Gaunce But Not Forgotten – A Semi Retraction

There are a few things in life that sounded great in theory but ended up being a disappointment or an udder disaster such as heelies, 5-minute abs, bike lanes or Brendan Gaunce being a bad option for the Canucks. When I wrote my last piece “Maybe Someone Else Could Be Brendan Gaunce“, I included some advanced stats that I personally, didn’t really take to heart.

I’m not saying I completely disagree with what I said but as the recent injury and most likely concussion to Sven Baertschi have shown, Brendan Gaunce is more valuable than we (more myself than anything) gave him credit. Come to think of it, I’ve been doing 5-minute and 15-minute ab workouts for the last 2 months. There might be something to this.

I still think heelies and bike lanes are a waste of everyone’s time. They’re called bike LANES, not lines, people.

Where did this change of heart come from you ask? Well, for starters, J.D. Burke of Canucks Army wrote a compelling piece on the recent play of Philip Larsen. Everyone has ragged on Larsen for not being the Canucks’ savior on the PP and that his recent giveaways, which have led to a number of goals, are further collapsing Vancouver’s playoff chances by the shift.

Here’s the thing – the Canucks aren’t exactly world beaters right now and haven’t been for a number of years. 2011 is now a distant memory and like it or not, things need to change. It’s time to get out of the dark ages and accept what is happening to this team. Speaking on Larsen for a second, he is going to need some time to adapt to this current Canucks makeup.

Nikita Tryamkin has worked his tail off to get where he is right now and he’s only just becoming relevant in the hockey landscape and not just as a sideshow topic to the uninformed. Tryamkin is a threat on the ice and as he gets more and more comfortable with his defensive partners, goalies and the forwards up ice, he’ll blossom into a great defender.

But now onto Brendan Gaunce; he’s basically on a “conditioning stint” in Utica which, knowing the Canucks, might last until just before Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets, just in time to not be able to play that night. Gaunce hasn’t exactly been a sexy option on the 4th line, he hasn’t even been mildly attractive, but he’s been reliable and defensively stable.

His advanced stats aren’t an aberration, when he’s on the ice, the team is actually better. It’s been said elsewhere, but I’ll state it again for you: Gaunce has basically the best CF% at 5 v 5 with 52.27 . It’s not anything to write home about (what am I DOING then?) but his next two closest comparisons with the same ballpark of game’s played are Loui Eriksson (51.05%) and Markus Granlund (50.24%). The shots are in the Canucks favor when he’s on the ice.

stats courtesy of corsica.hockey

Gaunce has a CA60 which also is tops on the Canucks at 49.10. If Brendan Gaunce is on the ice, the puck doesn’t see Miller and Markstrom as often. I’m now realizing I did a terrible thing earlier.

OK, OK but his goals are what we want. You’re absolutely right, they are a big reason why any player would be on an NHL team. Gaunce hasn’t exactly translated much offense to the back of the net this season and he may never be a threat to score but his defensive prowess is a big reason the goalies aren’t doing more work than they already are.

We can focus all we want on actual production which ultimately decides wins and losses but looking at players like Manny Malhotra or a defenseman like Willie Mitchell in his Canucks’ heyday and they weren’t exactly the first players asked to put pucks on net. I made a case about Brad Richardson-type players needing to occupy Gaunce’s roster spot, when in fact, the Canucks have that player already: it’s Brendan Gaunce himself.

There are some stats in there that also suggest Jayson Megna is a decent player as well but if you apply the argument I’m making here to what Megna was supposed to be, he’s just not good.

Sven Baertschi’s concussion could keep him out a few games, it could keep him out months; no one really knows how those things work and after seeing the movie “Concussion”, there’s no way I’d rush him back. Safe to say Reid Boucher probably comes into the Canucks plans for at least a game or two and Brendan Gaunce is returned midway through the road trip.

Opportunity has revealed itself to the Canucks the last few seasons as injuries have mounted and because of those injuries Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton and even Jack Skille have all found their way as regulars for Vancouver. Hopefully, BG has seen what he needs to do to be more effective when he’s on the ice and that he wasn’t just sent down because of his exempt status on the waiver wire.

Brendan Gaunce isn’t a terrible player and he isn’t a star. He’s a reliable defensive forward for the Vancouver Canucks and like usual, it always seems to be quite clear what is missing when the right player is taken away.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com

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