive veteran were added, making the potential upside of a deal a shorter term benefit.
This deal not only allows the Canucks to retain Kesler, but with the addition of Pahlsson, it would be hard to consider these moves as having weakened the Canucks short-term chances at a Cup as well. If anything, the Canucks have added three potential roster players adding new dimensions to the team - they have given up one key component, but at a position where the Canucks were facing a bottleneck. Instead, they acquire a true third line stifling shut-down centre, a versatile puck moving defenseman who could prove to generate scoring and help compensate for the loss of Cody's as well, and if Kassian is able to step in and contribute, they become deeper and more imposing. Canucks fans may not like these trades in the present, but there are likely a few opponents who don't and won't like them either.
Once again, Mike Gillis and his team seem to have struck a very intelligent balance - if the complications of Cody's restless agent were a factor, it is hard to argue with the results MG and his management team produced. They certainly showed a willingness to take a risk, and made a very difficult decision that may be unpopular in the short term, but if there is one thing they have earned, it is a little faith from Canucks fans. It is not hard to imagine this developing into a trade Canucks fans accept after all the premature panic and hysteria calms down - given some time to breathe and the chance to see what MG and his team see in these players, the doubt could very well return to faith. From where I sit, shocking or not, these moves look like they might just be more of what we have come to expect (or take for granted) from MG...results.