Cody Hodgson’s goal on Saturday night was only his fourth point in 29 games this season, putting the $4.25 million man on pace for six points over the full campaign. Once thought to be one of the brightest young prospects in Buffalo, Hodgson’s struggles should worry the Sabres.
There may be no one player who has struggled through the Buffalo Sabres season more than Cody Hodgson.
When Hodgson scored on Saturday night, it was only his second tally of the season and fourth point of what has been a horrid campaign for the young center. It’s been so bad that the 2008 1st round pick, selected 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, has found himself relegated to third and fourth line minutes.
While it may be sad to say, it’s possible that it’s time for yet another change of scenery for the 24-year-old.
It’s evident that part of what has mired Hodgson is a lack of ice time. Over the past four seasons in Buffalo, the first of which was a 20 game stint in 2011-12 after a trade sent him to the Sabres from the Canucks, Hodgson has seen his ice time steadily decline.
In 2012-13, Hodgson averaged 22.5 shifts and 18:23 of ice time, second behind only Steve Ott. The following season, he found himself behind Ott and Tyler Ennis, and lost nearly half a minute of ice time per night. This season, with Ott now in St. Louis, Hodgson is slotted not only behind Ennis, but also back of Zemgus Girgensons, Torrey Mitchell, and Brian Flynn when it comes to average ice time.
It’s not for lack of trying on the part of coach Ted Nolan, either. Though a cursory look at Hodgson’s zone starts – he’s started 35.6 percent of 5-on-5 shifts in the defensive zone – would suggest he’s getting tough minutes. But on a Buffalo team that has been offensively stunted, Hodgson’s 28.5 percent 5-on-5 offensive zone starts are the highest of all centers on the Sabres.
Nolan’s intent to shelter Hodgson from the defensive zone as best he can is a big reason for the drop in ice time and shifts per game, but it hasn’t been working. Even with the fifth best Corsi For percentage relative to his teammates, Hodgson is having the worst season of his career, on pace for only six points. That’s two fewer than he scored in eight games at last season’s World Championship.
The simple answer may be that Hodgson, who has four seasons left after this one on a six-year, $25.5 million contract, simply may need some players around who him who can help him score. Playing alongside Patrick Kaleta and Chris Stewart, who himself is having a down year offensively, Hodgson hasn’t found the touch that made him a 20-goal scorer last season.
After this season, Hodgson will have four years remaining on a six-year, $25.5 million deal he signed back in 2013-14. The problem with his contract is it’ll be difficult to find a suitor for Hodgson, especially if his production remains stunted. The other route for the Sabres, the one they’re more likely to take, is to hold on to Hodgson and hope his production levels out.
Sadly, though, his numbers don’t suggest he’s all that far off what he did last season. His on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 is has only dipped roughly half a percent, but he’s taking fewer shots than he has at any point in his four full seasons. His shooting percentage, at all strengths, is a modest 5.1 percent, and projects to leave him far off the 20-goal scorer he can surely be.
There’s no telling what could happen if the Sabres drop to the bottom of the standings and land a phenom by the name of McDavid or Eichel, but for now it appears the player who was once arguably their brightest young star may fail to meet expectations.