Don’t Doubt The G-Man.

To his credit Tony Gallagher, pictured right, was months ahead of the Hodgson trade story.

I haven’t written about it at length like some of my Smylosphere colleagues have, but I’ll admit it: I thought the Tony Gallagher led fan-base obsession with Cody Hodgson’s ice-time this season was silly. Hodgson’s deployment made sense to me for hockey reasons, so I didn’t believe his limited ice-time was some sordid indicator of Alain Vigneault’s dislike for his star rookie. I’d have liked to have seen Hodgson play more with the first power-play unit, but otherwise, the way Hodgson was sheltered and used this season seemed deliberate, and I figured he was being groomed for the long-term. Yep, I was way off the mark.

Read on past the jump.

Obviously I’m a blogger and I don’t have access, but I do my best to provide thoughtful, accurate Canucks content using statistics, observation and the information that’s publicly available. Clearly Hodgson’s lack of ice-time was a meaningful indicator that hinted at yesterday’s ultimate outcome and I completely whiffed on those tea-leaves. My faulty assumptions on this one led directly to the biggest analytical misfire of my blogging career. In contrast, and to his credit, Tony Gallagher was months ahead of not just the blogosphere but his mainstream colleagues as well on this story.

I’ve always been a fan of Gallagher’s writing and radio appearances, despite some of his sillier claims (like when he suggested that cell-phones may be partly responsible for the rash of NHL concussions). One thing I never doubted, however, was that Gallagher is the most plugged in hockey media guy in the Vancouver market.

Despite that knowledge, Gallagher’s preoccupation with Hodgson’s ice-time – that even Hodgson’s colourful agent Rich Winter gently mocked on his blog – struck me as totally unconvincing. If I’m being totally honest, on some level, I suspected that the veteran beat writer was stoking the flames of fan-base resentment towards the Canucks head coach in order to drive discussion (and thus pageviews and newspaper sales). Lesson learned I suppose – don’t doubt Tony.

Tony’s newest outlandish suggestion can be found in his take on the team’s deadline activity yesterday. While he doesn’t explicitly state it, the subtext of that article is that Vigneault is out as the Canucks head-coach if he doesn’t hoist the cup this season. It’s another line of reasoning that seems dubious to me – why would Mike Gillis facilitate the trade of a supremely talented young player, for a return with a long-term pay-off horizon, based largely on his head-coaches structural preferences: if he didn’t have complete faith in that head-coach? That logic is both self-defeating and implausible and yet it gives me pause. As a guy doing my best to cover the team without direct access: doubting Tony-G’s scoops is a fools errand.

  • I think you’re beating yourself up a little too much about your “analytical misfire” yesterday.

    For the most part, the idea that Hodgson was being intentionally sheltered seems bang-on to me, thus his lack of ice time behind an Art Ross winner and a Selke winner was entirely understandable. And when you add Malhotra to the equation – a player considered by many media to be an elite defensive performer last season – CoHo was really not going to get a larger share because he just didn’t fit seamlessly into Vancouver’s plan.

    However, I am more inclined to believe that Gallagher is correct by mere happenstance, as it doesn’t make sense that Cody or his camp would force a trade this season. Sure, the request from Hodgson or his agent would have come eventually, however it makes far more sense to make this demand AFTER a long Stanley Cup run in which Hodgson could be viewed as a valued contributor. A potential Cup championship carries far more cache when negotiating a contract with another organization, being better for both Cody and his agent contract wise. Demanding a trade right now rather than in the summer makes very little business sense. Hence, Tony’s claim that “Cody doesn’t like AV and wants out,” while it may be true, does not seem to come into play here.

    It’s worth noting that the Canucks team that journeyed all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals was more or less a 3 line team that did not feature any significant contribution from Hodgson. The 4th line was little more than a dog’s breakfast featuring superstars like Tanner Glass, Victor Oreskovich and a out-of-shape and one-eyed Manny Malhotra. That team seemed to do just fine without a scoring 3rd line centreman, and there is no reason why this year’s incarnation can’t do the same. In fact, chances are that Cody’s deployment would have become even more sheltered in the playoffs, as it did last year with his 4th line performance. With management learning the lesson against Boston that you need to have 4 full lines, you simply can’t afford to shelter players. The addition of Pahlsson alone may not have driven Hodgson from his place in the roster (I thought the analysis you did yesterday made a lot of sense), but it definitely allowed them to shop for the big-bodied nasty winger that fans have been clamoring for. Kassian in a 4th line role is a massive upgrade on what they had last year since his defensive deficiencies should be masked a little by playing the wing rather than at centre, and he really has a ton of upside and talent that Glass and Oreskovich just did not have.

    Overall, Tony Gallagher probably was not “months ahead” of this story. I don’t think that Hodgson or his agent asked out at this point since it doesn’t make sense for either of them. This was a “hockey deal” that gave Vancouver the same balance they had last season, as well as a 4th line (Lapierre-Malhotra-Kassian) with much more upside. It probably makes the team more playoff ready right now, even without Cody Hodgson’s offensive contributions.

  • Mantastic

    i don’t know how adding Kassian to the line up makes you better right now. he has extremely little NHL experience, and playing tough minutes isn’t going to help either.

  • Mantastic

    I have long doubted Gallagher’s objectivity in observing the activity of the Vancouver Canucks. His hocky acumen and connectedness with the poweres that be in the hockey world are unquestioned and beyond reproach but his Achilles Heel is his insistence on beating square pegs into round holes despite evidence that it just won’t happen. The latest of these tilts at windmills that Gallagher has taken is his insistence that Coach Vee was anti Cody Hodgson and that Cody wanted out of the organization. There is no evidence that this is the case and, in fact, multiple parties to the situation have actively disclaimed it, including Cody himself and Rich Winter his agent. Gilles and Vigneault made a very plausible case for the limiting of Hodgson’s ice time and Cam Charron and other advanced metrics qizards have shown us that the advanced numbers indicate that Vigneault’s distrust of Hodgson’s defensive game are entirely justified. What I saw and heard was an organization managing a very talented young player in a supportive and positive way as he developed his game. Then, in this morning’s Province, Gallagher says “That glee Hodgson was expressing after the trade…” I have listened to and watched every interview that Hodgson has given to the local media and I’ll be damned if I can find anything in any of Hodgson’s remarks or his demeanour that even remotely borders on glee. I see a young man who was shocked by the change of direction his life has just taken and coming around to putting a positive spin on it. But “glee”? Tony Gallagher is once again rearranging reality to make it fit with what he wants the reality to be. It happens too often with Tony. He has absolutely zero credibility left with me. I am sure that he doesn’t mind that one bit but I would be surprised if I was the only one who regards Gallagher’s work this way and, in the long run, that could be a problem for him.