The Shea Weber Test

Thomas Drance
February 06 2012 11:15AM

Tomorrow the Canucks will face-off against the Predators, but today they'll take the day-off in Music City, Tennessee. With the trade deadline exactly three weeks away, there is no more desirable target for Canucks fans than Olympic Gold Medalist, Norris frontrunner and B.C. native Shea Weber - who currently dominates from the back-end for Hockey's version of the The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The probability of the Canucks ever acquiring Shea Weber is remote, but while it's within the realm of loose-feasibility over the next year and a half, there's absolutely zero chance of it happening this month.  

Of course, the fact that Shea Weber definitely won't be a Canuck this season, will do nothing to stop folks who covers the team from writing about that possibility over the next forty-eight hours. If you like closing your eyes and fantasizing about the Sedins cycling to set up Weber point-blasts, the next two days are custom made for you! But I'm not interested in discussing Shea Weber's imminent arrival in Vancouver as a realistic, or even far-fetched possibility; I'm interested in discussing it in the abstract. More after the jump.

In the abstract, Shea Weber represents the answer to Canucks fan's prayers. The urgency of the fan-base's preoccupation with the Predators captain is derived from several sources. First of all, he's really good at hockey and is inarguably a top-5 NHL defenseman. The fan-base has long been obsessed with the fact that, in Canucks franchise history, there's never been a real blue-chip defenseman to wear Canucks colours. No Canuck has ever won a Norris Trophy, or even come close. Also, Shea Weber is born in-Province (like a disproportionate number of excellent Canadian defenseman), so he fills a jingoistic "home-town" quotient that only adds to his overall attractiveness.

In short, there is no active hockey player who fans of the team would rather see don a Canucks sweater than Shea Weber, and that probably includes the majority of players currently on the team. 

Which brings us to "The Shea Weber Test", an exercise to determine the level of "attachment" Canucks fans have for particular roster players and prospects. It's basically a simple litmus test. Here's how it works: you mention the name of a Canucks skater, and think to yourself: "would a reasonable person balk at including that player in a hypothetical trade package that would net the team Shea Weber". If the answer is yes (i.e the player "fails" 'The Shea Weber Test'): it doesn't tell us much, because there shouldn't be a long list of players who you wouldn't trade for Shea Weber. It's the negative answer that is more revealing, because if you're unwilling to trade x roster player/prospect for Weber - then that player is clearly a big deal.

Again, we're not talking about actually trading for Shea Weber, he's just the vessel in which Canucks fans have decided to place their wildest hopes, fantasies and dreams. Anyway, let's put several Canucks skaters through "the Shea Weber Test," and see how they fare.

Easily Passing 'The Shea Weber Test':

This is a short, obvious list of Canucks skaters who no one wants to see moved, even if they're moved as part of a package for Shea Weber: Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin.

Obviously Failing 'The Shea Weber Test':

Here's a longer list of players who no one would hesitate to include in a package for Shea Weber: Keith Ballard, Alexander Sulzer, Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond (duh). Also included on this list: every prospect or fringe NHLer in the organization excluding Chris Tanev and Cody Hodgson, as well as any draft pick for the next 3 seasons.

Narrowly Failing 'The Shea Weber Test':

It would take a 'Shea Weber' type return before the Canucks even considered moving any of these guys: Alex Burrows, David Booth, Alexander Edler, Chris Tanev.

Narrowly Passing 'The Shea Weber Test':

Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa. This might be controversial, but I don't think you break up your bread and butter tough minutes pairing, even if the return is Shea Weber. 

Passing 'The Shea Weber Test' thanks to overall emotional attachment:

Sami Salo, Manny Malhotra. Both of these guys should end their careers with the organization.

Goaltenders...

Let's call this "the Zach Parise test" since Nashville has absolutely zero need for goaltending. Because the Canucks have two legitimate, number one goaltenders, I'd say they both fail the test. Trading from a position of strength to acquire a blue-chip player is common practice, and I have to think that the Canucks would move either goaltender if the right offer came along.

So, does Cody Hodgson pass the Shea Weber test?

Yes. I think he's reached the point where he does. As I wrote on Friday, Hodgson had a somewhat lucky month, and his output was boosted by a correlation of factors including situational deployment, puck-luck and increased ice-time. Put another way, while it's impressive that Hodgson is capable of leading the team in scoring, the team isn't at its best when he's doing so.

Still, I have to think that Hodgson has shown enough over the course of his rookie season that, even if the return were Shea Weber, the Canucks would have to hang up that phone.

As Jason Botchford wrote today(*):

It wasn't science. It wasn't meant to have meaning.

It was just a group of friends, who are Canucks fans, chattering away a Saturday night. Things, as they always seem to these days when it comes to the NHL, turned to the trade deadline.

An informal poll was taken. Who is Vancouver's most untouchable player? The player who got the most votes may not be surprising, but it is revealing. It was Cody Hodgson.

(*)Also, in that take on Cody Hodgson's untouchability, Botch refers to the Canucks rookie as "Cody Franchise," which is the nickname we here at Canucks Army have been pushing for a few weeks, and desperately hope catches on. Another nickname we hopes catches on: Jason Bawseford.

All luck aside, Cody Hodgson has the look of a franchise corner-stone. Considering his raw tools, his two-way effectiveness against soft competition, and his production (he's especially efficient on the power-play), Hodgson has provided superior value for his 1.66 million dollar cap-hit.

He has one more season remaining on his entry level deal after this one, so he'll be 23 when his current deal expires. After that he'll still have four more seasons before he'll become eligible for unrestricted free-agency. This means the Canucks have five more seasons after this one, in which they'll be able to sign Hodgson below market-value.

You just don't trade a piece like that for a guy who is only eighteen months away from becoming an unrestricted free-agent. As good as Shea Weber is, this is a test that Cody Hodgson passes.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Patrick Johnston
February 06 2012, 06:33PM
Trash it!
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trashes
+1
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props

Botch made a really sharp point the other day about Hodgson: he's one of two players under 25 on the current roster. He's the future. Period.

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