Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Brendan Gaunce

After long years spent marinating in the Canucks’ system, Brendan Gaunce rewarded the team’s patience with a breakthrough campaign.

The versatile 22-year-old utility forward set a career high in games played (57) and assists (five) before a torn shoulder labrum ended his season right as he was about to tie a career high in goals.

There Gaunce was with a yawning New York Islanders’ cage and nothing to stop him from putting the puck inside it, save for the hindrance of his separated shoulder. With but one good arm, Gaunce sent a fluttering puck wide and hobbled to the bench. And that’s effectively how his season ended — goalless.

Among the list of skaters to play 500 or more minutes in all situations, Gaunce is the only skater to finish the season without a single goal to his credit. According to Daily Hive’s Rob Williams, Gaunce finished just one game shy of Alex Stojanov’s record for most games in a season without a goal by a forward. No matter how you slice it, that’s a bad look.

I think we’d all agree though that the Canucks can live with a fourth-liner who doesn’t score, so long as the opposition isn’t scoring much when they’re on the ice either. And to that exact end, Gaunce did his job admirably. Among Canucks regulars, only Jack Skille and Jayson Megna (weird, right?) contributed more than Gaunce to their linemates ability to suppress opposition goals — though Gaunce did it with a lower on-ice save percentage.

When one looks into Gaunce’s contributions to underlying shot, shot attempt and unblocked shot attempt metrics, it becomes increasingly clear that his team’s goal suppression with him on the ice isn’t by accident, either. Gaunce is third among Canucks in impacting linemates’ shot suppression per hour, second in impacting linemates’ unblocked shot attempt suppression and second in impacting linemates’ ability shot attempt suppression. Whatever shots the opposition attempts, they’re usually from low danger areas too.

The Canucks really couldn’t have asked for more from Gaunce as a fourth line centre. It would be nice if he chipped in with the odd goal, but the sum of his contributions was largely positive when he was on the ice. Whether Gaunce scored or not, the Canucks usually left in the black.

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When Gaunce was playing with Michael Chaput and Jack Skille, they left in the black significantly. One could reasonably argue they were one of the best fourth lines in the league. They controlled 58% of shot attempts and 66.7% of goals together at five-on-five.

The primary concern now is that by leaving Gaunce exposed to the Expansion Draft, the Canucks could lose him before he realizes whatever semblance of offensive potential he may or may not have. Ideally, you’d like to see what Gaunce can do in a year with Travis Green as his head coach in the NHL before risking that, but the Canucks didn’t see it that way.

  • Fortitude00

    I’m still not sure Gaunce is a NHLer. I am not sure if he is even a centre. We have Cassels in the monitors who could take that 4th line spot in next couple years I could care less if Gaunce stays or goes.

    • Killer Marmot

      I think Gaunce is a worthy NHL’er, but he might have to fight to make the Canucks starting roster next fall.

      There are eight forwards who are almost certain to make the cut. That leaves Gaunce, Goldobin, Dorcett, Boucher, Molino, Dahlin, Virtanen, Megna, maybe Chaput or Rodin or Biega, and perhaps even this year’s first rounder, all challenging for the remaining four positions.

      If Green decides that he wants four scoring lines then Gaunce had better look good in training camp.

  • Killer Marmot

    Will Las Vegas draft a fourth-line centre who has zero goals, five assists, and his arm in a sling? I guess it’s possible, but if I were Benning I might be willing to risk it.

    • Vegas management aren’t stupid, and they’ll be looking deeper than counting stats to decide who to take. Given how many decent defencemen they’ll have access to, I think the odds they’ll take Gaunce over Sbisa are pretty good.

    • Will Las Vegas draft a player who was under-utilized by a now-fired coach? Gaunce received <10 minutes per night playing with terrible linemates and had no power play time. In the AHL, he demonstrated that he can produce offensively by increasing his PPG from 0.39 to 0.83 when given 1st line opportunities. Gaunce was never put in a position to succeed offensively but he excelled where he could, proven by his positive Corsi / shot suppression rate, positive face-off win % and was the top hitter among Vancouver forwards (excluding Cramarossa's imported stats). Utica asked him to improve and he responded with no complaints. Given his size and strength (one of the top at his combine), Gaunce suffers from being too timid but I think if he was put into a more offensive 3rd line role, he'd performed way better.

      • Killer Marmot

        I never said Gaunce could never produce offensively. I don’t know what his full potential is.

        I said he might not look inviting to LV, which is quite different.

      • DJ_44

        I would be very, very surprised if Vegas even looked at Gaunce. I like the kid. He works hard, doesn’t complain, and provides some effort and energy every night. I think he also has a decent release, although he should use more. All of the forwards were adversely affected by Willie’s utilization (partly due to injury/later due to trades). But there was little consistency in linemates. If you put Gaunce with Dorsett, and maybe a Molino or Camorrasa, you have your banging energy 4th line that will get a few goals.

        But Vegas will not be interested. Lots of players like Gaunce available. Sbisa will go, and if not Sbisa, it will be Dorsett, or Boucher, and then Gaunce. They do not want a team made up entirely of projects, and Brendan would be one in Vegas if he was selected.

        Aside from the utter stupidity of suggesting Sutter should be exposed, is suggesting GMJB should give a mid to late round pick to not take Gaunce (cough… Sekeras..cough)….lose 2 assets instead of one….brilliant.

  • TD

    This is why I disagreed with JD in the Part 2 of the Monday Mailbag saying he wouldn’t trade our last pick to keep Gaunce from LV. I would definitely keep him at the cost of the Nuck’s lowest pick. At 23, he’s worth more than that.

  • kablebike

    JD: Bless you for trying.
    “Among the list of skaters to play 500 or more minutes in all situations, Gaunce is the only skater to finish the season without a single goal to his credit.”
    “I think we’d all agree though that the Canucks can live with a fourth-liner who doesn’t score, so long as the opposition isn’t scoring much when they’re on the ice either.”
    “The Canucks really couldn’t have asked for more from Gaunce as a fourth line centre.”
    Really? Facepalm.
    How about 1 or 2 freaking goals to go along with his -2? Hell, he couldn’t even get one bounced in off his skate like the previous year.
    If he doesn’t get picked up, and he somehow manages to outplay everyone else in training camp for a 3rd or 4th line position, I hope he gets some puck luck. Not more puck luck. Just any puck luck whatsoever.

  • Dan B

    I like him but not much to worry about… either we lose a bottom pair defensemen with a year left at 3.6m, or a 4th liner with zero goals. I’d rather lose Sbisa than Gaunce – the worst case scenario is losing a zero-goal fourth liner. From the Canucks perspective, its a good time for expansion, since it acts as an equalizer. With other teams losing better players, the Canucks come out ahead no matter who Vegas picks.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I watched Gaunce a lot, and I always thought he was on the verge or breaking out. I thought he played really well, but was just not getting the puck luck. I really hope he stays in Vancouver, and gets a chance to prove himself. I think he has definite 3rd line potential, similar to Jannik Hansen.

    • DJ_44

      The big difference in that comparison is the speed that Hansen had (still has, mostly). That was always his differentiator, and is what got him a very respectable NHL career.

      • Gregthehockeynut

        Canucks desperately need more size at forward, they were pushed aside too often in puck battles and need some big bodies to compliment the speedy Baertschi/Goldobin /Granlund types. The twins are nearly done and power forwards often bloom late. So at least one big forward on each line is a must in the western conference. I agree with the previous poster saying Gaunce will develop into a solid third line center {if healthy}. Burrows took almost a year to fully recover from his labrum surgery, hopefully it goes better for Gaunce. Zack Kassian would look awesome in a third line role here, albeit different circumstances for his departure.

  • Fortitude00

    I wouldn’t be shocked if Gaunce doesn’t make the team next year. He hasn’t shown the skill set to remain at the NHL level and his skating while improved is still below average.