Hodgson's Sabres Struggles

Thomas Drance
March 14 2012 08:09AM

 

Since the Canucks granted Cody Hodgson's trade request, the talented rookie pivot has played in 8 games with the Buffalo Sabres. During that stretch Buffalo's club has been extremely successful, going on a 6-2-0 run that has them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Despite the team's success: Cody Hodgson has been struggling to produce offense, generate opportunities and drive play. In 8 games with Buffalo, Hodgson has generated only 12 shots on goal (four of them in his first game), and he's been held pointless while averaging slightly more than 15:15 of ice-time per game. To contextualize how much the rookie's ice-time has increased since he was freed from the iron tutelage of Alain Vigneault - the Canucks bench boss only doled out in excess of 15:15 minutes to Hodgson five times total, in fifty-five games in Vancouver this season.

In Buffalo's most recent game against Montreal, however, Cody Hodgson saw his ice-time plummet, as he played just a hair over eleven minutes in the team's 3-2 overtime win. I've even noticed Canucks fans on Twitter begin to get smug about Hodgson's lack of production, which, is actually totally unfair.

Cody Hodgson's lack of production in Buffalo is, like his monster January was - mostly percentage driven. Hodgson's taken twelve shots on goal in a Buffalo uniform, and is yet to find the back of the net. Meanwhile his on-ice shooting percentage is a Storm Trooper-like 4.7% (obviously, Storm Troopers rarely ever hit their targets in the Star Wars series).  Hodgson's Sabres PDO is 97.6, which, is also so low. It's so low like Han.

So if Hodgson's inability to produce points over the course of a snake-bitten eight game sample has changed your mind about the trade: give your head a shake. Hodgson's a talented offensive player, his percentages will rebound, he'll begin to produce at a solid clip again and start scoring highlight reel goals that will make you sad when you see them on Sportscentre. That is, if he stays in the Buffalo line-up.

Hodgson's offensive talents were never in doubt, but what had become apparent over the course of his Canucks tenure was that  from a possession standpoint, he's not particularly close to being a top-six forward on a contending NHL team. Even when Alain Vigneault dramatically sheltered Cody Hodgson in terms of both the competition he faced, and the situations he was deployed in - the rookie generally ended up underwater.

In Buffalo, Hodgson is playing an expanded role, facing  superior competition, and starting equally as many shifts in the defensive-zone as he's starting in the offensive-zone. As a result, Hodgson's Corsi numbers have run off a cliff, realized they were no longer on solid ground, looked at the audience, held up a sign that said "whoops," waited another beat, and then rapidly succumbed to the force of Loony Tunes gravity while leaving their eyes and limbs at camera level for a moment before those appendages too joined the host body in the plummet. 

Cody Hodgson is so far underwater in Buffalo, that he's hanging out with Ghostface and Sponge Bob in a Bentley Coupe. With Hodgson on the ice, Buffalo has controlled 38.1% of on-ice shots, and with the score tied that numbers gets even uglier (34%). That's down significantly from 48.9% of shots that the Canucks managed to control with Hodgson on the ice. Sure eight games isn't a very large sample, but I still feel confident asserting that the reason for the significant drop has very little to do with Hodgson, and much more to do with the role he's been thrust into in Buffalo.

This is what Vigneault was doing when he was closely protecting Cody Hodgson's minutes, you see. He was using the young, talented forward to beat up on the third-pairings and fourth-lines of opposing teams, something Hodgson is mostly capable of doing at the NHL level at this age and stage. Unfortunately, fourth lines and third pairings don't get many minutes; and Canucks fans, the Vancouver media and Hodgson personally, were chaffed about his limited usage. But Vigneault was absolutely right to deploy Hodgson in the deliberate fashion that he did.

If you're an NHL team looking to control possession, then Cody Hodgson is not the top-six centre for you, at least not yet.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Jay
March 14 2012, 05:43PM
Trash it!
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Good article, but remember that it is just 8 games, such a small sample size.

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