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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara - USA TODAY Sports

Erik Gudbranson: Using the “eye test” to settle the debate once and for all

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson has always been a polarising figure between traditional hockey fans and the so-called stats community. The reason is that Gudbranson is said to combine everything stats can’t quantify – like grit, intimidation, and leadership –, making him a valuable piece of the Canucks’ roster. On the stat sheet, however, he appears to be one of the worst not only in Vancouver but the entire league.

Most recently, Canucks Army’s Jeremy Davis analyzed everything wrong with Gudbranson and explored Vancouver’s options to move on with or without him. Judging by the comments his piece received, many of you disagree with his assessment.

Does he even watch the games?!

Aside from writing, I am a scout with Future Considerations. If stats were able to tell the whole story and more, that job would not exist. Instead, my tool is the “eye test,” and only the eye test. And to follow up on Jeremy’s work, I rewatched some footage from past games this season with a focus on Gudbranson.

Does he pass the eye test?

Since this seems to be an important note: I am not here to find examples of bad things Gudbranson does to support Jeremy’s piece. Instead, I want to objectively look at Gudbranson from a scouting point of view. I obviously can’t collect every single play he’s made this season, but the ones I’ve collected below are a summary with examples of what I have seen in many, many viewings of Gudbranson.

Let’s dive right in.

Defending the rush

Stats show that the Canucks spend a tonne of time in the defensive zone with Gudbranson on the ice. Surprisingly (or not), this matches what we can observe on the ice as well. While there are several reasons why this is the case, there is one that stands out in particular: Gudbranson’s terrible foot speed and mobility.

In the clip below, Gudbranson is roughly at the defensive blue line and already skating backwards, when a Dallas Stars forward breaks out of the defensive zone with speed. There is almost half the neutral zone between the two, giving Gudbranson more than enough time to get up to speed. Yet, the Stars forward is clearly much too fast for him to catch up.

But, Gudbranson gets lucky. With a backchecker closing down the middle, the Stars forward simply dumps the puck in and tries to chase it. The routine play would be for Gudbranson to block off the oncoming attacker, allowing Michael Del Zotto to retrieve the puck. This only works if Gudbranson is fast and mobile enough to stay in front of the forechecker without getting called for interference.

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Unfortunately, Gudbranson is not fast enough, and the attacker has absolutely no issues getting past him. This is something we can observe with alarming regularity.

And it’s not just backward skating that hurts Gudbranson’s game. He’s not much faster going forward either.

Unlike the play above, Gudbranson often does turn around in time to chase the puck before a forechecker could reach it. This is certainly a positive –- Gudbranson makes some solid reads on the backcheck in the neutral and defensive zones. What happens next, however, frequently results in dangerous scoring chances against.

Below is a Pittsburgh Penguins power-play breakout. The Canucks defend it well in the neutral zone and force the Penguins’ puck-carrier to chip the puck in deep. Gudbranson, after pressuring the puck-carrier, turns around quickly and chases back to reach the puck. At that point, he is at least 10 feet ahead of the Penguins’ first forechecker.

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And yet…

Gudbranson has absolutely no time to make a play with the puck and is forced to play it up the boards, which leads to a turnover. This is undoubtedly a difficult play to make, especially with Bryan Rust being the forechecker. But Gudbranson’s lack of speed in this play is deeply concerning.

Now, even defencemen with slow feet can be relatively successful if they know how to control the gap and –- with Gudbranson’s height –- use their reach to their advantage. As you might have guessed, Gudbranson struggles mightily with this.

In the clip below, a Detroit Red Wings forward blasts down the left wing, defended by Gudbranson. What you should be able to see here is Gudbranson’s outside shoulder lined up with the attacker’s inside shoulder. At the blue line, the gap between the two players should be roughly two stick-lengths.

However, Gudbranson does not possess the footspeed or mobility to keep up with the attacker, who takes a couple of crossovers to the outside before blasting past Gudbranson with speed.

One may argue that Gudbranson did a good job keeping the attacker to the outside. But if you look closely, there was enough room to drive to the net, but the attacker opted to shoot instead of risking a scenario where Gudbranson does get his stick in the way.

Lastly, Gudbranson makes some questionable defensive reads when players come at him with speed –- even when their name is Evgeni Malkin.

In the sequence below, Malkin gets the puck in the offensive zone, has Markus Granlund beat, and Del Zotto is out of position. Gudbranson takes a look over his shoulder and should see that nobody is there to help Malkin or get open in the slot area. With that, it is his job to close in on Malkin and prevent him from shooting.

Instead, Gudbranson stays in front of the net, covering nobody, and giving a free shot from a prime scoring area to an elite goal-scorer.

D-zone play

It’s time to get to something Gudbranson is known for: hitting and intimidating opponents, and it goes hand in hand with his footspeed.

On many occasions, Gudbranson’s hits are follow-ups on lost races to the puck. He gets beat, chases the attacker, and finishes with a hit. If you casually watch the game, this may make you think “nice hit, Erik.” But it never should get to that point.

The clip below is another example of Gudbranson being unable to block off the attacker and allow Del Zotto to pick up the puck behind the net.

Another thing Gudbranson earns frequent praise for is the ability to “clean up” in front of the net. Here’s a comment Jeremy received on his piece:

Often (defencemen) allow the players to stand in front of the net uncontested so as not to add another player screening the goalie. I have on multiple occasions this year watched Gudbranson remove the player from the front of the net.

“On multiple occasions” is great, but he can’t do it all that much overall, because I found nearly no instances where this actually happened. Most times, Gudbranson behaves like all the other defenders, doing nothing more than tying up their stick. Or worse, he often doesn’t pay attention to net-front players at all.

And when he does move players away from the net, it often looks something like this:

Now, I am in no way showing these clips to bash Gudbranson. The opposite is the case: The reason why defenders tend to leave players somewhat alone in front of the net is that a constant battle for power between two players actually distracts the goalie more than a single player. Instead, defencemen focus on closing down potential passing lanes to the slot, and tie up their opponent’s stick if a pass comes in.

So, the fact that Gudbranson does relatively little of something he is known and liked for is actually to his credit.

Moving on.

Breakouts

While the consensus among Gudbranson fans is that he is a strong, physical stay-at-home defender who doesn’t need offensive skill, the ability to transition from defence to offence is essential for a modern NHL blue-liner. It is also another area where Gudbranson has a lot of room for improvement.

Before heading on the breakout, the first step is to realise it’s coming. And Gudbranson struggles with this quite a bit.

In the clip below, for example, Gudbranson gets drawn out of position against the Calgary Flames and gets back to where he’s supposed to be in a timely fashion. The Canucks then get the puck back behind the goal line, and Gudbranson –- with his eyes on the play –- chooses to drop back to the net-front to protect, well, nothing really.

The idea isn’t all terrible; if his D-partner turns the puck over, Gudbranson needs to be there to support him. But in the play above, there was absolutely no reason to drop back all the way to the crease and stay there until the puck was out of the D-zone.

When Gudbranson has the puck in the defensive zone himself, he generally prefers to hand it off to his partner and move on with his life. That is probably for the best, as his breakout attempts often do not end well.

In the sequence below, Gudbranson plays a stretch pass, which looks like a solid idea, as his team is changing on the fly. When the camera swings over, however, you can see his intended target is covered by three opponents, one of which intercepts the puck and heads on the attack.

This pass was never a good idea.

Offensive-zone play

Gudbranson, the third-overall pick of the 2010 draft, was once said to have strong two-way upside. Those times may be over, but we should still look at what he can do in the offensive zone. Spoiler alert: not much.

In the clip below, a missed shot ricochets off the boards and flies back toward the blue line. At this moment, Gudbranson is still outside of the offensive zone, and he should see that Sam Gagner is there to pick up the puck. But he doesn’t.

Gudbranson decides to pinch, which not only takes him out as a passing option, but it also adds more pressure on Sam Gagner than he’s already experiencing.

Gagner plays the puck deep again, and the Canucks stayed in possession, but it’s one of those small plays that make me question his offensive awareness and hockey sense. While coaches want the strong-side defender to pinch and close down the boards relatively deep in the zone, it is up to the player to see whether or not it is the right play in a given situation.

This time, it was simply a bad read.

This can also be observed when Gudbranson attempts to contribute to the attack by getting open for scoring chances. He occasionally finds open space in the offensive zone, and the idea to pinch and contribute offensively is excellent. The execution, however, leaves lots to be desired.

In the clip below, Brock Boeser gets possession at the left boards, and Gudbranson jumps in on the attack to get open for a pass on the weak side. There’s just one problem: Gudbranson skates straight into coverage and stays there until the end.

And when he does get set up for a shot?

Gudbranson does a lot of things right in this play, like moving into open space, circling back when there’s no passing lane, and moving back in again. His puck skills just aren’t enough to provide offence, though. This can not only be observed in this sequence, but many others as well.

Finally, Gudbranson does not provide much in terms of dangerous passes. He mostly settles for D-to-D passes or ones that go straight down the boards, but there isn’t much that helps set up scoring chances.

He tries, he really does. It’s just that he’s almost never successful.

Conclusion

What really stands out is that almost everything Gudbranson does is either bad or acceptable. There are virtually no scenes that should make a scout say “wow, we need this guy on our team.”

Next time you watch Gudbranson play, and he does something that makes you think he’s a valuable player, ask yourself: was this really the best possible play or did it just not lead to something bad? Most often, you should come to the conclusion that what he did was fine, but there was a better option available.

Furthermore, I rewatched every one of Gudbranson’s shifts from five recent games as research for this piece. In an entirely objective and unbiased approach, I was unable to find a clip of a strong, valuable hit or anything else Gudbranson is commonly liked for.

So, why do many people, including NHL coaches, like Gudbranson-type players then?

Here, Calgary Flames writer Kent Wilson of The Athletic made a reasonable assumption:

Because of competitive pressures that are unique to the bottom end of the roster, NHL coaches and GMs will be attracted to tough guys who are “memorable” or “stand out” during their limited ice time. (…)

Especially if you are heavily influenced by the eye test — most fourth line players simply won’t stand out on a nightly basis if you’re judging them by the usual standards.

But guys who crash and bang? Who get into a fight? Who throw themselves in front of harm’s way with abandon? They are memorable. So at the bottom end of the roster the way to survive isn’t necessarily to be useful, it’s be noticeable.

When Erik Gudbranson hits and fights and cleans up the net-front, those are things everyone can see even when they just casually watch the game. You don’t even have to pay attention -– these things will be shown over and over in replays.

So, while Gudbranson neither stands out stat-wise nor passes the eye test particularly well, coaches still notice him and remember him. That’s all.

I won’t deny the fact that leadership can play a role in a team’s success. But if leadership and a little bit of random grit are the only things Gudbranson provides, is he really worth the price of admission?



  • McGretzky

    “Aside from writing, I am a scout with Future Considerations.”

    “So, why do many people, including NHL coaches, like Gudbranson-type players then?

    Here, Calgary Flames writer Kent Wilson of The Athletic made a reasonable assumption”

    “In an entirely objective and unbiased approach”

    Lol @ the media mind control games.

    Future Considerations, The Nation Network and The Athletic are “competitors” in the same vein as CNN and Fox News, Conservatives and Liberals or Republicans and Democrats.

    Notice how it’s Kent Wilson of “The Athletic” while ignoring Wilson’s affiliation to the Nation Network and the online analytics community.

    This is one teammate talking code to another teammate.

    Why were The Jetsons cross-promoted on The Flinstones?

    Because it increases the value of both “entities”.

    But nice try.

  • speering major

    The problem with Guddy is that we want him to be a top pairing or top 4 D. That’s fair considering what was given up for him. Gudbranson is a bottom pairing D and I don’t mind him in that spot. He can play physical and adds toughness which will be important with a young roster (as we say with Manson last night). If they can sign him for 2 – 2.5 million, I don’t mind keeping him. Otherwise they need to move him. They also need to move Tanev and recoup some value. This is a D heavy draft and the canucks have some prospect ready to be given a shot. I think the Canucks need to ship out 2/3 of Edler, Tanev, and Gudbranson

    • Zemtac

      I think 2 – 2.5 million is low in todays market, Guddy is only 25 and big, bigger guys take longer to find their way. Especially when they make the jump to the NHL, because everyone has speed and that takes adjustment, which takes time like a goalie, more angles, less risk. Chara, had similar issues before he found his way and the league didn’t have the speed it does now when he was breaking in. I think were going to have to pay him between 4 – 4.5 M to lock him up for 5 years. Edlers coming off the books year after next hopefully traded. Sedin’s next year. I think he could still be a 3/4 if he works on his positioning based on today’s pace. I think we need to give him the year and see what we have, before we start running around with our hands up in the air crying the ski is falling. The decision will be made at the trade deadline? If he is still here, then we’ll most likely be resiging him.

      • speering major

        Tying up 4 -4.5 million in Gudbranson long term would be a disaster. Add that to Ericksons contract and it will crush the teams chance to compete over the next 5 season. If teams value Gudbranson as a 4 million + D man then they will be willing to give up assets for him. Take the assets and move on.

        Chara was a Good D by 22 and an absolute force by 24. Gudbranson is looking shaky at 25 and with over 300 NHL games under his belt. Tryamkin progressed far earlier also. I really do like Gudbranson at a reasonable salary and limited minutes. Paying him as a top pairing guy long term is a disaster though

  • Locust

    Hey, JD brought a new troll out to play……..

    Did Guddy turn down an invite to someone’s pajama party……. ? Why the continued, never ending hate?

    Is this nonsense going to continue until the majority here agree with the CA opinion?

    • Whackanuck

      Well, he’s failed the analytics test, and he’s failed the eye test so he only needs to fail the fan delusion test to be written off as a top 4 defenceman.

      • Green Bastard

        Failed the TV eye test tho right? Which is a pseudo eye test. Not defending 44, but we need to put these coverages and comments into perspective. Are they using game tape for the eye test, or TV coverage?

        • Beer Can Boyd

          He has been atrocious all season long. I’m not sure how it is that you can’t see that. At this point, they need to hire Willie Mitchell to show him how to use his attributes (huge body, long stick) to overcome his detriments, (slow, immobile). Otherwise, trade him while he still has some value.

      • Locust

        Whack – ya, so what. Those points were made in the first post. Having five anti-Guddy posts shows something much more than ‘stating an opinion’.
        I think it was the pajama party thing…..

  • Dan the Fan

    The eye test and stats tests usually agree. When a player has bad stats, there’s always someone who says that stats aren’t the whole picture. This is true, but I think that the onus is then on the eye test proponent to demonstrate why this player is an exception. There are people on here who seem to think that when a player has bad stats, that’s evidence that he does well in the eye test, and that simply isn’t true. This article shows in part how the eye test and stats usually match – the stats just remove a large element of subjectivity. If a players’ stats are bad, he can be considered bad until someone shows otherwise.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      I honestly hope JB plays this out exactly the same as he did with Hamhuis & Vrbata. Just sit back with your feet kicked up on the desk and wait and wait and wait for a high 2nd rounder offered in return…..except that the phone never rings, because Guddy is EXACTLY what NHL teams drooled over 10 years ago, big useless D-men with terrible skating, terrible awareness, terrible instincts, and mediocre everything else to throw $$$ at. I hope we get absolutely nothing for him just so the Guddy experiment can become yet another massive red flag on Benning’s resume.

  • wojohowitz

    Brian Burke in his six years as GM of the Canucks had one nagging problem – he could not find a competent goalie and went thru eight of them until he found Dan Cloutier. What was good about that? Burkie had no problem moving on from a bad acquisition while attempting to finding the right guy. Can Benning move past his bad decisions or will he double down with a big money long term deal while everyone in the room groans and rolls their eyes.

  • jaybird43

    Janik is right. Unfortunately, Gudbranson is a bad defenceman.

    That’s very clear from the analytics, and watching him play. Once in a while, he’s real growly with a team, and you think “Great! No more getting pushed around!” … Unfortunately that feeling soon leaves the next time he’s turnstiled, or has ONE MORE uncontrolled zone exit (to be followed by an opposing team’s clean entry, momentarily … 🙁 Anyway, the trade is lost. Hopefully JB can salvage something out of this near trade deadline. Sunk cost. Like Erikkson. These are his two largest mistakes, in my view. Does it mean he’s a bad GM? Not in my books, and not by a long shot. His drafting is starting to look genius … finally learned to add “value-priced” bolt-on free agents this summer, and got rid of Willie for somebody who looks pretty smart, based on the way he’s handling a middling roster. The JB haters, and childish name callers (really [really!?], “Dim Jim”, are we still in elementary school?) don’t seem able to look over his total tenure to date. Which is appearing more and more solid as time begins showing the results … has he made mistakes? Abso freaking lootly … anyone in a new job is going to make more mistakes as he learns the job over the first year or two and then there will always be some ongoing when judging young talent is a major component of the job. To the JB haters, I say take a deep dive on what he inherited (a “stale” team as Torts accurately called it) with limited prospect pool. This is not going to be an ever-ending rebuilding saga like Toronto, Buffalo, Arizona, or Edmonton … and all without the benefit of a top 1, 2, 3 or even 4th pick. Look around JB haters – one trade does not make the man. And now this commercial break from JB channeling his inner Frank Sinatra … “Regrets, I’ve had a few, But then again, too few to mention …”

  • DJ_44

    Finally, this brings us to Jannik’s finally follies of fantasy and misunderstanding: the offensive zone examples.

    In the clip below, a missed shot ricochets off the boards and flies back toward the blue line. At this moment, Gudbranson is still outside of the offensive zone, and he should see that Sam Gagner is there to pick up the puck. But he doesn’t.

    Gudbranson decides to pinch, which not only takes him out as a passing option, but it also adds more pressure on Sam Gagner than he’s already experiencing. Gagner plays the puck deep again, and the Canucks stayed in possession, but it’s one of those small plays that make me question his offensive awareness and hockey sense. Simply a bad read.

    Jannik claims this is a bad read. It is anything but. EG does not know whether Gagner will get to the puck first, or even make a play for it. EG, however can do both. The fact Gagner did get to the puck was a bonus. EG was neither out of position or making a poor decision. This, like many other instances, is a critique from someone who does not understand the game.

    Jannik, obviously on a roll and buoyed by his previous incorrect analyses, continues on this tract. The penultimate example EG is providing viable options to Boeser, and also forcing the defenders to guard against him as an offensive option. Watch the defenceman in front of the net. He moves away from his check in front of the net and a half stride towards EG. This opens up more opportunity for players in front of the net when Boeser makes the high percentage play and puts the puck on net. This is a subtlety of the game. You have to understand it to pick up on it.

    In the final, EG tries a lower percentage pass if the O-zone. These are attempted all the time, yet you use it as a final example in Gudbranson’s failure to the “eye-test”.

    Jannik — I get it. You want something to be there so bad, you work hard at proving it, but it ain’t there. To be honest, I could have watched those five games again and picked out better examples of EG’s weaknesses, or poorer reads. This happens with every player (although with some it is easier — Hutton; and some it is much more difficult — Tanev). But we can see one thing, your grasp of how the game is played, why players do certain things, and their strengths and weaknesses, is incomplete (to be polite). This may also explain why you and many of your fellow college buddies provide such poor analysis and content on the CanucksWay blog.

    • Janik Beichler

      1. It’s fairly obvious that Gagner can reach the puck. Even if Gudbranson thinks he won’t (bad read), he shouldn’t pinch that far up.

      2. Gudbranson never presents an option to Boeser during this play. The idea is good, execution is bad. He could have circled back and moved in again like in the other example.

      3. I wish there was nothing there and this article could’ve been “this is how Gudbranson provides value” with examples of how good he is. But he isn’t. So I didn’t.

      Finally, my name’s Janik. 🙂

      • DJ_44

        First, spelling is not a strong suit, and no disrespect was meant through fat fingers.

        With respect to Gagner, and equally valid argument could be made that it was Gagner poor read, not see that Gudbranson was in fact in a better position to get the puck and do something with it. Gagner could easier move to a scoring position and allow Gudbranson to deal with it. Regarding how far he should pinch, the defense will pinch down to the goal line if appropriate (under Green’s system); if you are going to get to the puck first, you are easily able to pinch to the top of the circle.

        Boeser: he gave him options, and a passing lane was available to Boeser. The play was immediate, no need to circle.

        With respect to value; this is your opinion. Your examples, however, made you look bad, not Gudbranson.

  • Dan the Fan

    I should add, I like having a guy on the team who can punch faces, but I don’t think we need both him and Dorsett. And Dorsett is cheaper and has another year left on his contract. Defensemen also play a more important role, your 6th defensemen makes a bigger difference in the W column than your 12th forward. So if you want to have a fighter on your team that’s a liability otherwise, you’re better off if he’s a forward. Of course it’s even better if you have a guy who can fight and play, that’s why we miss Bieksa.

  • Chris Searle

    I see somebody let the dog in the house again and he’s tracking mud and poop all over the place. Don’t bother responding to this guy. Arguing with him is like playing chess with a pigeon: no matter what happens he’s going to $hit all over the board and strut around like he won.

    • Bud Poile

      After game 7 in 2011 there were only a handful of Canucks that had not sustained injuries.
      Bieksa was two-handed across the back of his leg,Raymond had his back broken and Edler took a slash to his hand so vicious that three fingers were broken.That was just game 6.
      Not a penalty was called.
      If the writers and trolls that represent this site think that hockey players minds have changed 1/10th of 1% in the last seven years you need your diapers changed.
      Playoff hockey is brutal combat.
      Arguing about lateral footspeed and outlet passes are everything while diminishing hits,blocked shots and the ultimate,fear,suggests you diapers are overflowing with bubbling snot and drool running down your chin.

  • DJ_44

    I am sure Janik Beichler means well and tries hard, but for “Future Considerations” to hire (and we all understand the term is used loosely) him as a “professional” scout make me wonder about the quality of information “Future Considerations” puts out: they are employing an individual to evaluate players playing a sport that he has such a little understanding of how it is played, especially at the professional level.

    Every example given is incorrectly assessed by Janik. Not one or two; all of them really. If these are the best examples of Gudbranson’s so called issues, your argument is already lost.

    Gudbranson is not perfect by any means; no players are. But this piece is just plain out incorrect analysis of the sport of hockey, and the position of defence in particular. I may just go through each example in seperate comments to illustrate the depth of incompetence and ignorance demonstrated in this article. “Eye test” ……. riiiiiiiight.

  • DJ_44

    Clip one: Footspeed:
    Janik claims:

    Gudbranson is roughly at the defensive blue line and already skating backwards, when a Dallas Stars forward breaks out of the defensive zone with speed. There is almost half the neutral zone between the two, giving Gudbranson more than enough time to get up to speed. Yet, the Stars forward is clearly much too fast for him to catch up.

    Incorrect. Just flat out wrong. Elie picks up puck in the Starts neutral zone. Gudbranson correctly reads the situation: 1.5 on three, with back-pressure from a forward. Gudbranson should not increase his speed to skate backwards and retrieve the puck, he should slow, close the gap and FORCE THE DUMP IN. MDZ is responsible for puck retrieval in this instance. Gudbranson should slow, keep his lane so as not to draw the interference penalty.

    Anyone wonder what the result of the play was? Gudbranson adopts a position in supportof MDZ. MDZ makes a simple three foot pass to Gagner along the boards, Gagner makes a clean exit pass and Horvat’s line is in for a excellent scoring chance. Overall result of the Gudbranson/MDZ shift by my count was a Corsi-For of +2.

    But please Janik, tell us how Gudbranson was “lucky” that Elie choose to dump it in.

    Just like you suggested the Rogers Arena crowd shouldn’t do the Viking Clap for Hank last year because it isn’t there thing to do; you should refrain from commenting on how hockey is played, or the ability of professionals to play it for the same reason.

        • Janik Beichler

          Sorry for the late response, I was in Stockholm for the Global Series and didn’t check in here. But in case you still read this, here we go.

          You are right that Gudbranson, in a way, forces the attacker to dump the puck in (he’s lucky that wasn’t McDavid coming at him, because he would’ve walked right past Gudbranson). However, as explained in the article, there are two options for him once the puck is played deep. I don’t know the coach’s instructions for this situation, but we can argue in his favour and say his job was to block off the attacker while Del Zotto goes after the puck.
          Now, do you really want to tell me Gudbranson did a good job here and has quick feet? The attacker had no issue getting past him whatsoever. In fact, he reached the puck roughly at the same time as Del Zotto because Gudbranson was completely unable to stay in front of him.

          From a scouting perspective, this is a perfect example of bad foot speed and mobility, regardless of assignments.

          • DJ_44

            Shake my head. I will give you credit; you stick with your flawed logic and incomplete understanding of how professional hockey is played. Aside from the stupidity of the “he’s lucky that it wasn’t McDavid” (because I am sure everyone in the building was aware of that — the team colours kinda give it away) I will spell out the basic principle you fail to comprehend.

            In this situation, it is not Gudbranson’s responsibility to get the puck; he must hold the blue line and force Elie to give up possession by dumping it in. This results in a 1 on 3 puck battle with Vancouver should (and does win). How do you know it is not EG’s responsibility? Because look at how MDZ reacts: he turns to get the puck.

            EG does not have a two choices, he has one: do his job and rely on his defensive partner to do his. There are numerous examples to can look at with Gubranson where he turns and retrieves the puck. Each partnership will have agreed responsibilities based on the situation.

            From a scouting perspective, this is a perfect example of bad foot speed and mobility, regardless of assignments.

            If this is your contention, that an player executing his responsibility flawlessly is an example of an
            unrelated skill, then you should not be a scout.

  • DJ_44

    Clip 2: the Penguins PP dump.

    Again, incorrect observation of the play. Gudbranson forces the puck carrier to dump it in while EG is at the center ice circle. He wins the foot race with Brian Rust (yeah, the speedy winger) who is at full flight in a straight line despite EG having to move laterally to create the initial pressure. Yet you claim he is slow in retrieval? He beat Brian Rust to the puck with Rust already in full flight. Please.

    • Janik Beichler

      This is an example of bad forward speed. Gudbranson loses at least 10 feet on Rust between the blue line and the goal line. Are you really amazed by this?

      • DJ_44

        No, it is not. Rust is going at full speed, in a straight line to the puck, when it is dumped in.

        Gudbransion was skating laterally to and reached to force the dump in, then had to increase speed to get the puck, and he still easily beat Rust to the puck. They were not both going in the same direction at the start of the race. It is actually an example of excellent speed on Gudbranson’s part.

        Are you really amazed by this?

        I am not amazed by this. Gudbranson, and the scouting reports on his play, indicate that he has good mobility and a strong skater.

  • DJ_44

    Clip 3: Again, footspeed.

    One may argue that Gudbranson did a good job keeping the attacker to the outside. But if you look closely, there was enough room to drive to the net, but the attacker opted to shoot instead of risking a scenario where Gudbranson does get his stick in the way.

    Now Jannik is claiming the attacker was not really forced to take a very low percentage shot from the outside; he really could have drove the net if he really want to. Wrong again, Jannik.

    EG kept the correct angle on the defender. If he had the angle, why did he not drive after the shot for a rebound? Answer: no room. Had he tried to drive the net, EG would have cut him off and drove him thru the end boards.

    • truthseeker

      Yeah I agree with you on this one. I see no evidence in that clip that he could have gotten around Gudbranson. They are even at the top of the circle and at that point the tiny red wing forward is thinking to himself “am I really going to be able to out body this guy if I drive? I’d better take a shot”. That much is obvious. There would at least be contact. No way that guy gets in clean when they are already at the circle. And if he can’t get in clean he knows he’s not winning any battle that has to do with contact.

      Guddy is not doing much to win me over, but that clip most certainly doesn’t prove a point against.

    • Janik Beichler

      In this clip, Gudbranson should ideally not have to turn around at all. He has to as a result of his gap control and, again, foot speed. And when he does, the attacker most certainly has the option to drive to the net. He is on his strong side, which would allow him to keep the puck away from Gudbranson with both hands on his stick, while dropping his shoulder and putting out his knee to skate “through” Gudbranson’s stick and drive hard to the net.
      Why did he shoot? He had at least two options but there was no 100% play, so he made a decision. Gudbranson certainly didn’t force him to shoot.

      • DJ_44

        Your contention is ridiculous. The attacker is actually on the half-boards and he is going to try a power-forward type move with no room on a 6-5 defender who has position?

        The proof is in the choice the attacker made; you think the player does not assess if the defender has position? Or that he thinks there is room for a scoring change but he still elects for the poorest option? He knew very well that Gudbranson had position on him. He gets to take a nothing shot and pad his fancy stats.

        Like all the examples, you are trying to read into the play something that is not there.

  • DJ_44

    Clip 4 – Defensive reads:

    In the sequence below, Malkin gets the puck in the offensive zone, has Markus Granlund beat, and Del Zotto is out of position. Gudbranson takes a look over his shoulder and should see that nobody is there to help Malkin or get open in the slot area. With that, it is his job to close in on Malkin and prevent him from shooting.

    Instead, Gudbranson stays in front of the net, covering nobody, and giving a free shot from a prime scoring area to an elite goal-scorer.

    This is a quick decision. He has two choices, slide, or do what he did, cut off Malkin’s angle, let Markstrom see the shot without a deflection (unlike Hutton’s decision on the GWG against Detroit). He was not “covering nobody”, he was ready for the most dangerous possible outcome: a rebound in the slot. Guetzl (sp? too tired to look it up) was ready to pounce on any rebound.’

    Should I continue?

      • DJ_44

        It can be done for each clip. Just a complete lack of understanding of the game and how it is actually played.

        Gudbranson is a solid #4 guy. Pair him with Poulliot and you have a solid middle pair

    • Janik Beichler

      With your previous examples, I could still somewhat follow your thought process. But in this case? Gudbranson did nothing more than the absolute minimal requirement of not letting Malkin into the middle of the slot, but he still got a shot off from an excellent high-danger position.
      A good play here would have been to cut off Malkin to not allow a shot at all and force him to the goal line – and please don’t tell me that wasn’t possible.

      • DJ_44

        I did not contend that Gudbranson did not have options, like I said in my reply. Malkin would want Gudbranson to go at him, because there is a chance for him to make a Malkin-type move and open up the center of the ice.

        Malkin was already in a high-danger position, Gudbranson would did not allow it to became a higher-danger position.

        Markstrom is big and in position. Malkin had to execute a perfect shot to beat him. Markstrom, Malkin and Gudbranson knew it.

  • DJ_44

    The next two clip are pointless. Gudbranson is, well on the PK.

    The Calgary example.

    In the clip below, for example, Gudbranson gets drawn out of position against the Calgary Flames and gets back to where he’s supposed to be in a timely fashion. The Canucks then get the puck back behind the goal line, and Gudbranson –- with his eyes on the play –- chooses to drop back to the net-front to protect, well, nothing really.

    Wrong again. Not draw out of position. He was on his man. Had Calgary kept possession, Frolik was circling high for a potential pass in the high slot. Calgary uses this play a lot. I would imagine Green and staff would have scouted that play and how to defend it.

    As for returning to the slot after Poulliot had the puck, this was correct. Support inthe event of a turnover, and Poulliot could, if needed, reversed behind the net where Guddy would have gone.

    Why did Guddy stay behind? Because Poulliot went glass and out, possession was turned over, and then Poulliot elected to change.

    • Rodeobill

      wow. nice work Mr. 44. And effort put into these responses too. This is why I come to this site. Good discussion. Your turn Mr. Biech. It seems we have an ol’ tyme (pronounced time-ee) mexican stand off! (I’m not sure if that is racist by today’s standards, if it is, is Chinese firedrill?)

      • DJ_44

        Just to point out that is not Mr. Biech. Ryan would not have penned such crap. He has demonstrated an understanding of the game and, in my opinion, provides the best content and analysis on the site.

    • Janik Beichler

      Again, your analysis is incorrect. Gudbranson stays with his man well at first, but once he plays the puck back deep and circles up to the point, he is not Gudbranson’s assigned man anymore. From there, Gudbranson should drop back into his original position. Man coverage requires some rotation as it is not a static box in zone coverage. But, a defenceman should not chase his man up to the point and just slowly glide back to the net.

      As to the breakout play, why did he stay behind? I will ask again because your explanation is absolutely insufficient. With a glass-and-out play, the puck is away from the net and Gudbranson has no reason to drop back all the way to the net. If he anticipates a turnover, he can sit back a little bit, but should be much, much closer to the puck. With the puck at the blue line or in the neutral zone, he has no reason whatsoever to stand (literally stand) where he did.

      • DJ_44

        You are trying to say what a player “should” do. Just like last years analysis of the PK should be a “box”. It is crap because you are devoid of context.

        Players and coaches pour over hours of video. I watch Calgary quite a bit. Like I said, they use the high slot play alot, especially the Backland-Frolik line. If everyone knows their responsibilities, then you have not idea where he should be on the ice, or what his responsibility or assignment was. He did not chase his man, he covered the high slot which is a danger position. Like I said, Calgary, and this line in particular, use this play a lot. Had Calgary maintained possession, and Gudbranson did what you proposed, no one will cover the one-timer from the high slot.

        I am sure your think that, regardless of his assignment, he should do what you think, but reality says different.

        As for the last part it was a dump out, not a break out. I imagine EG barked at Poulliot to change, since he was already on the right side of the ice. EG had to stay out on the ice, given the long change in the second.

  • Laxbruh15

    This article is so one sided it’s ridiculous. Gudbranson cuts down on high scoring opportunities and also suppresses shots at the second best rate on the team, only behind tanev. By your own metrics he’s a top four dman! The amount of time that’s been spent on this is absurd. What’s worse is that this is only occurring because people disagree with you. It’s essentially just keep bashing the same point home over and over again until people give in whether they actually agree or not. Gudbranson’s punishing to play against which prevents high danger opportunities by keeping opponents out of that area. Obviously you can find isolated clips of that not happening, but in general and the vast majority of the time, he does. He’s a top four dman that gets the hardest assignments against the best players on the other team with the worst quality of teammates outside of tanev. He’s helped create a team with the second best goals against in the league, and on the seventh best penalty kill. When he was in florida on the top pairing, they were first in goals against, and first on the pk for the whole season. Which collapsed as soon as he was traded.

    • truthseeker

      https://ownthepuck.blogspot.tw/2017/05/hero-charts-player-evaluation-tool.html

      Well come on now. That’s just being disingenuous. His shot suppression may be second best on the team but it’s still miles behind Tanev. When you say “only behind Tanev” you are implying that he’s close. Tanev is the best shot suppressor in the entire NHL. Guddy’s number puts somewhere between second or third pairing with a ranking of 5. Average at best for the entire league. Tanev is a 9 rating. I think there is only one other guy in the entire NHL with a number that high.

      I’m not a Guddy hater. I’m still waiting to see a bigger body of work. But you’re being as bad an extremist in the “pro Guddy” column, as the haters are being haters.

  • Rodeobill

    At the beginning I thought perhaps you could cherry pick some clips of mistakes and then go, “see!?” You could even make a case that Tanev is bad by showing some mistakes of him putting it in his own net. Although I think it is hard to be truly objective, I appreciate the author at least holding himself to that expectation. I always thought that Guddy wasn’t as bad as some other’s believe, but this article has definitely given me lots to consider.

    I think that being “noticable” at the bottom of the roster is meant to take away from the value of playing those roles – just poor hockey players trying to make an impression in other ways, but why do these players always tend to become fan favorites? Seemingly invaluable to their team mates? Perhaps the game, and our involvement as fans can’t be reduced to the scoreboards and the wins/losses column.

    Hockey is about passion as well. Our team plays for us and they play for each other. These “intanglibles” like loyalty, sacrifice, leadership, etc. can’t be quantified and are easily dismissed, but what is this sport without those things? Without injustice/ justice served? Without cheers and boos? Without the passion? Who would want to watch that, not even to mention how many seats would that sell?

    The “roleplayer” is much more important to the team than people give them credit for, but at what cost to the team and cap? Guddy would look great as a 6/7 D at a low cost, but that’s not going to happen. The problem here is he is being billed and considered to be a top 4 but he has yet to (and seems unlikely to) prove he has those chops.

  • Naslund

    They probably would have moved Gudbranson by now if Tryamkin were still here. Nonetheless, when Manson tried to cheapshot Horvat, and the Canucks response was to send out Dorsett to “send a message”, it was pretty pathetic. Manson was laughing in the penalty box. If this team ever makes the playoffs, they will need some big boys. Unless they can get some more from somewhere, right now, Gudbranson is the only one they have.

  • DJ_44

    “breakouts” -clip 2.

    Here EG has a hard dump in intercepted by a player coming off the bench. Giveaway? sure. Dangerous. Not a all. three canucks are still in position and Dallas is changing.

    The analysis presented by Jannikk is, you guessed it, erroneous.

    In the sequence below, Gudbranson plays a stretch pass, which looks like a solid idea, as his team is changing on the fly. When the camera swings over, however, you can see his intended target is covered by three opponents, one of which intercepts the puck and heads on the attack.

    It was not a stretch pass. It was nearing the end of a shift. Horvat presented the blade of his stick to EG for a deflected dump in and change. This play happens 25 to 30 times a game at least. As such, Horvat was not “covered” by opponents. Opponents were close to Horvat, which makes the deflected tip in all the more correct read since they have to turn a retrieve. Again, however, EG did not see the man coming off the bench.

    • Hack-smack-whack

      Thanks for taking the time to go through that DJ. We’re all aware of Guddy’s limitations as a player, but when I read Beichler’s assertion that he couldn’t find anything laudable in the last 5 games, that pretty well summed up his intent in this piece.
      Also too many fans have a short term memory; it wasn’t that many years ago that crashing the net and piling on at our crease after every shot, was a regular occurrence.
      Its obviously challenging to be objective in a piece, when you have an objective…

    • Janik Beichler

      Whether you are about to change or not, passing the puck into that much traffic when there are better options available is not a good idea. The fact that he didn’t see the man coming off the bench just proves the point.

      • DJ_44

        He was not passing the puck. The intercept was from off the bench.

        There were not necessary a lot of better options. He just missed the guy off the bench, which is not uncommon.
        It a giveaway, but not an egregious error.

        I was at the Dallas game. Gudbranson played very well.

  • myshkin

    All this stuff about Guddy is interesting but the true test will be how much money he commands if and when he becomes a free agent. It doesn’t seem like he should get a long term contract but stranger things have happened when the competitive juices of the GM’s kick in on the first day of free agency.