The market for right-handed defensemen and Erik Gudbranson

Wednesday night, the Canucks made a move to shore up their blue line depth moving forward. They acquired former third overall pick Erik Gudbranson, a right shot defenseman with a hulking stature and a stay-at-home billing to his game, along with a 2016 fifth round pick. 

Known for his size and heavy-hitting style, Gudbranson brings some meanness to the Canucks lineup – but that tough stature didn’t come cheap. Headed back the other way is former wunderkind Jared McCann, along with a second-round pick this year – which will be 33rd overall – and a fourth-round pick. 

Seems like an overpayment, right? 

In all likelihood, yes. 

On the surface, Gudbranson is a big body that doesn’t mind making his presence known. He’s got a physical game that is designed to break up plays, which teams covet – and while he likely wouldn’t ever be a top-pairing player, his role as a second pairing guy that wears down the opposition certainly seems attractive. 

Looking more closely at his numbers, though, the former third overall pick has struggled a bit more than his style lets on. 

His shot suppression numbers aren’t all that great. His SA60, or shots against per 60 minutes of play, hit almost 33 SOG at even strength last year – when accounting for all his ice time, it jumps to almost 36. In comparison, his SF60, measuring the shots for his team per 60 minutes of play, was just 23.83 in all situations; in other words, his team failed to generate offence and bled shots against when the blue liner was on the ice.

To summarize? At best, he could be Vancouver’s own Rasmus Ristolainen, or a Derek Morris. At worst? He’s Jared Cowen or the modern era Nicklas Grossmann. Realistically? He’s maybe a Mike Komisarek or a Jamie McBain. That’s not a great deal for Jared McCann and a second round pick just outside the first round. 

Why Would Benning Do That? 

If we’re feeling spiteful, we can say that Benning did that because he’s all aboard the anti-analytics train.

Numbers suggest that McCann was a useful possession driver last year who struggled to adapt to the NHL – and while Gudbranson’s numbers suggest he’s not what he seems, his bone-crushing hits are certainly eye-catching. If Benning wants to prove that he can build a Stanley Cup winning roster by tricking analytics teams into taking his possession drivers for players that he likes – but numbers don’t favour – that would certainly explain his deal today. 

If we want to give the GM more credit, though, it could have also been because he wanted to be quick to the market. 

When the Boston Bruins inked blue liner Kevan Miller to a four-year extension worth $10 million earlier this week, fans had a meltdown – but closer inspection suggested that the team may have just been trying to lock up one of the few right-handed defensemen available on the market this summer. Some of the other names that will be floating around? Dan Boyle. Luke Schenn (assuming the Kings don’t lock him up soon). Zach Redmond. Jason Demers (again, assuming the Stars don’t lock him up). Tom Gilbert. Vancouver’s own Yannick Weber. Roman Polak. Marek Zidlicky. 

Translation? It’s not a pretty selection. 

If Vancouver isn’t interested in bringing Weber back on any kind of pricey deal, they may have figured that hedging their bets with a slight overpayment on a right-handed defenseman with potential future upside (after all, Gudbranson is still fairly young) was better than picking at the scraps left behind on July 1st. 

Yes, it cost Jared McCann. It also cost them a reasonably high draft pick – there should be some top-quality players available at that 33rd spot at the draft, including some highly regarded defensemen. It also serves as a harsh reminder that the Canucks gave up Frank Corrado for absolutely nothing, and Gustav Forsling for Adam Clendening – whom some CanucksArmy commenters only remember as that ‘Clenna-ding-dong guy’, but also shoots right – and then sent Clendening packing not long after.

Pushing that aside, though – blue line help is hard to come by in the first place, and the free agent market is looking slim on the right side. That could have spurred this push – especially if the Canucks think that Gudbranson has yet to hit his ceiling. 

What Does This Mean? 

Ultimately? I think it still means that the Canucks are on the losing end of a deal for yet another time this year. I don’t think that Gudbranson is as bad as his numbers suggest, but it still looks like an overpayment to me – and for a team that really doesn’t seem all that prepared to win now. 

Beyond that, though, it means that the market for right-handed shots on the blue line may be exactly as dire as it appears to be. Some GM’s aren’t going to overpay just for handedness, but others could be willing to – and with the salary Miller picked up in Boston and the haul Gudbranson brought in for Florida, it’s certainly possible that this won’t be the last wild announcement we’ll see regarding a right-handed Dman this summer. 

Happy off-season, friends. 

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Wow this site is batting three for three for terrible writing and guys who do not watch the player their writing about actual play the game. You guys are awesome keep up the top notch writing.

      • pheenster

        Do you think I like being the default voice of reason?

        Canucks Army is at war with the front office over ideological beliefs…

        They are using the only piece of propaganda at their disposal: straight up delusion.

        And Drance continues to hide behind his twitter handle.

        He won’t even create a YouTube channel where we can watch the microphone shaking in his hands trying to manufacture popular opinion…

        Instead, he sends his minions out to do his dirty work.

        For all intents and purposes, the Nation Network has jumped the shark.

        The only thing that matters now is putting as many basement bloggers in NHL employment as possible before teams realize how few of these people have actual skills…

        • Dirty30

          “Default voice of reason?” Oh God, now you believe you are The Donald!

          Most crazies think they are Napoleon but your delusion actually picks another delusional personality to emulate.

          Boney and Daffy both have comb-overs … Explains a lot.

          Side note — if the Minions have time after lunch please feed NM00 to the shark we just jumped.

    • Goon

      Yeah, who needs stats to explain things anyway!
      Why is it that os many fans are still willing to give Benning the benefit of the doubt.
      Whether you look at it from a ‘fancy stat’ perspective or not, this is a terrible trade.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    CA needs to chill on the bashing. We get it, you don’t like the trade. But I have a feeling it’s more to do with analytics vs. analysts than with the actual trade. Both are young and impactful players. How about we wait and see before completely destroying any thought of this trade being positive (side note: Cat’s take isn’t nearly as bad as the others, especially Jeff who has become full Leafs nut)

  • Fred-65

    For a supposed GM that values draft picks and is a great evaluator of talent, JB is giving away the farm. Obviously the owner and Linden are trying to keep butts in the seats but they keep insulting the fan base with idiotic management moves. The win now/rebuild tug of war shows a lack of a hockey ops strategy or direction and ultimately leads to these short-term knee jerk moves. You would never find that in a team like Detroit which has a clear direction and preaches development from within. The longer we have this management team means another decade of losing.

  • Nothing we can do people he is a good dman lets just hope the hockey brains know what they are doing this trade dose not look great at first but let the kid play a season. I liked jarred and hunter. I was fine with the hunter trade he will be ok. jarred I like hes gonna be a good center better upside then hunter .Its the picks that hurt because it makes our prospect cupboard bare. just hopefully Jim and brass can get a few late picks that can pan out we have hope for all the guys he picked last year.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Folks…do your own research. Feel free to read the opinionated/Botchford-styled treatments by each of the last three writers here at CA. Then, read a realistic, thoroughly-sourced view of Gudbranson up through the beginning of last year here:

    His full stats are available here:

    You may conclude, as I and others have, that deployment of Gudbranson was highly skewed toward defensive zone starts (58 and 59% of time last two seasons). This, obviously, suppresses his fancy stats and possession numbers, though the authors here at CA have no interest in normalizing for this effect. They seem to have an agenda, and folks like 1040 and King Botchford to appease. They have no interest in whether or not they’re right about this or anything regarding the current front office, apparently.

    In closing today, I find it highly ironic that the Panthers are supposed to be the analytically-driven scouting department, when a reasoned and thorough consideration of Gudbranson shows in fact a potentially undervalued asset statistically. Providing defensive cover to nurture the offensive upside of Ekblad will not be on the job description in Vancouver. Rather, we can expect offensive upside alone based on the fact he’ll be deployed alongside BHutt and perhaps even get more PP time.

    Therefore it very likely is what it is (pun intended): a salary dump by FLA for a reasonable price paid.

      • Counter-counterpoint:

        Lacking an argument, I’ll use the stats this blog used to be known for. Gudbranson is 27th in the league in CorsiRel QoC in5-on-5 situations for defencemen with at least 50 games played, and only a hair worse than Vlasic, whom I think we can all agree is somewhat above replacement level as a defender. Please note: Edler is the top Canuck on the list, at 0.813 (47th); next is Tanev, at 0.585 (81st).

        Aaaaand that’s why Benning went after him, folks.

        • Hockey Warrior

          Thanks for this, but Corsi Rel QoC doesn’t have anything to do with how the player played against his opposition (other than that his coach put him in those situations.) It is the Corsi Relative of his competition, not a measure of how he did against that competition.

          So what it shows is that Gudbranson played against good players. Clearly there is something to getting a d-man who played the toughest competition on his team. It isn’t a measure of how he played, though.

          What the table you referred to also shows is that Gudbranson’s own CoreiRel, playing against that tough opposition, was -7.25.

          So we have a player who was playing against tough opposition and starting more often than normal in the defensive zone, and who struggled in that deployment.

          As you note Edler had the toughest opposition among Canuck d-men. He also kept his head above water with a CorsiRel of +1.7.

          Tanev, who had the 2nd toughest deployment among Canuck d-men, thrived with a CorsiRel of +6.1.

          Aaaaaand that’s what shows Tanev is the shut-down defenceman.

    • It’s time to call bullfeathers on this one.

      You write “Folks, do you own research.”

      Did you do your own, or did you just see a link to an article that gave Gudbranson some positive results-a year ago, and only over one season?

      If you did your own research please provide links to the pages you got your stats from and show the stats you used.

      I challenge you to do as you challenged people to do and do your own research for 2015-16 that shows stats that Gudbranson was anything other than a drag on possession, show your work and provide a source for the numbers used.

      I will tell you that I have reviewed the article you quoted, the article referred to in it and stats on behindthenet. The article you quoted doesn’t show the stats started from, doesn’t show a source for any stats and in my opinion misstates the meaning of the figures (particularly regarding icorsi) that were provided (without a source.)

      I can’t duplicate the writer’s work without a source for his stats and the only source mentioned in either article, behindthenet, doesn’t so far as I see show the stats he’s relied on.

      I am sceptical in part because the writer provided figures without a source and I can’t duplicate them, and further by the fact that in my view misstating the meaning of icorsi (which measures something individual that doesn’t necessarily show whether a player is, overall, driving or not driving possession.)

  • Fred-65

    Edmonton paid 1st plus a 33rd for Griffin Reinhart who has yet to make it full time in thr NHL

    Calgary paid a 1st and two seconds for Hamilton. Tahts the market

    McCann will be replaced in this year draft

    where’s the problem.

    For how many years have Vcr fans INSISTED the Canucks d was too soft.

    I suspect Vcr fans want their cake and eat it 🙂

    • Goon

      Most reasonable people think Edmonton overpaid for Reinhart, and they’re also in a different position than Vancouver. As for Reinhart not being established in the NHL, he’s two years younger than Gudbranson and a year younger than Hamilton.

      Hamilton is a significantly better player than either Reinhart or Gudbranson. He is already a top-pairing defenceman at 23, while it’s unlikely Reinhart or Gudbranson will ever be one.

      Also, the Vancouver fans crying about the team being too soft are not the same folks who are concerned about this and other recent Canucks trades.

  • Marvin101

    For the price we paid for Big E, I would have rather went after Tyson Barrie or Shattenkirk. Honestly nothing against Big E, I think he would be a solid top 4 dman but that’s his cap, I would’ve just paid a little more or offer something of the same deal to the Avs for Barrie. There was definitely better options out there. Signing Demers whose in his prom years would have made sense if they wanted a Righty, we would’ve saved our picks and McCann. Oh well I have just come to the fact to not even argue against Benning n co and let the results of the Canucks speak for themselves.

  • pheenster

    Yet again we’re trading for other team’s cast-offs. Even if you think the price wasn’t too high (it was) and even if you think plodding, offensive black holes can be useful NHL defenders, it’s still the case that Benning traded for a player that Florida leaned on heavily in the playoffs (in a series they thoroughly lost) and then immediately decided to trade. They have cap issues and this was the first player they moved to alleviate it, because they believe they can do without him.

    Remember when the Canucks fleeced the Panthers for Luongo? Remember back when it was almost unseemly how they kept giving away assets, like they were basically a pipeline for smarter, better run orgs to pick up assets? The Canucks are that team now.

  • Cageyvet

    Personally, I’m shocked that the NHL survived for all these years without these fancy stats, and GMs still built dynasty teams. Note the dripping sarcasm. Remember how we actually liked the fact that JB scouted players in person, instead of hiding in his office. Have a little faith, I loved the comment yesterday about how JB and company in Boston plucked Chara from Ottawa despite a less than impressive stat line, and for damn sure all stats need to be put into context. Maybe I should just read the stat lines and game recaps instead of watching the games? Come on people, these are human beings not computer data.

  • Hockey Warrior

    1 set of analysts can be objectively described as “amateur” (except for those few who have been hired by the Panthers and whose voices we don’t have right now). They don’t have first-hand scouting reports from professional scouts, they haven’t watched hours of tape over and over. They’re crunching what easy-to-find hard numbers they can find to come up with the best statistical model they can with the resources they have.

    The other group has pro scouts, they have people to watch hours of tape and highlight the good and the bad of players. They have years of professional experience and access to far more detailed information than the other group.

    Now, you’re all doing the best with what you have, and you may well be right, but here’s the thing. It is sheerest arrogance on the part of CA bloggers to assume that they know better, when any reasonable statistical analysis of the two groups of analysts will tell you the Canucks management is more likely to get it right (I’m not making that up, just analyzing the statistics).

    Seriously though, get a grip CA! We won’t know how the deal turns out for some time, taking the blanket “we’re right and they’re wrong” approach isn’t productive, helpful, or particularly intelligent.

    (directed at the whole writing staff here, not you in particular, Cat)

      • Dirty30

        Please disclose salary if you believe you should be bragging about this…

        Nobody should be getting sucked into this argument anymore.

        NHL teams have an incentive to hire basement bloggers to improve their image…

        • Cageyvet

          She’s a blogger and coach of youth teams.

          As far as I can tell she’s never been near a scouting report for the organization.

          Cat, I said you’re an amateur analyst, not a hockey amateur. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, but since the debate is on analysis coming from highly-paid professional scouts and analysts vs. bloggers I thought the distinction was apparent.

          It would have the same bearing on the debate if you were a cheerleader for the Coyotes (though a cheerleader might actually have a better chance at access to scouting reports, if you know what I mean).

          The point stands, you have no basis to assume your analysis is better than that of the Canucks management team. If you really are that good, then why aren’t you getting the big bucks instead of coaching little-league and blogging?

          Also, blindly name dropping, “I work for an NHL team too!” While deliberately withholding your role in that team (irrelevant to the discussion as it is) shows how little you care for an open discussion on the topic. It also makes you look bad in the Internet age, when anyone with a keyboard and a pulse can find out which team you work for and in what capacity (it’s on your Twitter for god’s sake!)

          • I meant that I work as a credentialed member of the team, rather than just being a basement blogger- which I am, in addition to the work I do with the development program. So I sit press level for enough of the games that I’ve seen a good number of the players I write about in action, fairly frequently. I also spoke at the recent Panthers analytics conference on behalf of the team.

            Just thought that was relevant, since a previous commenter pointed out that the only two who had been hired on by teams hadn’t given their takes, just the basement bloggers. Always happy to join in the discussion.

          • Dirty30

            Fair enough.

            I wasn’t accusing you guys of lacking in ability, nor does being paid big bucks give Benning some magic scouting skill.

            It’s just that there’s no evidence to say your way is better than his. As you tweeted, we’ll see where TOR, ARI, and FLA end up relative to VAN, COL, and BOS. (not knowing the methodology of all those teams, I trust you picked sensibly)

            While the jury is out I feel that throwing wild accusations at Benning and co. without a proven track record yourselves just reeks a little too much of internet age hubris (the same kind that has patients diagnosing themselves and refusing to believe their actual doctor when the diagnoses don’t align).

            The patient CAN beat the doctor, sometimes, but the safe money goes with the doctor. I guess the problem I have is how polemic all the bloggers have become here. There seems to be more of an interest lately in creating highly skewed clickbait than actually providing meaningful insight.

    • pheenster

      Couldn’t agree more.

      It is slightly (ok, egregiously) premature to be calling this trade for one team or the other today, even using oversimplified statistical analysis.

      It brings to mind the old saw “There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”

  • Hockey Warrior

    L-O-L… it’s the same old same old here from the most fickle ‘fans’ and ‘hacks’ in pro sports.

    I mean c’mon, this is the franchise/fanbase that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup EVER, yet insists that no one outside the realms of a Drew Doughty, Kris Letang or Brent Burns be acquired in exchange for some prospects, low picks and/or used pucks.

    Yep, these are the people who DON’T want a homegrown proven power forward with his name already on the cup because he may ‘cost too much’ (like it;s their money?!).

    Yes friends and foes welcome to VANCOUVER – home of the deluded, lazy, holier-than-thou armchair expert who relies on advanced stats, EA Sports and Coaches Corner to tell us “with the right moves this is our year” and “we’re a contender again” whilst the fishbowl multi millionaire players partying it up in Point Roberts collect their USD paychecks regardless and get the summer off.

    Laughing all the way to the bank babyyyy!

  • pheenster

    the part where you are still harping about corrado as a bad move kind of destroys the rest of it, credibility wise.

    corrado was picked up by the worst team in the league where he managed just 39 games with low minutes at the bottom of their depth chart.

    if he stayed, biega would not have made the roster.

    i take benning at his word that he wanted to give corrado a chance. he also gave biega a chance.

    i don’t know it it’s analytics or pig headedness that causes you guys to lose your mind every time a trade is made.

  • pheenster

    As this is the third completely idiotic article I’ve read on CA this morning I’m not even going to bother with a long winded reply. It’s simple, We traded a guy, that was headed to the AHL and has zero future on the canucks who are stacked at centre, for a defensive defenseman that is big and likes to hit and shutdown top lines, something we desperately need and only have a poor version of in Sbisa.

    Maybe next time actually watch some footage of the incoming players play, consider their deployment and stop these stupid knee jerk reactions.

    • Andy

      You think McCann was headed to the AHL because he has no future as a player (even though he scored 9 goals while averaging ~12 minutes a game – something a player like Granlund didn’t do till age 21 in 13.5 minutes a game)

      You also think good defensive play for defensemen is being big and hitting players, and that the only player who plays shutdown minutes is Sbisa… (Even though Tanev has a -8 on a defensively starved team like the Canucks, playing 21 minutes a night)

      Methinks you need to watch more footage of the players here…