The Canucks announced on Tuesday that Ryan Kesler underwent hip surgery and will be out 10-12 weeks, meaning that he’ll likely start the season in November. It’s interesting that they waited until August to do the surgery. Perhaps they were waiting to see if his hip would get better without surgery (as they claim) or perhaps there’s something sneakier going on. Is it possible that the Canucks purposely chose to have Ryan Kesler have surgery late in the summer, meaning that he would miss a month of the regular season while he recovers, thus saving precious cap space? Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but it’s certainly plausible. Having Sami Salo injured for more than half a season last year was of great reward to the Canucks, because they were able to save on the cap while still getting Salo back for the playoffs.
If Ryan Kesler misses one month or more of the regular season, the Canucks could save about $1 million off of their cap. But who would fill-in for Kesler during his absence?
Enter Cody Hodgson. The prized prospect of the Canucks organization will be hard pressed to make this team. He’s a natural centre and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra aren’t going anywhere. Max Lapierre is also a lock to be the fourth line centre. So where does that leave Hodgson? Sure, he could try to make the team as a winger, playing on one of the top three lines, but even that would be tough. With Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Jannik Hansen, Marco Sturm and Chris Higgins, the Canucks have all the wingers they need for their top 3 lines. And that list doesn’t include Mason Raymond, who will likely return sometime in December.
Whether or not Hodgson is ready to play on the Canucks second line is up for debate, but he might not be as far away as some think. There’s a perception that Hodgson has been a major disappointment, and that simply isn’t true. What has been disappointing is his luck with injuries. If you look at Hodgson’s stats, it reads of a remarkable junior career and one year of pro hockey. His numbers were not draw dropping in the AHL last season (30 points in 52 games), but he was leading the Moose in scoring until he suffered a broken orbital bone. He had just 2 points in 8 regular season games with the Canucks and only 1 point in 12 playoff games, but that can hardly be seen as a disappointment. With rare exception, Hodgson had no skilled players to play with, and received very little playing time on the fourth line. Clearly, his role was to play it safe and be responsible defensively (which he accomplished).
So an injury to Ryan Kesler offers the perfect chance for Cody Hodgson to get a chance to play significant and meaningful minutes with the Canucks. Barring another long term injury to Henrik Sedin or Ryan Kesler, Cody Hodgson likely won’t get another chance like this. So whether it was by design or not, Cody Hodgson: your time is NOW. This will be your best chance to become a full-time NHL player.