Remember Cody Hodgson? The Vancouver Canucks first pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Hodgson made nice progress last season with the Brampton Battalion and was projected by many as not only a member of the Canucks this season but also a strong candidate for this year’s Calder Trophy.
That of course was before a disappointing training camp that ended with the star prospect being reassigned to the OHL, a move that split fans, many of whom felt that Hodgson had nothing left to learn in junior. Clouding the issue was a back injury that Hodgson repeatedly claimed was keeping him from playing at 100%. Canucks management felt he was tossing out excuses, and didn’t balk at making that crystal clear to the media:
G.M. Mike Gillis, September 25:
“He hasn’t shown enough in this camp to prove that he’s ready to play at this level. I don’t think that’s criticism. I think it’s an assessment of fact… He’s been cleared to play for 10 days and we’re in a time frame now where things need to get better. He needs to show that he is ready and capable of participating at this level on a good team. We’ll see how it goes.”
Head Coach Alain Vigneault, October 3:
“As far as I know, he has already had two opinions [on his back]: he had an opinion back home [in Toronto] from a specialist, who gave the exact same report that our back specialist gave him. 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. He’s probably having a tough time, personally, dealing with this one and trying to find a reason why it happened. We’ve all had times where we’ve encountered disappointment and tried to roll the [blame] in a different direction. We’ve all been through those things. Cody will learn from this.”
Meanwhile, Hodgson decided to seek that third opinion. What’s happened since has been interesting. After playing his final preseason game with the Canucks, Hodgson was confined to off-ice rehabilitation until the start of November. On November 2, Hodgson resumed light skating. More than a week later, on November 11, Hodgson finally started participating in practices with his Brampton teammates. Two weeks later, he has yet to participate in a game and has sometime in early December targeted as a return date – meaning he’ll hit the ice just before Canada’s World Junior selection camp.
All of this is a strong indicator that Hodgson wasn’t exaggerating the effects of his injury (the rather unlikely – and unpleasant – alternative being that he’s been loafing around for some other reason). The consequences of this injury on Hodgson’s play remain to be seen, but it seems likely that it won’t have a lasting impact. Where it may have a lasting impact is on Hodgson’s relationship with the Canucks. At this point I’m speculating, but it’s hard to imagine that his ties to the team haven’t been at least strained by their public and cavalier dismissal of his complaints.