Drama seems to follow Cody Hodgson around, from his star-crossed days with the Vancouver Canucks to the Buffalo Sabres.
Fortunately for Hodgson, most of the drama with his new team has nothing to do with him. Getting the slick centre in a trade on Feb. 27, 2012 with the Canucks for Zack Kassian, whose transition from a junior hockey force to NHL power forward is painfully slow, was one of the few moves that worked out in recent years for Sabres general manager Darcy Regier, who is under fire again thanks to his team’s 1-6-1 start.
But there was a touch of it earlier this week when Hodgson spoke to The Vancouver Province about his stormy tenure with the Canucks. The relationship between the Toronto native and the team was touchy almost from the moment the Canucks picked him 10th overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
Hodgson, 23, injured his back in an off-ice training session in the summer of 2009, which delayed the start of his NHL career. The relationship with the Canucks was not helped when the nature of his injury was misdiagnosed. Then Hodgson and now former Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault never hit it off, which played a role in his trade to Buffalo.
So, when Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher came calling earlier this week ahead of Hodgson’s second game against his former team, Thursday at the First Niagara Center, he unburdened himself on a few issues. One of them was Hodgson’s belief there was talk that his father was regularly meddling on his behalf with Canucks management.
“This isn’t Pee-Wee hockey where the dad can call up the coach and interfere with what’s going on,” Hodgson told The Province. “This is professional hockey and that sort of thing doesn’t happen. He never called the team. You just can’t do that. That’s been bothering me for a long time and I want to clear that up. I’m not sure where all of that got started, but my agent [Ritch Winter] handled the stuff with the team.”
And there was the matter of playing time: “I never once asked for more ice time when I was in Vancouver, even though the media asked me every day if I thought I should be playing more. I was just happy to be playing in the NHL when I was there at that stage of my career. When you guys in the media would ask me, I told them then that I hadn’t asked for more ice time. There’s no way I was saying one thing to them and then going in behind closed doors and doing something else. I wouldn’t ever do that. That just isn’t me. Some day I’ll talk about my time in Vancouver, but not right now.”
At Thursday’s game-day skate, Hodgson did not want to elaborate on his Vancouver days, saying only he was not bitter. Now that he is the Sabres’ No. 1 centre with a new six-year contract worth $4.25-million per year, Hodgson is a happy man.
“I don’t really want to get into it,” he said of his remarks about the Canucks. “It was really just a media request [for an interview] one day. I answered the call. I really don’t want to get into it now.
“I feel awesome [the Sabres] have a ton of faith in me. I’ll be here for the next six years at least. They believe in me and it’s nice to have that support.”
Well, so far that support has not translated to on-ice support. The main reason the Sabres are 1-6-1 is that they are weak down the middle, with not much behind Hodgson at centre. Only the heroics of goaltender Ryan Miller, who is in the middle of heated trade speculation along with winger Thomas Vanek, have kept the scores close for the Sabres and their popgun offence.
Hodgson may be showing signs of wear from his nearly 21 minutes of ice time in each game, as he is dealing with a nagging injury. He would not say what the injury is, only that he can play with it, and he still leads the Sabres in points with six in eight games heading into the encounter with the Canucks.