Retired NHL veteran Gary Roberts has come to the defence of his student, Buffalo Sabres centre Cody Hodgson, after the 22-year-old rookie was criticized by Mike Gillis during the Vancouver Canucks general manager’s end-of-season press conference last week.
While explaining the Deadline Day trade that sent Hodgson to the Sabres in February, Gillis essentially showed no regret for moving the talented forward.
“I spent more time on Cody’s issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years,” Gillis said.
According to a BuffaloNews.com report, Roberts, who has witnessed Hodgson try to train through a debilitating injury and whose four-year-old son admires Hodgson, was stunned by Gillis’s comments.
“I listened to Mike Gillis the other day,” Roberts told the site on the weekend, “and my impression was, ‘Are you kidding me?’
“If anybody knew this kid, this young man, to know what he went through mentally and physically for two summers trying to find out what the heck was wrong with him — of course they dealt with his issues more than anybody else in the organization because he was injured and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.
“It almost was like they thought he didn’t want to work. Well, I can tell you that this kid out of all the kids that I train, he’s up there in the [Steven] Stamkos group as far as commitment and determination. What I tell him, he does, so I know he’s coachable and I love working with him.”
Hodgson scored 33 points in his 63 games with the Canucks this season. Since being traded to Buffalo, along with defenceman Alex Sulzer, for forward Zack Kassian and defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani, Hodgson rounded out the final 20 games of the year with eight points for his new team.
“I talked to Cody after this came out with Gillis,” Roberts told BuffaloNews.com. “I know he’s on vacation, and I said, ‘Hey, I know you went through a lot of stress. How are you feeling about some of those comments?’ He said, ‘Gary, I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff there in the last three years, and I’m just going to take the high road.’
“For me, I’d like to be the guy that looks at Mike Gillis and says, ‘You’re a moron.’ “
The 45-year-old Roberts, a Cup winner and three-time all-star, has been training junior and NHL players from his home in Uxbridge, Ont., since his retirement. Among Roberts’ successful offensive pupils are Tampa Bay’s Hart Trophy nominee Stamkos, Pittsburgh’s James Neal, Florida’s Stephen Weiss, and Carolina’s Jeff Skinner.
Hodgson is preparing for his third summer training under Roberts, and the 21-year vet is confident in Hodgson’s ability to improve.
“I’m looking forward to this year really being an opportunity for him to really explode as far as his conditioning goes,” Roberts told the site. “He’s a pretty strong kid, but it’s his speed and power that we’re really going to focus on this summer. Now that he’s healthy I have a pretty good feeling that he will be a faster and more powerful guy in September, which will help him develop into the player that he should have been two years ago if he would have been healthy.”