A lot of people are speculating on whether Cody Hodgson will make the lineup this year. Now I’ve been pretty stubborn on how I see Cody and what I think of him, but I want to tackle a different angle. Since being drafted, he’s been hailed as the next Trevor Linden. I think it’s no surprise that the Canucks want to mould him into that leader, and one day, he may well be the next iconic player in this franchise. The fans want him to be that player, the media hail him to be the next coming, and management drafted him in large part because of his leadership qualities. It’s precisely because of all this that Cody Hodgson shouldn’t be in the lineup this year.
Given the Canucks’ current roster and contracts, it’s hard to see where Cody fits. If he is to make the team this year, he has to beat Manny Malhotra and his $2.5 million salary for the third line center spot or adapt to playing the wing. If he stays at center, he’s only effectively taking Ryan Johnson’s former fourth line center spot. (Trust me, there’s no way the Canucks are paying Malhotra $2.5 million a year to play on the fourth line.) And if Hodgson gets only a fourth line role, then he’s going to get the same kind of time Hordichuk got, which in many cases is less than 4 minutes a game. The PK already has Malhotra and Ryan Kesler, and even if Hodgson were to play the wing, Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond, Raffi Torres and maybe even Jannik Hansen are ahead of him on the PK depth chart. The bottom line is that giving Hodgson minimal minutes a night would be another hit to his development.
Cody has been a leader at every level of the game he’s played. If Canucks fans truly want to see him develop as the player – and leader – he can be, the best thing for him is to play in the AHL for the entire season. In order for him to be effective at the NHL level – to be able to handle the pressures of the big leagues and not have it affect his performance – he needs to learn the pro game first and perhaps playing in the AHL is the best option for him at this point of his career. Instead of sitting on the bench for most of the night on most nights he’ll have playing time and time to grow in the AHL. And when he finally does break into the NHL, he’ll be in a better position to make an impact.
Hodgson – and Schroeder for that matter – are counted on to be large parts of the Canucks future. They will hopefully be a dynamic duo for years to come. In my mind it makes sense to foster that at the AHL level. With the Manitoba Moose, Hodgson will have a chance to lead a young Moose team and he’ll have another former no. 10 overall draft pick, former Team Canada Junior captain and (should be) Moose captain, Nolan Baumgartner, to mentor him. He’ll get loads of ice-time and the opportunity to play in all game situations, and he’ll do so with far less pressure and scrutiny in Winnipeg. At least more so than if he were to do it on the Stanley Cup-contending Canucks in a media-crazy city like Vancouver. As far as Hodgson’s development goes, the Moose is an enticing place.
Thanks to the their depth this season, the Canucks will actually have the luxury of not having to rush the kids into the lineup. While they may be lacking a definite fourth line center, they have a plethora of players who could effectively fill that role and other roles in the bottom-six. Unless they can give Hodgson regular ice-time, I don’t think there’s enough of a reason to warrant rushing Hodgson into the league and wasting his time. (And unless the Canucks have long-term plans to make him a winger, it’s silly to play him there just for the sake of getting him ice-time.) This approach has worked for Detroit and New Jersey for years – and we all know how good their reputations are when it comes to developing their players – so why can’t it work for the Canucks?
I want Cody Hodgson to be the next big Canucks player. I want him to be the next legend that the city falls in love with, but his time isn’t now. His time will come.