Buffalo - December 2, 2014 - The Sabres are exceeding expectations these days, riding high as one of the hottest teams in the league. They’ve won five of their last six and all seems well in Western New York.
Well, almost all is well.
Cody Hodgson no doubt shares the exuberance and enthusiasm his team has right now as they’re finally collecting a few wins for their efforts, but he’s not playing the role he probably felt he would be. He was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks for bruising winger Zack Kassian with a lot of fanfare from the Sabres’ faithful. He was as offensively creative a player as the Sabres had in quite a while, despite supposed issues with his strength and skating. This was going to be the place he’d finally get his opportunity and he’d shine.
Unfortunately, that never really came to be. It’s not that he hasn’t shown promise or that he’s some over-the-hill veteran wondering “what if?” He’s still just 24-years-old. He had a solid, lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign with 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games. He notched his first 20 goal season last year (with 44 points) in 82 games. It’s not like he’s riding buses in the AHL.
Still, the potential for what he could have/should have been looms large. He’s been off to a horrid start this year with just one goal, one assist in 24 games. The Sabres have largely been a joke offensively this year, so that might not be a surprise to many, but to be 17th in scoring on his own team is a stunner to many.
He continues to struggle with consistency, being somewhat of a defensive liability and a bit of a turnover machine. He still gets pushed off the puck with alarming frequency. Most importantly, Hodgson has seemingly gotten himself into head coach Ted Nolan’s doghouse. Nolan has openly talked about him being a bad defender. The advanced stats don’t really help his case, either.
His ice time has fluctuated over the last month. One night he played 14:49, the next he played 8:46. A few more games of less than 11 minutes sprinkled in, it was a far cry from the 18 minutes-plus he was getting in mid-October.
More importantly, Hodgson looks out of sorts. He doesn’t seem to have that confidence with the puck that he once had. He’s barely doing anything with the puck when he has it, seemingly losing it more than anything else. He’s spent time on the bottom lines with grinders like Torrey Mitchell and Nicolas Deslauriers, players who don’t normally line up next to someone with the skill Hodgson has.
The road ahead is still a long one; Hodgson has the skills to turn things around and perhaps the team’s momentum could give him a little push to get things back on track. If he can’t, Hodgson could find himself on the outside looking in when the youth movement takes full effect in Buffalo.
From potential first-line center to playing with the plugs, the road back to potential stardom just got a bit longer for young Hodgson. Whether he can maneuver that road in Buffalo or not remains to be seen.
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