If it makes you feel any better, Cody Hodgson is still bad at defence

With the exception of the Vancouver PD, who will be saving several million dollars on beefed-up police presence thanks to the Canucks’ early playoff exit, most of Vancouver is pretty sour on the hockey team since their sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. But if you need some cheering up, here’s a little tidbit about former Canuck Cody Hodgson that should make you feel a little better about that trade.

Hodgson finished the year with 15 goals and 34 points, second on the Sabres to Thomas Vanek in both categories. THAT’S NOT THE PART THAT’S SUPPOSED TO CHEER YOU UP. Offensively, he was very, very effective. His 2.91 goals per 60 minutes put him ahead of guys like Claude Giroux, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brad Richards.

But the Canucks’ concerns regarding Hodgson were always on the defensive end, and there, according to John Vogl, Hodgson still had a lot of work to do. The guy’s about as one-way as downtown Cordova Street. From the Buffalo News:

The focus for Hodgson will be defense. The 23-year-old saw goal lights flashing at both ends of the rink all season. His advance stats feature offensive promise and defensive nightmares.

[...] While his offense was stellar, the other side of Hodgson’s game was a mess. Opponents averaged 3.64 goals against him per 60 minutes while skating five-on-five. Of the 689 skaters who appeared in at least 10 games, Hodgson ranked 665th.

In other words, only 24 players in the league were easier to score against.

In other other words, don’t be so sour on this trade. Hodgson put up a lot of points, but even with his stellar numbers, he was outproduced by the opposition when he was on the ice. Since the purpose of hockey isn’t just to score, but to outscore your opponents, this is problematic.

Alain Vigneault got a lot of flak for the way he treated Cody Hodgson, but it’s worth noting that Hodgson’s “treatment” didn’t really improve in Buffalo. Despite being, effectively, the Sabres’ only skilled centre, Hodgson spent time on the fourth line under Ron Rolston, who found himself equally frustrated by the centre’s problems on the backcheck.

Now, I’m not saying the Canucks have won this trade or anything like that. It’s still far too early to say that, since both Hodgson and Kassian remain young prospects with a lot of time left to put it all together. This was Hodgson’s first full season as a top-line centre. He could still develop this part of his game, especially since it’s a lot easier to learn defensive skill than offensive skill, and there’s no doubting he’s a smart guy.

But I am saying that the early returns on the Canucks’ evaluations are vindicating them somewhat.

When the Canucks moved Hodgson, they had two motivations in mind: first, he was annoying. Second, and more importantly, they had come to believe that, even in spite of his offensive potential, his defence would disallow him from being a top-line centre on an elite hockey team. So, as Mike Gillis admitted, they jacked up his deployment to cover the issues and inflate his value — which you can do when he’s behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler — and then they moved him for a breed of prospect that was a little harder to come by.

Zack Kassian may not work out either, but a season later, Hodgson has yet to make them rethink their reasoning for letting him go.

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20 comments

  1. James W.
    May 13, 2013

    Looking back at the move (again), I think it’s a win-win for both teams. We all know the reasons why Hodgson was shuffled out of town, and Kassian was a type of player we hadn’t seen Todd Bertuzzi – a skilled winger with size. We still probably have to wait 2-3 years to really see how the trade panned out, but I’d say both Hodgson and Kassian have slightly more promise in their roles than before.

    Next season will be interesting… maybe Kassian sees more time with the Sedins? Not surprisingly, he looked most dangerous with them, but they also turned Anson Carter into a 30 goal scorer.

    Regardless, we wouldn’t have been able to keep Hodgson once his entry level deal was done, so it’s good we got rid of him when we still had leverage. Let’s just hope Kassian continues developing.

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    • Aaron
      May 13, 2013

      Well I can only see benefits if Kasian develops and plays with the twins. He should to be able to create open ice and if the twins get that thier production should get better too. He can keep other players from getting to rough with that line, and the ability you see flashes of could make him dangerous on his own. I see lots of possablity in Kassian.

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  2. Jarek
    May 13, 2013

    So what you’re saying is that Hodgson is fine as long as he stays west of Richards?

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    • Harrison Mooney
      May 13, 2013

      Yes.

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  3. kenahora
    May 13, 2013

    I have had the good fortune of meeting both Cody and Cory at a Canucks game.There were signed yet not on the active roster. Each was congenial and engaging in a quiet way.
    I watched Cody as a season ticket holder.I bring both a radio head-set and a pair of binoculars to each game. Watching all the faceoffs I marvelled at the development of Cody.

    It was a work in progress. Loved his tenacious will to battle.

    I am disappointed the way things worked out….limited time on the ice…etc. it would have been great to hold on to him. Management recognized his skill- set.

    Whatever happened must have been …the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Whether it was disruptive and counter productive and an unacceptable relationship….player vs ownership…the rest is history. I also watched Cody and the Sabres…
    I like what I see.

    I HOPE IT ALL WORKS OUT…for everyone.

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  4. steveB
    May 13, 2013

    I’m feeling lousy, those grapes are sour.
    Wait a minute, they’re not grapes at all, they are crab apples!
    Now I feel better.

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  5. akidd
    May 13, 2013

    well good thing that coho sucks. cause that makes me feel a whole lot better about this past season. on the topic of something that is actually relevant to the canuck’s future is it the next coach going to be lindy ruff? who is the ruff guy? what about him got him appointed a sabre coach for life(almost?) what’s his coaching style/philosophy? what kind of system does he prefer? is he the right fit for the canucks?

    or, with the wings, hawks and sharks all making the second round what does that say about the skill game that mggm says is disappearing? i like gillis but if i were his boss and i had to listen to the endless stream of excuses from his year-end presser some doubt would definitely creep in.

    or, for a fun distractor (that isn’t so much in the ‘told ya so’ vein,) how about those bruins? why couldn’t the canucks have played those same bruins in ’11? did the same guys the leafs paid to monkey with the bruin plane also monkey with the bruin drinks?

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  6. Amor de Cosmos
    May 13, 2013

    So Hodgson had a great offensive season, but a poor defensive one. While Kassian was mediocre offensively and worse than that behind his blueline. I understand that both players are all about potential, but you can’t really claim that — right now — they’re at a similar point on their trajectory can you?

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    • Matt
      May 13, 2013

      I don’t know where you’re getting the “Kassian was worse than that behind his blueline” thing – Kassian had pretty respectable possession numbers and was reasonably sound defensively. He made the occasional mistake – he’s still a young player – but he’s not a liability overall in that regard. Probably a case of just remembering the occasional mistake because it stands out.

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      • Amor de Cosmos
        May 14, 2013

        He didn’t backcheck well at all, too often he was looking around, apparently wondering where he should be. It was this, rather than actual gaffs, that lead to my comment.

        Doesn’t mean he can’t, and probably will, improve, and I understand why Gillis traded for him. It was by no means the worst deal on his watch, and I think head-to-head comparisons with Hodgson are somewhat unfair on everyone involved.

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  7. Chris the Curmudgeon
    May 13, 2013

    Hodgson is traded from Vancouver to one of the best coaches in our time, and thrives in the system. Said coach takes the fall for managerial shortcomings, newbie hack is installed, and Cody is relegated to the 4th line. And now we’re getting on Cody for not getting off the 4th line?

    I couldn’t find where the data came from, but I was curious as to how Buffalo players finished in general in goals against. Their defence was particularly porous this year, for example Buffalo gave up more shots on goal than any other team in the league. So while obviously he isn’t a defensive stalwart, I think GA/60 minutes is still partly a team statistic making him look worse than he really is. And, like you said, defence is teachable to a receptive learner.

    The main issue I had (and still do) with the trade is that it represented dealing from our position of greatest weakness, ie: skilled forwards, which happens to also be one of the most difficult commodities to find in draft or trade. Ultimately the inability to generate offence in the playoffs last year and since has completely trumped any benefits of additional toughness the team has received from Kassian or any other source. Or, put another way, the things I was complaining about then are only now being widely acknowledged as being serious shortcomings of this team, except I’m not the GM. A generally defensively sound team can cover for the odd defensively challenged player much better than an offensively challenged team can collectively make up for that deficiency.

    A pretty clever quote that I heard somewhere (was it here?) that I think was by Pavel Datsyuk: “so many piano movers, but so few who can actually play the instrument”.

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    • Matt
      May 13, 2013

      Hodgson was awful defensively under Ruff – it didn’t magically change when Ruff was fired, and he spent most of his time under both coaches on the first line skating with Thomas Vanek – don’t forget that when looking at Cody’s gaudy offensive numbers.

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  8. Zach Morris
    May 13, 2013

    Is Hodgson’s “easy to score on”-ness tied to Buffalo’s general sucking?
    Do Vanek and (insert right wing here) also really suck at defence based on the stats you used?

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    • Harrison Mooney
      May 13, 2013

      Hodgson moved around the Sabres quite a bit and his defensive shortcomings were a constant. Obviously there are other factors, but it’s his issue far more than Vanek’s or Pominville’s or whoever he was playing with. Plus, as the centre, A greater defensive responsibility on a line falls to him.

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  9. Alfonso
    May 13, 2013

    Not buyin your argument here, Harrison

    We’ve had a hell of time generating offense the past two seasons. And as you stated, we gave away a center who had some pretty eye-opening offensive numbers.

    Yeah, Cody’s defensive game needed work. But you can teach a player to play defense.

    You can’t teach scoring talent.

    I think we gave up on Cody way too soon, and as he matures into a more rounded player, Canuck fans will lament giving up on him.

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  10. Brent
    May 14, 2013

    Somewhat off topic, but I wonder if Gillis spilling the beans on how he profiled Cody to get him traded has resulted in some of the difficulty in moving Luongo? It was, I think, a bit of vanity combined with trying to shut up some vocal media that he came out with his expose about Cody’s problems and how they moved him. Would that not have made other GM’s extra sensitive about making a deal, wondering if they were getting what they expected by the numbers?

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    • Harrison Mooney
      May 14, 2013

      I’ve heard this theory, but this is Roberto Luongo we’re talking about. He’s been in the league a long time and he’s done what he does for years. Tough to claim those stats are inflated by deployment. Plus he’s a goalie.

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      • James W.
        May 14, 2013

        Not to mention that if a GM in this league doesn’t know how good Roberto Luongo is, then they either don’t deserve to be a GM or are Mike Milbury. Or both.

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  11. mb13
    May 14, 2013

    You can’t teach offensive talent.

    Or would you guys rather have David Booth? I’m sure his advanced statistics are fantastic – it netted him a grand total of 1 empty net goal during the season. LOL

    Who cares about Cody’s defensive liabilities – he can score. Sometimes, you just need a guy that can put the biscuit in the basket.

    And those that use the excuse that Cody played with Vanek – It’s not like Vanek is a superstar folks. He’s done a point a game 1 time in his career before playing with Hodgson.

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  12. rsen9
    May 15, 2013

    Are centermen really adamant about playing center in the NHL?

    Personally I would think to keep Hodgson and place him as a winger on the top two lines and exploit his ability to score and to start him primarily in the offensive zone. Eventually the Sedins are going to leave one day and Cody could move in to take that position and hopefully by then his defensive game may have improved.

    As for Kassian, I can see the Canucks need for a big, gritty player who models his style of player after Bertuzzi. We technically have guys that SHOULD have be able to score consistently so I think acquiring Kassian to cause problems in front of the net, create space, take abuse, and puck handle like a champ was a good deal.

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