When Tim Connolly left the Buffalo Sabres there were few people sad to see him go; He joined the Sabres in 2001, playing 8 seasons managing only 464 games with the blue and gold and only participating in 1 full season. His time in Buffalo was defined by injuries, if the guy sneezed he would throw his back out, he was almost snake bitten with injuries. Although talented and capable of providing a leadership role, fans were most concerned about him being "injury prone" and were willing to drive him out of town on his crutches. Finally fans got their wish when Connolly decided to leave Buffalo and sign with their divisional rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. But have the Sabres stumbled upon another injury riddled possible superstar?
If you've followed me on twitter or have been reading my articles for awhile, you know I am a huge Cody Hodgson fan and have been following him ever since his Junior days. When Darcy Regier pulled the trigger and managed to steal him away from the Vancouver Canucks during the Trade Deadline I was ecstatic, but there was still a lingering question; Why would the Canucks be willing to let their "blue chip" prospect go so easily? At first I ignored the question and was thrilled at the fact the Sabres acquired a possible first line centre and future superstar, but after his latest injury I'm starting to wonder if the Canucks were on too something...
Hodgson's rough patch with the Canucks organization is well documented; He hurt his back training with their training coaches and then their medical team misdiagnosed the injury which in turn forced him to miss more time on the recovery. Things went south, Hodgson had a tough time battling back from injury and the he began to blame the team for his misfortune, the Canucks were then accused of attempting to "barry" the young star in the minors because he was "too much trouble". Sure he was talented but he carried a lot of baggage.
Taking a further look into Hodgson's injured past; He was originally diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back, it was later revealed that it was just a muscle strain and his rehabilitation for his back only made the muscle strain worse. It was then revealed that the doctors had missed severe nerve damage in his leg which was preventing him from showing his full speed and potential to the Canucks scouts. Once his back issues cleared up and he rejoined the OHL he suffered a broken toe, just 8 days after returning from his back injury forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. He then admitted publicly that he was not healthy very often during the 2009-2010 season and was looking to put his injuries behind him. Before jumping to the AHL for the 2010-2011 season, it was found his toe had not fully healed and was not cleared for assignment by the Canucks, in addition to his toe not healing there was speculation he had re-aggravated his back. Late in 2010 he suffered a broken orbital bone after a high stick while at practice in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose. He was finally able to crack the Canucks roster in 2011 and remarkable remained healthy the entire season, despite being traded to the Sabres. It was speculated that Hodgson was unhappy with his ice time and complained to Canucks managed, which lighted the final spark in his fire with the Canucks.
Due to the NHL lockout, Hodgson was assigned to the Sabres affiliate the Rochester Americans and to say his numbers haven't been overly impressive would be an understatement. In 9 games he has just 1 goal but has managed to rack up 9 assists, still not the kind of numbers expect from a number one centre. In case you missed the news, he is back on the injury list with a broken bone in his hand after being slashed in a game on October 27th. Hodgson is on the shelve
for the next 2-3 weeks depending on the severity of the injury.
Ponder this; If the NHL ended it's current lockout disputes and training camp opened next week, would Hodgson be ready to go for the Sabres?
While Hodgson has all the skill to be a top play making centre and help become one of the building blocks of the future for the Sabres, the question becomes can he stay healthy and keep out of trouble? Based on his injury riddled past it's going to be difficult to keep the potential star on the ice and playing in games. Back injuries are complicated injuries, once the back has been damaged, it is more susceptible to damage in the future. What if someone leans on him awkwardly or he gets crunched into the boards, can and will his back hold up?
Only time will tell if the young prospect can stay healthy, if he can the Sabres have got themselves a future star, if he can't the Sabres will need to move on and quickly.