Nashville Predators Cody Hodgson: Penthouse or Outhouse?


Right off the bat I’m sorry for that “Outhouse” reference because half the teams in the league think that is what it’s like in Nashville.  If they could drive through downtown right now, it looks more like “Lego Land” with the multitude of cranes that are everywhere on construction sites. They are adding “Penthouses” at an astonishing rate.

Our question today is what kind of player Cody Hodgson will be for the Nashville Predators this year.  On the morning of Free Agent Frenzy day, I sat back and looked at what I hoped the Nashville Predators would do.  Of course, I had high hopes but wasn’t sure that they would re-sign Mike Ribeiro.  I wanted to upgrade the defense from Anton Volchenkov.  And I hoped that we would somehow take a flyer and sign Cody Hodgson.

I have to admit that I was pretty excited to hit on all three with the Ribeiro’s return and the Barret Jackman and Hodgson FA signings.  Most of the media felt that it was a “safe” signing because of the one year and only $1.05 million term of the 25 year-olds contract.

According to the Tennessean, Hodgson came to Nashville during the playoffs to visit his sister who is a student at Belmont.  They went to a game together, and he loved the atmosphere of the game against the Blackhawks.  “The excitement and passion of the fans was pretty incredible,” Hodgson said. “I thought the series could have gone either way.”

“The excitement and passion of the fans was pretty incredible.” – Cody Hodgson in the Tennessean

Little did he know at the time that Buffalo would buy out his contract, and Peter Laviolette’s up-tempo style and the play of the Predators led him to Nashville. The Predators believe that he can duplicate the type of season that Mike Ribeiro had last year after signing the same deal with the Preds. He knows that it is a new day and a new opportunity for him.

So what are we getting with the young center: He had a career-high 20 goals and 24 assists in the 2013-14 season, but just six goals and seven assists in the 2014-15 season? He admits the season was pretty much a disaster for him.

He was a Top 10 NHL draft pick and highly touted when he came into the league with Vancouver.  There he was entrenched behind the Sedin twins and turned out to be a pretty good third line center although almost everyone thought he was primed for much more.

He was traded to Buffalo in 2011-12 and in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13 he scored 34 points in 48 games.  He followed that with a 20 goal, 44 point season two years ago.  Last year he somehow found himself in Coach Ted Nolan’s doghouse, and he was switched around from line to line and center to wing.  He responded with only six goals and 13 points in 78 games. At one point, he had only one goal in a 47-game stretch and even went 17 straight games without a point.

The Good – Cody Hodgson didn’t become a bad hockey player overnight.  He had great potential and fulfilled it for a while in Buffalo.  He had good possession numbers last year on a really bad team. Most folks feel that the Sabres threw in the towel early in the season, and it affected everyone including Hodgson.

Starting as the third line center should work out well for both Hodgson and Mike Fisher and Ribeiro ahead of him.  It will take some of the pressure from them if the third line can do some scoring, and the young center doesn’t have the pressure of carrying the team from a first line slot. The Preds struggled with their depth on the third line last season.

He knows that he has to take advantage of this opportunity, and the one-year contract is a tryout to win a bigger payday next year.  Laviolette’s style of play should benefit him, and he should have a couple of hungry young wingers that can put the puck in the net. We talked about that in this article on the Preds third and fourth lines.

The Bad – One thing that I’m going to let him take a pass on is his effort.  There were questions about that last year but as we mentioned, the Sabres seemed to be in the Connor McDavid race and the entire team took the season off.  Let’s see how that works out this year.

There are two things that need to change in a hurry.  His plus-minus ratings for the past two years were minus 26 and minus 28. Part of that can be attributed once again to the Sabres team, but he has to play some defense as a third line center matched up against higher lines.  When he was at Vancouver, he had plus stats, so there is that possibility.

The other thing is his Faceoff Percentage.  He has always been around 45 or 46%.  He needs to get with Paul Gaustad, who had a 56.4% FOW% last year, the only bright spot on a team that averaged under 49%.  St. Louis and Chicago are both ranked in the Top five in the league at that stat, and if you don’t start with the puck, it’s hard to possess it. If Hodgson can get him to 50% or greater that would be huge.

Like Mike Ribeiro last year, this could be the perfect place for young Hodgson’s turn-around.  Nashville and the media, in general, aren’t near as tough on players as places like New York, Toronto and Buffalo.  He won’t have the pressure here that he did on the Sabres, especially as a third line center instead of carrying the banner of the first line.

He should fit in nicely in the Predators up-tempo style and will have a couple of talented wingers alongside him. I think he knows where he stands in the general theme of things and with the right effort has a much better path toward the Penthouse than the other way.  David Poile took a low-risk shot at Cody Hodgson and now it’s time for him to make that payoff.

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