Cody Hodgson's not a bust! He's a human being!
The injury to Manny Malhotra has left the Canucks' third line in a state of disarray. It's a substantial hole, and the Canucks have struggled to fill it, promoting fourth-line centers such as Maxim Lapierre and Alex Bolduc, as well as converting wingers such as Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. All of these experiments have been met with mixed success. The answer, it seems, is evasive.
Tony Gallagher believes it's in the AHL. If the need is a natural center with some offensive talent, Gallagher (and many others) want to know why the Canucks haven't called up Cody Hodgson. Here's why: another Cody Hodgson recall won't help anybody. Not the Canucks, not Hodgson.
Right now, the best thing for everyone would be to leave Cody Hodgson alone.
The player who steps in for Manny Malhotra needs to do at least some of the things Malhotra did, and Hodgson can't really do any of them. Cody and Manny are all the wrong kinds of different. Malhotra is a shutdown specialist and a faceoff guru. Whoever replaces him has to be reliable defensively, at least, and Hodgson isn't.
Hodgson's a team-worst minus-12 for the Manitoba Moose, and it's no anomaly. He was a scary deployment in the bigs. Earlier this season, Tanner Glass, who spent some time on Hodgson's wing, admitted, "Sometimes I look around, and I'm like, 'Oh boy, what is he doing?'"
If Hodgson's defensive play alarms Tanner Glass, it terrifies Alain Vigneault, especially considering Cody's probably gonna be starting without the puck. Hodgson put up a 38.1 faceoff percentage in Vancouver. Of the 12 Canuck forwards that have taken 30 or more draws this season, only Raffi Torres is worse. Manny Malhotra started in the defensive zone more often than any other player in the NHL. Utilizing Cody Hodgson similarly would be downright foolish.
It would also be detrimental to his development. What Hodgson really needs these days is some drama-free consistency. He's hockey's Mary J. Blige. Since his first training camp with the Canucks in September of 2008, he's been through some dark times.
First, there was the offseason back injury, a slipped disc and a mysterious torn muscle that baffled doctors and specialists. This injury caused Hodgson to struggle in his second Canucks training camp, eventually being returned to junior before sitting out nearly the entire season. When he finally returned, he played all of eight games before breaking a toe, then nine more before somebody noticed. During this span of games, he also managed to further aggravate a back that hadn't fully healed.
Because of all this, Hodgson got a late start in this year's training camp. After failing to make the team for the third time, he was sent to the Manitoba Moose, where he finally got himself back into game shape. There, he was finally able to put together an uninterrupted string of healthy games, and--surprise, surprise--he took over the team lead in scoring.
Then he took a high stick in the face at practice, breaking his orbital bone. He would miss six more weeks of hockey, stalling his breakout season.
Once he recovered enough from this injury to return to the lineup, albeit in full face shield, he played four games before being called up to the NHL for five. Then, he was sent back down to the Moose for six. During this time, he finally returned to full health. Then, he was called back up to the Canucks for three games. Unsurprisingly, he didn't play well enough to stick with the big club. He was returned to the Moose, and he's yet to return to his impressive level of play from earlier in the season.
If you can't recognize the consistent pattern here, it's because there isn't one, except for constant inconsistency. Each time he begins to flourish, something derails his progress, and he winds up struggling to get his bearings. This has been the story for two years. And now, we want to call Cody Hodgson up for four more NHL games, then toss him into the playoff mix--where the hockey changes yet again--in a role for which he's woefully unsuited?
Forget it. Like most young men, what he really needs in his life is a little consistency. For a while, at least, can we please leave Cody Hodgson alone?