Mar 082012

The Cody Hodgson trade is still on my mind, but I still do stand by my point that I think the Canucks made a mistake to move him now. It’s believed that Hodgson and Alain Vigneault had a conversation about his ice-time following a game vs. Nashville, even though Hodgson got his usual 13 minutes that game. (Since moving to Buffalo, Hodgson has averaged around 16-17 minutes a night). That, and the Canucks’ need for wingers, are generally the narratives used for stories on the trade.

They’re not wrong, but I’m really curious as to why no one has really explored the dissonance between what we hear about Hodgson and what we see. There were tons of criticisms about Hodgson’s game – he’s slow, he’s no magician with the puck, his shot’s only decent – but almost everyone believed that this guy could play in the NHL and maybe someday wear a letter. He always said the right things and did the right things. So, I find it curious that no one has really explored why the Canucks and Hodgson couldn’t move on over a minor issue like ice-time, especially when it’s only just Hodgson’s rookie season. Steven Stamkos, after all, averaged only 15 minutes a game in his rookie season, and he’s now the league’s most dangerous goalscorer.

“Those who like him would project him as a Chris Drury-type, a solid second-liner who can play against other teams’ top line and offer clutch scoring and character…”

Those were Gare Joyce’s words in his ESPN feature on Hodgson, and that scouting report certainly was the consensus. The Canucks have always been known to go with the “safe pick” too, regardless of who was at the helm. It’s been a very hit-or-miss strategy, the worst coming from the 2000 draft when the Canucks took Nathan Smith, and the best obviously being Ryan Kesler in 2003.

But for all the comparisons to Drury, a player with immeasurable intangibles who served as captain under the league’s most demanding coach in John Tortorella, and all the talk about how much good character, leadership, and smarts Hodgson showed, his tenure in Vancouver certainly didn’t exemplify that, and that criticism extends to both parties.

Look how glowingly TSN’s Bob McKenzie speaks of Hodgson, and notice how Hodgson speaks very deliberately and carefully chooses his words, a trait that may have been picked up by watching his father Chris Hodgson, a former cabinet minister under former Ontario premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. (The audio sync is a bit off).

Now compare what you see there with what’s been said by both sides when Hodgson really hit a low point in his development with his back injury.

“I have accomplished all I can in junior. [Staying in the NHL] is the next step for me, development wise.” – Hodgson in Sporting News, September 2009.

Hodgson did end up being sent back to Brampton that year, but played only 24 games all year due to a back injury the Hodgsons believed the Canucks’ medical staff couldn’t diagnose properly.

“As far as I know, he has already had two opinions… If he wants to get a third opinion, that’s fine. I think Cody is a very young man who hasn’t had a lot of disappointments throughout his life… Cody will learn from this.”

Vigneault made those comments shortly after Hodgson had been cut following a disappointing showing at training camp. Rookies are allowed to play nine NHL games before a team has to decide if the player will stay in the NHL for the rest of the year or be returned to junior hockey, but Hodgson’s showing was so poor it didn’t even warrant one regular season game.

It’s important to note that Hodgson’s agent is no longer Don Meehan, who negotiated his rookie contract. Hodgson’s now represented by Ritch Winter, who recently found himself under a lot of scrutiny for a series of tweets that seemed to imply that the Hodgson camp had requested a trade. The article also implies that the Hodgson camp may have been looking for excuses to get out of Vancouver.

Again, I have to go back to the timing of the deal. Hockey-wise, I don’t think this trade makes sense right now. Hodgson is the superior player at the moment and the Canucks needed quality centremen. I think having Hodgson gives the Canucks a better chance at the Cup. So, it seems to me, as a fan, that Hodgson’s relationship with the Canucks had deteriorated to the point where it was beyond repair, or at least it wasn’t going to move towards a positive direction anytime soon.

Notice that Hodgson’s father is often part of the story and plays a pretty big role in Hodgson’s hockey career. It was his father, after all, who informed Brampton that Hodgson wouldn’t report to the team until Hodgson got another opinion on his back. On HNIC’s Hotstove, Elliotte Friedman said that there was a certain amount of interference thus far in Hodgson’s career, and that the “people around him” might have to just let him play.

Maybe the criticism that there’s been too much outside meddling with Hodgson’s career is warranted and true, but, well, from a fan standpoint… so much for that character everyone speaks so highly of.

  One Response to “The other Cody Hodgson narrative”

  1. […] ARMCHAIR HOCKEY: Jason Chen suggests Cody Hodgson might not be the player of high character he’s been made out to be. […]

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