First and foremost, I am not declaring the Canucks are a tough team, far from it. They also aren’t complete pushovers. With the trade deadline looming and the rumours of a potential Erik Gudbranson contract extension getting major press, it should be noted that the Canucks are doing just fine, relatively speaking, without Gudbranson’s “toughness”.
Saturday night, the Canucks had a pretty spirited game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and of all the players that should be making a case for their spot on the team, Erik Gudbranson was pretty much invisible when it came to the checking part of the game.
Technically, he had one hit. I wasn’t able to pinpoint when that was. Above him: Michael Del Zotto, Alex Edler, Jake Virtanen with nine, three, and three hits respectively. Notable hits were also executed by Brendan Gaunce who is starting to come alive, Brandon Sutter because obviously, and a hard-nosed Sven Baertschi.
All of those players were noticeable while Gudbranson could be seen many times hunched over and watching the play. OK, he’s a big guy but if his claim to fame is that he can stand up for his teammates and deliver hits that keep opponents wary of his presence, he was anything but that guy against Tampa.
He’s been anything but that in most games this season, healthy or not. He signed a “show me” deal this season to prove his injuries last year weren’t a one-off but it’s looking more and more like they were the norm. The mantle that comes with being a top draft pick is a heavy one to bear but at some point, the Canucks have to cut their losses. He isn’t the guy they thought he was.
GM Benning confirms he’ll try to re-sign Erik Gudbranson rather than trade him.
“As long as a player can play in today’s game, you’re always going to need a defencemen who can play physical, especially in our division. There’s always going to be room for a guy like that.”
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 31, 2018
I agree with Benning but I don’t think I agree with who he is referring to. If there actually is a market for Gudbranson, they need to move him ASAP and not let this drag on further than it has to. This also could be a defining decision to get Jim Benning re-signed or let him walk after his deal is up this season. A bitter pill to swallow is that Luca Sbisa was probably the better overall defenseman.
Statistically, Gudbranson is towards the top of the Canucks in the hit categories but it doesn’t seem to be visible during the game. He has the worst CF% on the Canucks with 42.37%, same in the Rel CF% with -8.46%, a full 1.5% lower than the next closest teammate Brandon Sutter. Vancouver shouldn’t be holding on to his services for his offensive game, which I doubt they were, to begin with, but he won’t be turning into the second coming of Willie Mitchell on the Kings.
He’s a liability to the present and the future of this team and even with the stats pointing out he’s doing an alright job of being physical, it hasn’t shown up anywhere that matters.
I see no problem with resigning Gudbranson, even if it’s 5X5, he is a good strong d-man that is better than Auston Matthews, that’s valuable.
— McLovin (@McLovinCanucks) January 31, 2018
This guy might be serious but if the Leafs follow him on Twitter, he’s doing great work to # GetGudbransonTraded. However, looking at a bunch of his other posts, he’s a bit off the deep end.
Taking a chance on Jake Virtanen panning out is a much safer bet than signing Gudbranson long term, or at all. There are hits to be given up and down the lineup and Travis Green should be able to make his players buy in that they have to push back. Going forward with #44 would be a very bad idea and the final nail in the coffin if Trevor Linden and the Aquilini’s decision to move on from Benning.
The clock is ticking…
photo – Independent Sports News