You’d be hard-pressed to think of a more scrutinized prospect in Vancouver Canucks history than Cody Hodgson. The Canucks haven’t had the luxury of drafting any higher than Hodgson’s No. 10 overall selection in 2008 since picking the Sedin twins second and third overall in 1999.
Hodgson’s journey to the NHL has had its peaks and valleys since he was drafted. Combine that with the age of technology we live in and it’s easy to see why eager fans and media members have a thirst to examine his every move as he tries to lock down a full-time roster spot on the Canucks.
A prospect like Hodgson means a lot to the Canucks future, but after a stellar 2008-09 season in junior hockey, Hodgson suffered a huge setback due to a bulging disc in his lower back and he’s still trying to re-discover the dominant player he was just a couple of years ago.
That’s why the 21-year-old and his agent have hired a personal coach to help him battle through this adversity and take the next step in his game. It’s who that coach is that might raise some eyebrows.
It’s none other than Claude Lemieux, the most infamous agitator and cheap-shot artist in NHL history.
Of course, just because Lemieux delivered some questionable hits in his playing days doesn’t mean he’s going to turn Cody Hodgson into the same type of player. In fact, Hodgson has given Lemieux nothing but praise so far in his assessment of his new mentor. He expressed his gratitude to Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province over the weekend and talked about everything that Lemieux has helped him in doing.
“We've worked on mental preparation, footwork, shooting and places to shoot and different ways of scoring. It's been really interesting," said Hodgson.
These are all good signs for Hodgson, but it’s still a bit ironic that the future of the Vancouver Canucks has hired a legendary agitator to mentor him after the Canucks gained a reputation for being a dirty team during the Stanley Cup Finals.
You can debate whether that reputation was warranted all you want. After all, their opponents in the finals were no saints on the ice either, especially Brad Marchand.
However, Marchand was a successful pain in the rear and scored several huge goals against the Canucks. He’s also only 23 years old and just completed his first full NHL season, so perhaps Hodgson can learn something from his aggressive and sometimes nasty play.
After all, Hodgson may need to add a bit more grit to his game if he wants to stick on the Canucks roster this season. There’s little chance of him getting many minutes on the top two lines of a Stanley Cup contender with plenty of great veteran forwards on the team. Therefore, he’ll have to fit in somewhere on the third or fourth line and that usually involves crashing the net and playing with grit.
So maybe Claude Lemieux's coaching isn’t such a bad thing for a player like Cody Hodgson. After all, Lemieux is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner so he must know a thing or two about winning.
Let’s hope for Cody Hodgson’s sake, Lemieux’s winning past will rub off on him as he continues to battle his way toward a hopefully successful NHL career with the Canucks.