Cody Hodgson is in an excellent mentorship program

I’ve been talking about Cody Hodgson a fair amount recently and for good reason. The rookie centre has 7 points in his last 9 games while playing limited minutes, is fifth in rookie scoring, and is on pace for 18 goals and 44 points. He’s on his way to what should be considered an incredibly successful rookie year.

As we all know, of course, controversy surrounds Hodgson at all times and the dark times have not passed. Instead of writing about how great Hodgson is, I’ve had to write about how his icetime is comparable to the rookie year’s of other Canucks’ stars (which Alain Vigneault read, apparently) and speculate on who the source of the complaints about his icetime might be.

Despite my best efforts, Tony Gallagher isn’t done talking about Hodgson’s icetime. He has now switched gears to complaining that Hodgson’s lack of icetime somehow hurts Ryan Kesler. Apparently Kesler is receiving far too much icetime, which will obviously cause his body to melt away like Major Toht once the playoffs come around. Never mind that Kesler’s playing fewer than 20 minutes a game and is currently 30th in icetime amongst forwards; his current pace is apparently going to wear him out.

Sigh.

It seems to me that “Silent G” is in the perfect situation for a rookie looking to become an NHL superstar. Unlike the four players ahead of him in the rookie scoring race, who play on teams with limited forward depth, Hodgson gets a chance to come along slowly on a top-tier team, learning under some of the best centres in the NHL.

Yes, I said some rather than two. Hodgson is in the unique position of being mentored in his position by four different centres during his rookie year, each of which epitomizes their respective roles. The rookie has long been pegged as a complete player: he has the vision and soft hands to be an excellent playmaker, the accuracy to be a sniper, the defensive awareness to be a two-way forward, and the battle level and willingness to go to the net to be a quasi-power forward.

Henrik Sedin is the best playmaker in the NHL, coming off two straight seasons of leading the league in assists and currently leading the league, and is the ideal mentor to teach Hodgson how to be a strong, quiet leader. He is the epitome of a finesse player using his vision, intelligence, and hockey sense to make his linemates better.

Ryan Kesler is a Selke-winning power forward who excels at both ends of the ice. He uses his speed and strength to transition quickly from defence to offense and is willing to sacrifice his body to get to the front of the net. He has an emotional and passionate style of leadership and a style of play that I’m sure Canucks fans would love to see rub off on Hodgson. He is the epitome of the two-way forward who also boasts a lethal wristshot, though he has struggled to use it effectively this season.

Manny Malhotra, on the other hand, has little to no interest in the offensive zone. He is the ultimate team player, recognizing that it is better for the team for him to focus on the defensive side of the puck and that sometimes the best thing for him to do is to go out, win the faceoff, clear the zone, and go back to the bench. He is the epitome of a team-first, selfless leader and he is one of the best defensive forwards in the league.

Finally, there is Maxim Lapierre, who makes up for his lack of top-end skill with pure effort. He’s also not afraid to throw the body, leading the Canucks in hits with 119, good for 8th in the league. But what Lapierre is most known for is being a pain-in-the-neck. He is the epitome of the agitator, who uses checks, chippiness, and chirping to get opponents off their game.

That’s not even mentioning what each of them do on special teams, as Henrik and Kesler are fantastic powerplay performers, while Kesler, Malhotra, and Lapierre are superb on the penalty kill. While Hodgson gets time on the second unit powerplay with the Canucks, he was a key penalty killer for the Brampton Battalion, so that is another area where he can develop at the NHL level. Kesler and Malhotra are also two of the best in the NHL when it comes to faceoffs, an element of Hodgson’s game that needs improvement.

Hodgson has something to learn from all four centres, who each play very different styles. As their protégé, he can synthesize each style into his own game to become a true all-around forward. Back in 2009, he was voted by OHL coaches as the league’s smartest player, hardest worker, best penalty killer, best on faceoffs, and second hardest shot. That sounds like a combination of Henrik, Lapierre, Kesler, and Malhotra (with a pinch of Sami Salo) to me.

With proper development and mentorship, Hodgson could become the Canucks’ version of Captain Planet, though hopefully without the green mullet.

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29 comments

  1. sarah
    January 5, 2012

    And Kevin Bieksa takes him shopping!

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    • Eric Blacha
      January 5, 2012

      Wasn’t it Manny that ended up doing the shopping? Bieksa gets the quotes, Maholtra does the work.

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      • sarah
        January 5, 2012

        Now that you mention it, I think that’s right. Still, I’ll give Juice credit because I have no problem believing that he’ll be more than willing to take it…

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  2. tom selleck's moustache
    January 5, 2012

    A green mullet would be awesome.

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  3. BeCanucks
    January 5, 2012

    I presume it’s the Sami Salo part in him that injured his back ;-)
    A good read , thank you!

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  4. Fred Hughson
    January 5, 2012

    Amen. As usual, Daniel, your analysis is spot on.

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  5. John Andress
    January 5, 2012

    Spot on. Your article mirrors my thinking exactly. Now if you could only show me how not be frustrated by the lack-wits who cannot see the trees for the forest, I might be able to read Tony Gallagher and some of my fellow commentators without despairing of the intellectual capacity of the Vancouver fan base.

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    • Zach Morris
      January 5, 2012

      Tony Gallagher is the VP of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association.
      Just throwing it out there.

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      • John Andress
        January 6, 2012

        And your point is?

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  6. Frank Nelissen
    January 5, 2012

    John, it’s really simple actually: don’t read their scribbles! Serves two purposes: you don’t get frustrated and diminishing numbers of readers might shut them up completely in the long run…

    One can be hopeful, right!?

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  7. Anonymous
    January 5, 2012

    I get chills thinking about how great Cody can be. I see a lot of similarities with Henrik in the way he plays, here’s a quote from last year:

    Henrik said: “It’s not like he’s played 82 games here. He’s been tremendous for us when he’s been up. He’s really smart on the ice. He’s not a guy who’s going to out-skate you but he’s a battler. If you can be in the right spot and on the right side of the puck, that line can do a lot of damage.”

    From what I’ve seen so far that’s his big strength, now imagine him refining his game with what he’s learned from all four centers? Incredible.

    We know Hank’s taken the initiative to reach out to CoHo like before last year’s playoffs:

    Hodgson has just eight NHL games’ experience, so Canucks captain Henrik Sedin took him aside after practice on Tuesday to give him a few words of wisdom.

    “Henrik talked to me yesterday about the intensity and the pace of things and just told me to go out and play my game,” said Hodgson. “It was really nice of him to take time and Daniel drove me home.”

    That’s great leadership and can only be helping him grow as a player and a leader. Just being around our guys must have a tremendous impact on him. We have some great examples for him to base his play on. He’s surrounded by great centers and will learn a lot from them, I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. He has everything to become a star in this league and I for one can’t wait.

    **Those quotes are from here btw: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2011/04/13/hodgson-opts-out-of-optional-skate-but-excited-for-first-nhl-playoff-game/

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  8. Jymn
    January 5, 2012

    I do think Hodgson would benefit from more ice time. It would certainly speed up his acclimation to the NHL and I believe it would help the Canucks. But I’m not going to complain too much. I believe Hodgson to be the best thing that’s happened to the Canucks in a long time. I’m glad he’s playing well and is being recognized for his talent. My eyes are fixed on him when he is on the ice. His stick is always on the ice and he moves the puck up the ice like few others. I thank Gallagher and Wagner for keeping Hodgson in the press (I’m not going to knock Gallagher although it seems the thing to do here.)

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    • lucicandchong
      January 5, 2012

      I don’t understand why Cody needs his development “sped up”.

      He’s not a make or break player on this team, this isn’t Long Island or Edmonton.

      Rather he is a unique position to learn from the best, and two centres who took the long route in their progression.

      The only benefit to speeding up his progression (if that is it all possible) is his Agent’s when his ELC expires.

      I know this is weird to say as a Canucks fan, but let’s just have trust and faith that the organization is doing the right thing.

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  9. PetriSkriko
    January 5, 2012

    Somebody pleeease send this to Tony “The Fashionista” Gallagher.

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  10. Nick
    January 5, 2012

    It seems that few people want to criticize Manny Maholtra, in part, because he is the consummate gentleman and because of his recovery from a horrific eye injury.

    But saying that he is “one of the best defensive forwards in the league” is a stretch. He has, instead, been one of the Canucks’ weakest forwards this season and, faceoff performance aside, not as effective in defensive roles like penalty killing as several other Canucks. This is by his own admission, and both Vigneault and Gillis have said as much as well.

    Manny’s a great guy and I love him for his character and leadership but, defensively, one of the best in the league? Not by a long shot.

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    • shoes
      January 5, 2012

      Nick….sorry man, you may be right about Manny this season, but you cannot take a career of achievement in one area, which was defensive centreman and throw it out because of a bad 1/2 year. He may never fully get back to the player he was, but last year, like previous years he was an awesome centre and “one of the best defensively” no doubt about it.

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    • shoes
      January 5, 2012

      Sorry Nick….you are looking at a 1/2 season assessment as compared to a career. manny may never get the top of his game back, but he WAS one of the best until that fluky puck. I think Daniel was bang on with this assessment.

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      • Nick
        January 5, 2012

        Ok shoes … I’ll bite.

        Can we assume that getting Selke Award votes is a reliable indicator being one of the best defensive players in the league?

        Using this metric, 2010 was a one-off for Manny Malholtra. His play for a partial season last year led to a 5th place finish for the Selke.

        But he received few, if any, Selke votes in other years.

        18 guys were ahead of him in 2009.

        He received no votes in 2008, while 80 others got at least a vote.

        He received no votes in 2007, while 83 others got at least a vote.

        He does NOT have an established record over the previous years of being recognized as one of the league’s best defensive forwards.

        People in Vancouver say this a lot, and the media parrots it. But it’s a myth.

        He was not even mentioned in the Selke conversation while he was a Dallas Star and only managed 84 games with them over the course of three seasons.

        He was not mentioned in the Selke conversation while he was a BlueJacket.

        And he struggled in New York just to be a full-time player.

        Manny Malholtra as the one of the leagues best defensive players is something that happened only last season.

        And now his defensive play this year has regressed to be more like it has been for the rest of his career. Not league best … not even close.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          January 5, 2012

          Here’s the key quote: “He does NOT have an established record over the previous years of being recognized as one of the league’s best defensive forwards.”

          You are correct: he has not been recognized as one of the league’s best defensive forwards. That doesn’t change the fact that he has been one of the league’s best defensive forwards.

          The Selke is poorly defined as being for the best defensive forward in the NHL, but it’s not. Instead, it always goes to a two-way forward who makes big contributions offensively as well. In addition, the Selke award is frequently given on the basis of reputation rather than actual achievement. Last season, when Kesler won the Selke, is the season when he least deserved it. But because he has the reputation as a defensive forward and had a good offensive season, he won the award. Meanwhile, Malhotra was actually doing all the heavy lifting defensively that Kesler had done in the past, enabling Kesler to have such a good offensive performance.

          So, no. I don’t consider Selke award votes to be a reliable indicator of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. It’s no coincidence that Malhotra was first noticed as a potential Selke candidate once he got to a team with more media coverage.

          It’s silly to bring up New York: he was a young player just trying to break into the league. He had previously been a good offensive player and had to make major adjustments to his game to stick in the NHL. As for Dallas, saying he only played 84 games with them over three seasons is misleading, considering he was traded to Columbus in that third season, playing 56 games with the Blue Jackets that year.

          I honestly think that Malhotra is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. He’s had a tough time this season after a delayed start to training after his eye surgeries, but his game is coming around. He’s actually starting in the defensive zone more often than he did last season, turning the fourth line into the Canucks’ checking line and allowing the team to comfortably ice three scoring lines. Malhotra’s defensive ability is essential to the Canucks’ success.

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          • Nick
            January 5, 2012

            Hope you’re right about Manny getting things turned around. He’s a good guy.

            Still, it’s fair to say that he was not a top 10 defensive player while in Columbus. There were 80+ guys who got Selke votes each season during those years, and some had VERY low point totals and not much of an offensive game. You’d think if Manny was such a stellar defender, he’d receive at least a single vote.

            The defensive side of his game didn’t really blossom until 3 seasons ago in San Jose. Hope it continues.

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            • Daniel Wagner
              January 5, 2012

              I think part of the problem was that he was playing in Columbus. No one pays attention to anybody in Columbus.

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        • shoes
          January 5, 2012

          Well, first of all it was defensive centreman not player…..and that has more to do with winning the draw than the Selke trophy. Manny doesn’t score enough to get serious Selke consideration. The blog was talking about Manny teaching Hodgson the quick draw and clear the zone….that is a specialized defensive skill that will get you no trophy ever, except hopefully a team one. Much like a good shot blocker.

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  11. Josh Peters
    January 5, 2012

    Great job Daniel! I quite enjoyed this piece. As my brother said, we are competent NHL fans partially because we read PitB (and get killed in their fantasy pool).

    But i think intelligent Vancouver fans are off-base with their criticism of Tony Gallagher – rather than bemoan his platform, we should thank the Province for it. If Tony Gallagher wasn’t one of the major media figures in town, what motivation would there have been for so many of our excellent bloggers to start writing? If the local media actually spoke with intelligence and insight, why would we, the fans, need to take a shot at writing about hockey ourselves? If we couldn’t read our paper and say “Hey, Maggie the monkey could write better tripe than that”, neither PitB, nor the KurtenBlog, nor Canucks Army, nor the many other excellent Canuck bloggers would have bothered to even try. So on behalf of intelligence and wit in the hockey media, thank you Tony. Keep it up! And I’ll just keep ignoring you and turning off the TV and radio when you show up.

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  12. Canuckles
    January 5, 2012

    Everyone take care of the environment, or Cody “captain planet” Hodgson will turn you into a f*cking tree

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  13. Dan k
    January 5, 2012

    CoHo is in a very fortunate situation. He is playing for an excellent organization with great mentors. Not too many rookies are fortunate as him.
    ム口 匚丹れ∪匚Kち ム口!!!

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  14. madwag
    January 5, 2012

    danielson

    both “spot on” and “bang on”! that must be good. what would also be good aould be quotation marks around “some” and “two” beside the picture of kesler talking to hodgson about some goalie’s equipment. cheers. by the way your brother and his wife just produced a baby boy.

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    • madwag
      January 5, 2012

      that’s “would” not “aould”.

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  15. Kevbo
    January 5, 2012

    I just wanted to say that I rarely post comments on any site; however, PITB is a great read with filled wit and common sense. Cheers.

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  16. akidd
    January 5, 2012

    sounds like cody will be summoning the powers of the four elements to become a super-being. we should get kim jong-il’s pr guys on this then…cody scores a hat-trick in each of his 9 minutes played to smash all previous records.

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