January 31 2011 10:19AM
Photo: Vancouver Sun
Let the Cody Hodgson era with the Vancouver Canucks officially begin. Early Monday morning, Cody Hodgson was recalled from the Manitoba Moose and is expected to join the team in Dallas for their game tomorrow against the Stars.
So what should *WE* expect from Hodgson?
The Vancouver Canucks announced Monday that they have recalled Cody Hodgson from their AHL affiliate in Manitoba. As the Canucks play a very quick road trip, starting in Dallas on Tuesday then in Phoenix on Wednesday before returning to Vancouver. It makes a lot of sense for the Canucks to call up Hodgson right now. The AHL is on its annual All-Star break and the Moose don't play again until Friday. While Hodgson continues to recover form injury, the Canucks can keep him motivated and active and the pro level during that time off. Also, the Canucks next couple of games are on the road, so the Canucks are shielding him for a good chunk of the hometown media and the pressure of playing on home ice, before easing him into the circus in Vancouver. With Edler hurt, joining Salo, Rome and Alberts, and Hodgson's cap hit only $850K, the Canucks can slot him into the roster without affecting their cap space, and doesn't really hurt their ability to trade for another player at the deadline.
So here are three possible scenarios for Cody Hodgson over the next few games:
1. Cody sits and observes. It's possible that the Canucks simply want to bring Hodgson into the organization to observe the regular goings-on of an NHL road trip. This is further supported by the fact that the Canucks play against the Stars to start this quick road trip. You may recall that the Canucks last played the Stars a week ago and dismantled them 7-1. During that whitewash, the play quickly became physical and deteriorated near the end of the game. the Stars have a big, bruising team. It might not be the best game for Hodgson to make his official major pro debut, given that he is still on the mend, so to speak.
2. Cody plays as 4th line center. There are a few benefits here for the Canucks. First, as 4th line center, he's not going to get huge minutes, so the Canucks can limit his ice time and ease him into pressure-filled game situations. If he game goes sideways, one way or another, and gets overly physical, the Canucks can just keep him off the ice without disrupting the lines too much. The other benefit is the more big-picture. It's no secret that the Canucks have been struggling to find a fourth line center that they feel will stick there for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. It's been a rotating set of auditions for that position all season.As the NHL nears its trade deadline, a key acquisition target for Canucks is that fourth line center. If the Canucks see something in Hodgson that fits the fourth line, if he can play some PK minutes and take (and win) key faceoffs, then the Canucks might be able to save themselves some grief of having to find an outside player to fill that fourth line center role. So consider this yet another audition for that position.
3. Cody plays 2nd line winger. Cody Hodgson is not going to be a career 4th line center. He is a very skilled player, with great vision and excellent hockey smarts. He will, at some point, be a second line player in this league. Ryan Kesler has evolved this year into a premier center in this league, earning his first all-star appearance, selected as assistance captain for both the Canucks and his all-star team, and he currently sits tied for third in league goal scoring. He has become a true leader in very short order. Now is a great time to get Hodgson on his line, under Kesler's tutelage. Besides, Kesler has played with a rotating set of struggling wingers all season, and has still been able to put up career numbers and garner league-wide attention. It couldn't be any different having Hodgson out there on his wing and offering advice and guidance both on and off the ice. And hopefully, this will motivate whichever demoted winger (Raymond? Samuelsson?) is moved off that line to make room for Hodgson. Hodgson has played wing before, so this won't be a huge shift for him. And he gets to learn from on of the best in league right now.
I think that all of these options are certainly possible and have their plusses and minuses. If I was to handicap these options in order of likeliness, I would say the most likely choice is option #2, then option #3, then option #1. It serves the Canucks the best if Hodgson can play that fourth line center role well. But it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Canucks went with either of the other two options.
Let the audition begin.