Last week, I made the case for Thomas Vanek being named the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres. Granted, I relied on emotion rather than logic when I made my decision, and was accused (politely, I must say) of not taking the ‘C’ as seriously as I should. Mainly, readers shied away from endorsing Vanek as the team captain due to the fact that there is a very good chance that he will not be around when the Sabres begin their 2014-2015 season, and readers want the Sabres to select a player who will lead the Sabres well into the future.
Well, if that’s the case, then the Buffalo Sabres might want to sit down and take a long, hard look at whether Cody Hodgson should be the next player to wear the ‘C’ on his sweater.
I’ll be the first person to say that I am not in love with the youth movement that is sweeping the ranks of captains in the NHL. One reader told me that he didn’t feel that the responsibility should be a lifetime achievement award, but I disagree (to a certain extent). Players who spend years doing their damnedest to elevate their teams should naturally be considered for the position of captain over younger players who have not invested as much time and hard work, provided the veteran players have also represented the franchise well through their on- and off- ice behavior. You can disagree all you want, but not much you can say is going to change my opinion on that.
However, not every situation is the same, and sometimes, unique situations call for unique approaches. The Buffalo Sabres are a young team with a handful of veterans, a few of who are not expected to be wearing blue and gold for more than one final season, so I’d say the team finds itself in a fairly unique position. Handing the ‘C’ to a veteran like Vanek or Ehrhoff might be great for the short-term, but may only result in the team being captain-less once again this time next year. Solution? Enter Cody Hodgson, the Sabres’ captain of the future.
Over the summer, I openly wondered whether Hodgson was going to drag out contract negotiations and further his reputation for being a headache for both his teammates and upper management, as he was labeled during his stint in Vancouver. Hodgson did not, as these contract negotiations featured no drama and ended with Hodgson surprising me by settling for a deal that keeps him Buffalo for six years at the price of a second- or third-line center, instead of the first-line bucks he might have been able to secure had he signed a two-year extension and then tested the waters of free agency. It would appear that Hodgson was more interested in seeing the club make a long-term investment in him than he was in trying to drive his value up, and as a fan, I must say that is the type of commitment I wish more players would make to their clubs.
Think about the message that CoHo’s contract sends to the young players in the Sabres’ system: money isn’t everything. Don’t go crazy – Hodgson is still wealthy, in a way that you and I may never experience. Still, there is little doubt that accepting a bridge contract now would have resulted in a larger payday two years down the road. Signing his new contract shows his teammates that this team is the team he wants to be on, even though it is entering a period of great uncertainty. Leaving money on the table to dedicate himself to a team that is in full-blown rebuilding mode? If that isn’t leadership material, then I have no idea what is.
If Hodgson is as committed to improving the weaknesses in his game as he is to remaining in Buffalo, then I would have no problem with Ron Rolston having the ‘C’ sewn onto his sweater. He has handled his successes and slumps as a member of the Buffalo Sabres equally well, and has just taken a significant leap of faith along with the Sabres’ front office. With a team as young as we have right now in the 716, Cody Hodgson may be just the man to lead them forward into the playoffs, and beyond.