brendan gaunce

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

Maybe Someone Else Could Be Brendan Gaunce

I struggled mightily on how to start this post almost as much as the Canucks have struggled with Brendan Gaunce in their lineup. When most people think of a 4th line center, they want a guy that digs in the dirty areas, eats up minutes and brings tangible value to the team.

Basically, he needs to be effective enough to give the other three lines a break and occasionally contribute on the scoreboard. Many of us pined for Brendan Gaunce to get his opportunity on the Canucks 4th line and now that he has it, he’s been pretty dull.

Right now, BG is like that memorable song on the radio from the mid-2000’s that you were pretty impressed with but thinking back, it really wasn’t all that good and you immediately can think of at least 5 songs you’d rather listen to.

Sorta like that.

Gaunce has 5 assists this year and considering that the Canucks don’t score many goals, that should seem like a decent amount. When Brad Richardson/Manny Malhotra were on the Canucks, they produced like a proper 4th liner.

Richardson amassed 8 goals and 13 assists in 45 games in his last season in Vancouver back in 2014/15. In the season prior, he had 2G and 3 points shorthanded for the Canucks that were included in his 11G, 12A campaign.

That’s a lot of points for a guy seeing minimal ice time. Richardson could be used in a variety of situations and was valuable in all of them, he was a true contributor to the cause.

Looking at Brendan Gaunce, he fills minutes, sure, but is he really effective? Not really. I’m about to compare Gaunce to Jayson Megna. I know that’s not fair but they shouldn’t have either of these guys in the lineup and even Megna has a case to stay in the lineup.

Megna, although useless, has a shooting percentage of 7.7% while Gaunce sports a zero. Yikes! Jake Virtanen (who isn’t even ON THE CANUCKS right now) has the same zero but his points per game is only 1/100th less than Gaunce at 0.10/game.

Different positions, I’m aware, but Jake didn’t even have his stuff here and he was contributing about the same. Brendan’s TOI/GM is 28th of all players that have suited up this year for the Canucks, only ahead of Mike Zalewski, Reid Boucher, and Joseph Labate.

It’s pretty obvious Willie D doesn’t trust him a ton and we can go right back to the point of why is he playing regularly for the Canucks? Looking to the farm and calling up Curtis Valk who’s having a great season in Utica or even popcorn aficionado, Reid Boucher with the regular spot in the press box are better options than Gaunce right now.

Looking at Gaunce’s advanced stats may suggest I’m a nut job as his CF% at 5v5 is 1st on the team with 52.01% and his PDO is actually not that bad at 99.05. What I see on the ice is that he doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

Tolerating stale players has become a regularity on the Canucks and Gaunce seems to be the latest one. I’m happy he’s on the team but I think it’s time for a stint with the Comets to get his game back to where it should be at that spot.

 You’re only as good as your weakest link and right now, Brendan Gaunce needs to be a stronger link.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – ottawa citizen

Anatomy of Bo Horvat: The Next Ryan Kesler

It’s no secret we all love Canucks sophomore Bo Horvat. He’s physical, he’s fast, he has amazing hands and he’s like-able. His progression up the depth chart in less than a calendar year has not been seen in some time by a Canucks forward and it looks like he’ll only get better. We’ve seen this before; Ryan Kesler was that guy that we couldn’t stop talking about. Will this time around be different or are we destined to repeat history?

 

Bo Horvat enters his second season as the favorite to take over the 2nd line centre position, much to the chagrin of Brandon Sutter I’m sure. All Horvat has done is win endless amounts of faceoffs, create energy on a team begging for a spark and put the puck in the net. Maybe Bo isn’t quite Kesler 2.0 yet but he’s being put in a position to climb that ladder.

With 13G, 12A, a SHG and a GWG in 68 games, Bo wasn’t a world burner last season but his presence at the face off circle made him a threat every time he was on the ice. He finished an impressive 2nd on the team with a 51.4% clip in the middle along with his shooting % of 14.1. On a team that really doesn’t shoot a lot outside of the top line and the defense, that isn’t exactly amazing news.

But it’s not just the statistics that make Horvat a future star, it’s his hustle and willingness to create the play, he doesn’t just wait for it to happen. He’s wise beyond his years and understands that the pro game isn’t just one step and you’re there; it’s progression. Jason Botchford wrote a great piece about Bo here and it shows how he has elevated his maturity and readiness to be more for the Canucks this season.

Last season, we all wanted Bo to make the squad but it wasn’t just because he looked good out there, he looked like he belonged. That’s a tough thing to accomplish as a 19 year old but as the season went on and Willie Desjardins loosened the leash a bit, Horvat began to blossom.

The natural progression of any young player is to work your way up and earn your keep; Bo made quick work of his 4th line duties and even the 3rd line position. He just kept getting better and on a Canucks team that wasn’t, he brought more and more every game.

Sound familiar?

Ryan Kesler was that player we all wanted in the lineup but in a different sort of way. Kesler had a similar drive to Horvat but he had a bit of a mean streak to him as well. A slightly cocky American teenager, Kesler had grit. He was an absolute competitor and even if his body failed him, his heart and mind pushed forward.

Receiving a serious eye injury in the 2004 World Junior Championship against Slovakia, Kesler was close to losing sight in that eye, but he pushed on and was right back at it against Sweden. He would kill penalties and in the Gold Medal game against Canada he netted the infamous GTG against Marc Andre Fleury. USA would go on to win the Gold Medal.

Ryan also suffered a hip injury in 2006-07 and upon his return to the playoffs broke his finger in the opening round as noted here in a 2011 article:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Ryan Kesler would never admit that he and the Vancouver Canucks need a few days off before the Western Conference finals.

Kesler is the player who asked doctors to cut off a badly broken finger in his first postseason game four years earlier, and he is also the guy who returned to Game 5 on Saturday night against the Nashville Predators in the same period in which he was hit so hard by a deflected puck that the cut went right through his lower lip and knocked out a tooth.

So even with his swollen face turning shades of yellow and purple around the stitches crisscrossing jaggedly an inch below his lip, Kesler wouldn’t say he wanted time to recover.

Stubborn? Yes. Dedicated. Absolutely.

Kesler was a gamer for the Canucks and his shift disturbing nature along with team mate Alex Burrows gave the Canucks a needed edge in games where they weren’t always the favourite. He was everything we wanted in a Vancouver Canuck and he delivered the goods.

In the 2011 Western Semi-Final against the Nashville Predators, Ryan Kesler put the Canucks on his shoulders and almost singlehandedly won that series. Beast mode had arrived. Unfortunately, after that playoff run we never saw the same Kes.

His drive put him at another level and his body suffered and the strained relationship between the team, fans and Kesler began. It was never repaired.

Bo Horvat has a very similar motivation. He is a student of the game and unlike Kesler, he passes the puck when the time is right. Bo doesn’t necessarily have or require a “scoring winger” yet but when the time comes, there will be weapons readily available to him in the form of Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Jake Virtanen.

Both players have been very efficient when down a man and Bo is quickly becoming the PK monster that we lost when Kesler departed. It was such a huge part of the Canucks game when Ryan could kill important penalties and help the Canucks rebound the other way.

Vancouver isn’t going to be a team that draws too many penalties but when they do, Horvat will be a mainstay at some point and his ability to win the all important face off will set the team up for so many more goals than they deserve.

Looking at the similarities between Bo and Ryan is easy in some respects but when it comes to the chirping and the play after the whistles, its safe to say Bo will let his play between the whistles do the talking; something Kesler took awhile to establish.

This go around will be different for the Vancouver Canucks as they are making their build count this time. It may take a few years to fully develop but the future will be in young Horvat’s hands.

Hopefully Bo doesn’t require emergency eye surgery or have his finger practically dismembered to prove his dedication to his team and fans; we’re done with the travesties.

The trade that sent Cory Schneider to the Devils for the 9th overall pick may end up being the Canucks saving grace and as Bo continues to develop into an all around threat at both ends of the rink, we can only smile more.

Ryan Kesler may have left the Canucks and all the great years he gave us will not be forgetten; but Bo Horvat has an opportunity to eclipse Kesler and turn the Vancouver Canucks into HIS team. The fans are already on his side and so is the coach. Both so different and yet very much the same, Horvat at some point will be compared to Kesler for his accolades in Vancouver but his path will be much different.

As the comparisons pile up to who the next Cam Neely will be, why not see what the current Bo Horvat can do? The sky is the limit for this kid and at some point he’ll probably be awarded a letter that only a few players before him have worn better.

Bo Horvat isn’t Ryan Kesler . He’s Canadian, he’s young…and he’s a Vancouver Canuck.

Follow me on twitter for more: @always90four