manny malhotra

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

Brandon, Bo, Battlestar Galactica

Preseason will only give you so much to go on, Bo Horvat won’t be doing anything that will surprise you before opening night. He might not even do anything surprising this season. Brandon Sutter on the other hand still hasn’t shown anyone that A) he belongs here and B) he’ll last the season. You know what else didn’t last? NBC’s hit comedy The Office. The catchy tag line that hooked you into reading this was spawned from The Office and like awkward addition to the show, Andy Bernard, Brandon Sutter may already have been here too long and he’s taking up a valuable roster spot from someone that actually SHOULD be a Vancouver Canuck.

Do I have a point here?

Is Brandon Sutter committing identity theft? He sure as heck thinks he’s a second line centre and even with his injuries, he doesn’t strike me as a guy worth those minutes or $5M actual dollars. Jim Benning must see something in Sutter but thankfully Bo Horvat was forced into that role last year with the lack of depth up the middle and saved his bacon. Or did he? I mean, they didn’t even get the first pick and they were pretty bad.

After Bo’s impressive rookie campaign, he had everyone listening to what his next move would be and had he not been relied on so heavily in Sutter’s absence, Horvat may have continued to build up his resume the right way. 40 points is no slouch in year two but his progression level would definitely have netted him another 15 or so if he wasn’t targeted as much.

Thing is, it doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. Did anyone expect Ben Hutton to not only make it out of camp but become an integral part of the Canucks back end inside of a month? I mean, if you aren’t the Canucks Army gurus? You roll with it.

Bo put up a 40 point season in his sophomore year and he did it with spare parts, well until the whole Sven Baertschi bromance came along. That will be the pairing going into this year one has to assume and after a stellar performance against the Oilers in preseason action, notching 20 of 23 face off victories, his game only looks to be rising steadily.

Will Brandon Sutter last a whole season? The Canucks need him to, Jake Virtanen needs him to, Jannik Hansen does too! As this team tries to make the jump back up to the playoffs, Sutter needs to not only stay healthy but show why his 2nd year 40 point season in 2009/10 wasn’t just a outlier in his 8 seasons thus far.

Manny Malhotra is back in the fold this year and I’m a big proponent of the face off. The reason Manny was so great as a Canuck and why that 2011 team was always the team ahead on the scoreboard was their face off wins. The 2010/11 Canucks had the 3rd best FOW% in the NHL going back to 2009 with 54.7% That’s impressive! Of course, that includes the 2012/2013 lockout year so really they place 2nd.

Furthermore, that 3rd place rank holds up for GF in the same time frame and 5th in GA. Winning a face off gives you possession, gives you the opportunity to score first and if you’re hemmed in your zone, keep the puck away from your own net.

Horvat and Sutter can utilize this amazing mind in Malhotra and elevate their own games to not just a scoring pivot but a possession player that impacts every shift. This is only remotely possible if Willie Desjardins actually platoons his players appropriately. If we start seeing Derek Dorsett getting valuable minutes again, I think we all take a step back.

But back to the centres of attention, maybe having Bo Horvat force fed grown up minutes and situations wasn’t such a bad thing. We’ve all seen his rapid progression, his leadership and his will to win. The Hockey Writers put up an interesting piece on Bo regarding him getting the other “A” now that Dan Hamhuis is gone.

Does Bo get that kind of pub if Sutter sticks around last year and plays a full season? We’ll never really know but it makes you think. So like Jim Halpert, Dwight Schrute and the imitation game; what type of Bo is best?

The bearish kind.

Follow me on twitter @always90four

cover photo – faceoff.com