Comparing trades is like comparing snowflakes

Patrick Johnston
March 03 2012 01:39PM

So the next great Linden is gone. The boy named after salmon is no more. Cue the next cliche.

Comparisons get made all the time, and two have already emerged - the Cam Neely trade and the Markus Naslund trade. But is either really a good comparison?

On Friday, Jonathan Willis had a look at the Naslund trade and showed us why every trade is like a snowflake. Trying to find patterns is good, but they aren't always there. Let's take a look at another trade which some might want to compare to Zack Kassian for Cody Hodgson.

CAM NEELY AND A FIRST ROUND PICK (GLEN WESLEY) FOR BARRY PEDERSON

At the age of 21, future hall-of-famer Neely was traded from a team that had won 23 games in 85-86, to a team which won 39 games in 86-87. He went from playing 2nd and 3rd line minutes for the Canucks to mostly 1st line minutes for the Bruins. With his increased ice time, Neely took to shooting, going from 113 shots in his last season with the Canucks to 206 shots in his first with the Bruins. His shooting percentage 'sank' to just 12.4 per cent in 85-86 but rebounded to 17.5 per cent in Boston (his career mark is 18.4 per cent). Neely needed the ice time - the Canucks in the mid-80s weren't known to be the most astute organization in the world, so we shouldn't be surprised they didn't take the 'risk' on Neely.

  Age Team   GP G A Pts   +/- PIM EV PP SH GW SH SH%
1983-84 18 VAN NHL 56 16 15 31   0 57 13 3 0 1 87 18.4
1984-85 19 VAN NHL 72 21 18 39   -26 137 17 4 0 1 138 15.2
1985-86 20 VAN NHL 73 14 20 34   -30 126 8 6 0 3 113 12.4
1986-87 21 BOS NHL 75 36 36 72   23 143 29 7 0 3 206 17.5
1987-88 22 BOS NHL 69 42 27 69   30 175 31 11 0 3 207 20.3

Coming the other way was Barry Pederson, a still-young centre, just two seasons removed from putting up 116 points as a 22-year-old. However, he just would never be the same. He'd had two major shoulder surgeries in 84-85 to treat a benign tumour. In one surgery, muscle had to be removed.

  Age Team   GP G A Pts   +/- PIM EV PP SH GW SH SH%
1981-82 20 BOS NHL 80 44 48 92   27 53 27 13 4 7 197 22.3
1982-83 21 BOS NHL 77 46 61 107   38 47 30 15 1 10 212 21.7
1983-84 22 BOS NHL 80 39 77 116   27 64 26 10 3 7 236 16.5
1984-85 23 BOS NHL 22 4 8 12   -11 10 2 0 2 0 35 11.4
1985-86 24 BOS NHL 79 29 47 76   19 60 17 12 0 6 192 15.1
1986-87 25 VAN NHL 79 24 52 76   -13 50 18 6 0 3 184 13.0
1987-88 26 VAN NHL 76 19 52 71   2 92 14 4 1 1 163 11.7
1988-89 27 VAN NHL 62 15 26 41   5 22 7 7 1 0 98 15.3

Clearly this reduced him as a player. In his first full season back, he was still a point-a-game player but he now had to battle Ken Linseman for the no.1 centre spot. What's more, his shooting percentage fell from a pre-injury 16-22 per cent to 12-13 per cent. His shot total declined from 236 in 83-84 (his last season pre-surgeries) to 184 in his first season with the Canucks.

As a trade, it wasn't terrible - Pederson appeared to be a known quantity, while Neely presented risks (but loads of potential). If it had been one for one, it might have been a little more tolerable, though still pretty bad. It's giving up a quality first round pick, the fact that Pederson's production fell off a cliff and the player that Neely ultimately became that made this trade a complete disaster.

When the trade was made, the risk of giving up Neely was known. Would a trade like this happen today? It's hard to imagine it. In any case, this is not the same trade as the Hodgson for Kassian swap.

AGAIN, KASSIAN IS DIFFERENT

For a start, he's not the prospect in this trade with an auspicious injury history. He's not the offensive talent that Cody Hodgson is, we know that, but what Kassian does have are the hands that Stojanov was thought to have had. Kassian ripped up the AHL in the first half of this season. There is no reason to think his development curve will stall and that he won't be a legitimate goal scoring threat in the NHL level at some point.

Will he be a first liner? That's unclear. Will he be a 20-goal scorer? Probably; certainly there's little reason to think he won't (of course there's no clear reason to think 'yes', other than his past prowess). Most importantly: unlike Stojanov and Pederson; Kassian been healthy so far in his career, even with his moments of recklessness and poor judgment.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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