When Cody Hodgson was traded from Vancouver to Buffalo, Canucks management, media and fans had one message for the 22-year-old: Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.
The team's general manager Mike Gillis ripped the young center saying, “I spent more time on Cody's issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years.”
Hodgson was accused of faking injury and, more or less, being an over-privileged whiner. In Vancouver, they probably even blame him for those post-Cup-loss riots.
But in his time with the Sabres' organization so far, we haven't seen any of that. In fact, we've seen a motivated, talented forward who feels at home in Buffalo.
On Friday night, Hodgson gave Buffalo fans something to look forward to whenever hockey returns. He scored two goals in front of 19,070 at First Niagara Center to lead the Rochester Americans over the Lake Erie Monsters in a 4-1 win.
“It's always a rush playing here,” Hodgson said in the luxurious Sabres locker room on Friday. “We only had a few games here last year because after I got here we were on the road a lot of the time. I really enjoy playing in this building and its fans. Even my family comes too, so it's nice.”
The two goals were Hodgson's fourth and fifth of the season. In 17 games, he has 18 points – four of which have come in the Amerks' two games in downtown Buffalo.
“It pumps you up to play in front of 19,000 people,” he said. “Being back in this arena and getting familiar with the arena and the staff, it's nice. It's a feeling more than anything.”
With another strong performance in front of Buffalo fans, they are getting the feeling that Hodgson could have a major impact on the Sabres' organization whenever hockey returns.
The Amerks' forward could especially have an impact immediately on the Sabres' power play. Of his 18 points, 10 of them have come at a man advantage.
“The one thing that he does is that on the breakout the entries are much better,” head coach Ron Rolston said after Friday night's win. “He can enter the zone every time and make a play and get you set up. In the zone, he controls the puck so well on the half-wall.
“There are a lot of ingredients on the power play and Cody pulls them all together.”
Hodgson's play has been a clear difference in the emergence of defenseman T.J. Brennan in becoming one of the AHL's top scorers. Coming into Friday night's game, Brennan had scored 19 points in 14 games with Hodgson in the lineup. Without the center, he scored nine in 14 games.
“He's a difference maker for us for sure,” Rolston said. “After he came back from his injury he started a little slow but the last two games he's been outstanding.”
The 22-year-old missed 14 games with a broken hand, but since returning on Dec. 15 he's scored eight points in eight games.
There's little question that Hodgson is too good for the American Hockey League. There's also no doubt he's a much happier man with the Sabres than he was in the Canucks' organization. But there's still a ways to go before No. 19 jerseys start flooding the seats at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres say they have been impressed with his defensive game in Rochester, but skating and back-checking still remain a serious concern. After 18 games with Buffalo last year, the blog Pass It To Bulis noted that Hodgson had been on the ice for 41 percent of the Sabres' goals against and were outscored 13 to 7 when he was on the ice at even strength.
That pace can not continue or he will quickly find himself in Luke Adam territory with head coach Lindy Ruff, who demands his centers play a strong two-way game.
Watch Hodgson fail to get back on defense in this video.
Hodgson took a step toward endearing himself to Buffalo fans on Friday night with his two-goal performance. If and when the NHL season begins, they'll be expecting him to carry over his play from the AHL to The Show.
If not, we know it can get ugly here just like it did in Vancouver for Cody. Just ask Derek Roy...or Brad Boyes...or Tim Connolly...