Growing Pains: The Aftermath of Cody Hodgson

 

Character.

It was supposed to be the centerpiece of Mike Gillis’ tenure in Vancouver. It’s what deterred Gillis from selecting the talented, but unpredictable, Kyle Beach with the 10th pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. It’s what led him to an 18-year-old playmaker named Cody Hodgson. If Gillis intended to build an organization around character, the draft was his first opportunity to lay the foundation. Hodgson was a fitting first step.

Cody Hodgson

What Hodgson lacked in speed and power, he made up for in vision and intelligence. In 2004, he captained the Toronto Jr. Canadiens to an Ontario provincial championship.  In 2008, he captained Canada to a gold medal at the U18 World Championships. Later that year, he was awarded the captaincy of the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. In 2009, he was the alternate captain on Canada’s gold medal winning World Junior squad. Hodgson exuded leadership, accountability and character. In short, he symbolized the new direction of the Canucks organization.

But somehow, everything changed.

On April 24, Mike Gillis told Vancouver media that over the past three seasons, he’d spent more time dealing with Hodgson than every other Canuck combined. A general manger who preaches patience and logic had finally decided that Hodgson was more trouble than he was worth.

And maybe Gillis had a point.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis (CalvinChanPhoto/Flickr)

It’s been suggested that Hodgson’s father is overly involved in his son’s career. It’s also been reported that Ritch Winter (Hodgson’s agent) became a nuisance with his repeated demands for increased ice-time. It’s even been rumoured that Hodgson, at least once, actually asked management for a trade. If these reports are true, the Canucks’ frustrations were not unreasonable. In fact, they may have been justified.

But that’s only part of the story.

In their dealings with Hodgson, the Canucks were certainly not blameless. And in that sense, the dissatisfaction and distrust amidst Hodgson’s camp may not have been unwarranted.

In the summer of 2009, Hodgson suffered a significant back injury while “twisting” under the instruction of Dave Gagner (the Canucks’ director of player development). The injury would force Hodgson to miss two months of invaluable off-season training.

More importantly, the Canucks’ medical staff would incorrectly diagnose the injury as a bulging disc in Hodgson’s lower-back. The misdiagnosis would lead to an incorrectly prescribed treatment which would ultimately aggravate the injury. As a result, Hodgson was plagued by back pain throughout the 2009 pre-season. After his demotion to Brampton, the ailing Hodgson expressed a desire to obtain an additional medical opinion.

(Icon SMI)

For some reason, Hodgson’s actions struck a nerve with Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. In October 2009, Vigneault publicly suggested that Hodgson’s desire for further examination was an attempt to shift the blame after a poor pre-season. In other words, Hodgson was refusing to accept responsibility for his play.

A year later, an MRI would finally reveal the source of Hodgson’s discomfort. The Canucks’ prior diagnosis and treatment of a bulging disc had been incorrect. Hodgson was actually suffering from a muscle strain in his lower-back.

Maybe he wasn’t trying to shift the blame, after all.

But Hodgson never called out Vigneault or the Canucks’ organization. Instead, true to his character, he persevered. With the help of Gary Roberts’ training program, Hodgson cracked the team’s lineup for good in 2011. On February 2, 2012, he was named NHL rookie-of-the-month. After years of adversity, struggle and determination, things were finally clicking for the Canucks’ blue-chipper.

Less than a month later, Gillis’ character draft pick was gone. On February 27th, Hodgson was sent to Buffalo for gritty forward Zack Kassian. Ironically, earlier that day, Hodgson’s teammates had playfully taped a “C” onto his practice sweater.

So what kind of character were the Canucks getting in return?

In December 2009, during his only notable captaincy, Kassian was suspended by the Peterborough Petes for breaking curfew. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to the Windsor Spitfires. In January 2010, Kassian was suspended 20 games by the OHL after a targeted headshot to Barrie forward Matt Kennedy. Four months later, Kassian was arrested and charged with assault after a bar fight in Windsor. Though the charges were eventually dropped (in exchange for community service, a donation to charity and compensation to the victim), the related issues with US customs threatened to derail Kassian’s budding career.

Not exactly the poster-boy for a team building around character.

And that brings us back to Gillis. Immediately after the trade, the Canucks’ GM declared that issues related to Hodgson would remain internal. When media reports surfaced that Hodgson was unhappy and wanted out, Gillis refused to comment. It was classy. It showed character.

But when the two-time Presidents’ Trophy winners were bounced from the post-season after five games, Gillis found himself on the hot seat. And, for some reason, he decided the trade was no longer an internal matter. Rather than accept criticism for a possible misevaluation (and a player that ended the post-season as a healthy scratch), Gillis publicly buried Hodgson.  He painted the 22-year-old as an unhappy, ungrateful diva. In terms of Gillis’ character, it spoke volumes.

Ultimately, the one voice missing from this debate is that of Hodgson. In the aftermath of the deal, the Sabres forward has had countless opportunities to address or clarify the rumors. Instead, he’s eaten the criticism and quietly taken the high road.

The same cannot be said for Mike Gillis, Ritch Winter or Gary Roberts. In fact, by addressing the issue, all three have damaged their public image in some way. In that sense, they could probably all learn something from Hodgson.

Maybe the kid’s character did come as advertised, after all.

jay@cavemag.com  

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16 Comments

  1. No im not, why are you suggesting I am? They missed it the 1st time so did Hockey Canada’s doctors & so did doctors that hodgson hired himself. Eventually the Canucks doctors found out the real problem…. so its not like the Canucks’ doctors were the only one that missed it.

  2. I’m a Hodgson fan however I was not impressed with his dealing with the situation. Cody clearly had asked for a trade prior to the season which was confirmed by his personal coach Claude  Lemieux.  Prior to the season Lemieux stated that he convinced Hodgson that the Canucks are a first class organization and that he would could later regret asking for a trade if it was to an inferior team. 
    After the trade Cody decided to protect his public image by acting like he has completely shocked and never asked for a trade. Gillis took the high road initially by making no comment on the situation but with Cody essentially throwing Gillis under the bus he was left with no option but to clarify the situation or it would have dogged him for for the duration of his time with the canucks. 
    In hindsight I think that with Cody’s training from his dad in how to deal with the media we may have misjudged his true maturity.  I have no doubt Hodgson will be a good player over time and could potentially be a great player however it doesn’t change the fact he will need to take ownership of his actions and those around him that he has chosen to speak on his behalf. 

  3. Don’t mind him. Wetcoaster will defend the canucks to the death and play pretend lawyer too. Canucks can do no wrong according to him.

    • You could not be more wrong about Wet. He has his facts straight & has been right about Hodgson, G man…etc the entire time. If there is someone who knows about Hodgson & the situation its him!

    •  Wetcoaster is legit bro.
      He actually knows what he is talking about.

  4. Dan_Rogers_needs_a_new_job says:

     “Ironically, earlier that day, Hodgson’s teammates had playfully taped a “C” onto his practice sweater.”

    Whoa, that says allot, and the writer thinks its a good thing? Even worse, did Hodgson think that was a good think? Whoa, that opens my eyes.

  5. WetCoaster says:

    Perhaps like the author of this article you have a reading comprehension problem?

  6. WetCoaster says:

     A lot of factual misinformation. 

    We do not know exactly when or how the back injury occurred as Hod(g)son has several different versions. 

    There were TWO summit meetings to discuss role and ice time for a rookie who had yet to establish himself as an NHL player (unheard of in my experience). And there were two trade demands as reported by Ed Willes. 

    As far as the injury it was diagnosed as a bulging disc by the WJC Team Canada doctors and the Canucks doctors who concurred and noted there had been nerve damage. Subsequently Hod(g)son went to his own specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Miniaci who also diagnosed the injury as a bulging disc with nerve involevment. He put Hod(g)son on a treatment regime for a bulging disc and it was only after that treatment when symptoms did not resolve that it was discovered that the bulging disc had been masking a second injury – a torn muscle. 

    Contrary to what this blogger is trying to claim Hod(g)son has not taken the high road – in fact he was pretty clear what he thought of the Canucks when interviewed in a teleconference presser covered by the Province’s Jim Jamieson. It was at that point that I noted there was a significant rift between Hod(g)son and the Canucks – which led to a lot of abuse from fans of The Golden Child. I also pointed out that when there was supposedly a resolution of this rift later that I would not be surprised if it was simply papered over and that Hod(g)son might well be on his way out if there were any more stresses – again much abuse from those disagreeing.

    Hod(g)son has avoided answering questions from the media because the first question would be “Did you request a trade.” Remember the dodging when Scott Oake tried to pin him down on HNIC?

    Hod(g)son demanded a trade and Gillis accomodated… just not on the preferred timetable of The Golden Child as he thought he would polish up his resume with a play-off appearance and then be on his way. Gillis crossed him up. Be careful what you ask for Cody…

    Mike Gillis has nothing to learn from Cody Hod(g)son, Gary Roberts or Ritch Winter.

  7. First off I love how they leave out the MRI that discovered the ultimate issue was done by the Canucks doctors & that Hodgson & his camp had looked for help on their own & that help came up with nothing… As far as “thing clicking” you mean AV giving him every offensive zone chance he could? His O Zone start times were in the 70% range, not a surprise he was putting up points with that kind of advantage. ” eaten the criticism and quietly taken the high road”? LOL more like lightly step around Scott Oake’s questions refusing to answer them like a politician (hmm daddy’s influence?) & had Gary Roberts do his dirty work. Not surprised this article is so 1 sided, I wonder how much editing power Chris Hodgson had in it?

  8. I’m hoping Gragnani turns out to be the gem of the trade because Kassian isn’t looking like it was worth it so far. Here’s hoping.

    I was actually hoping for a trade with the Islanders since Cody and Tavares seemed to have great chemistry at the WJ’s. Nino Neidereiter would have looked good in a Canucks uni. Sigh.

  9. You are a very well informed person Daniel, maybe you can support your declaration. Facts my boy, facts! Are you basing your assirtion on media speculation or do you have first hand knowledge?? Please share… :)

  10. Maybe some of you should read more into the situation.

    Hodgson complained about his ice-time on no less than 3 occassions either directly or through his agent. This while playing behind Henrik Sedin and Kesler. He also asked for more playing time the next year, right after being trounced in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Final.

    Yeah, sounds chalk-ful of goodness.

    • thanks for your whinning as usual Nuck fans, enjoy the President Trophy, Gillis and AV are as advertised!   Captain of  Canadian junior gold medal teams are given to certain players. Finally healthy he starts to shine, but doesn’t get the ice time he deserves! Can’t have it both ways AV, publically critcize his desire about his PRE-season when he’s actually injured and not reward him the ice time when he wins rookie of the month and has the support of the locker room. Damn right he was the missed in the playoffs. But so were the Sed brothers, all world talent deserving of their awards great to watch during the regular season but when you truly have to Compete for every inch of the ice and puck in the playoffs, they unfortunatly fall way short.  Good on the kid for keeping quit and not being pathetic like AV and Gilis. As a coach I always want a player who wants to be on the ice when it matters and then proves this desire when on the ice.  Nothing but a bright future for him and the Sabres ahead.

      • He never captained the WJC Canadian team, thats telling me already how LITTLE you know.  He doesn’t deserve ice time he has to EARN it like the Centers in front of him! You know the Selke winner & the Hart/Art Ross winner? Like I said he had 70% of his starts in the offensive zone when he won rookie of the month… shouldn’t be too hard to produce with a starting chance like that! An the funny thing is the majority of the time his shifts ended in the defensive zone.  Hodgson wouldn’t have helped us in the post season. hahaha! Imagine him trying to play defense against Kopitar or Richards, he would have been eaten alive. Also you couldn’t be more wrong seeing as 1 Sedin was gone until game 4. As a coach do you like players who consistently whine about ice time? ESPECIALLY when they haven’t earned it!?!?! He might have a bright future with the Sabres but if that Markham Arean gets built & they get an NHL team he WILL bolt there to play closer to his dad.

  11. Caitlin Campbell says:

    Fantastic article!

    I’m hoping Hodgson will be able to break out of his shell and shine here in Buffalo!

  12. Glad to have him in Buffalo and can’t wait to see how he does after another off-season with Gary Roberts and get the opportunity to play a full season as a top 6 forward.

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