By the end of last season’s brush with the Stanley Cup, both Keith Ballard and Cody Hodgson were so poorly thought of by those filling out the roster card that despite a sudden rash of injuries, neither were deemed worthy of even drawing into the line-up.
But if you take seriously what some of the most esteemed hockey writers in town have to say, then all is now suddenly good with these two once forgotten men. Never mind about Canucks’ fans being finicky and panicky, it’s really the media in this town who will find a story even when there isn’t one.
According to Iain MacIntyre (easily the best of the local writers in our estimation), or perhaps simply his editor, Ballard has gone from “bleak to peak performer”. We will admit that Ballard has looked uncharacteristically comfortable after two games. And has a highlight reel goal to match - though most credit is due to Henrik Sedin (only the game’s best playmaker) on that one. But is anyone really prepared to pass judgement yet?
And the oft maligned Cody Hodgson is the focus of the headline story in today’s Vancouver Province. With Jason Botchford (as a subtle aside - has anyone checked out his morning spot on the Team 1040 - knowledgeable and witty, but perhaps a voice made for writing?) singing the praises of young Cody, who also has one nifty goal to his credit after two games. And again, Hodgson does look “sharp” thus far, but as Botchford will likely admit this may have more to do with the relative poor play of his lead footed wingers, who would make the average duffers hockey player look fleet afoot right now.
For the record, if it wasn’t already clear, we’ve been big backers of feeding Hodgson as much quality ice as he can handle. We just don’t know why it’s taken so long. That’s really the bigger story. What with last year’s Stanley Cup champs getting strong performances from the likes of youngsters Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, while the Canucks were too afraid to ice Hodgson over the likes of Swiss League pro Jeff Tambellini.
In the end, after two games, Ballard is playing comfortably on the third pairing (having played significantly less minutes than everyone but Chris Tanev), which is only noteworthy in contrast to his $4 million plus salary. When the inevitable injuries come and Ballard must play top line minutes, we shall see if he is really “peaking”.
And, of course, the real story as it relates to Hodgson will unfold only when Ryan Kesler returns to the line-up. Based on his very limited play thus far, he’s earned a spot to continue playing, but that will be at the expense of his aforementioned veteran linemates (Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson). No matter how he performs in the limited sample size until Kesler’s return, the Canucks owe it to themselves to continue to give their prized prospect every chance to succeed.