Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Brendan Gaunce

The offseason signings of Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller have put Brendan Gaunce firmly behind the eight ball as it pertains to an NHL roster spot.

Others have already highlighted how these additions exacerbated a roster logjam and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Gaunce as one of the first casualties of the numbers game. The outlook is especially grave for the 24-year-old when considering the redundancy of the skillset that he and the offseason acquisitions share.

Regardless, let’s take a look at the value Gaunce provided this season and whether there’s still room for him on an NHL roster.

Player GP G A P CF%
Brendan Gaunce 37 4 2 6 46.1

Both to the naked eye and basic counting stats, it’s evident that Gaunce has very limited offensive upside. In fact, his measly four goals and six points were enough to set a career-high.

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Ultimately, this isn’t a huge deal as Gaunce isn’t relied upon to score goals, but rather to use his defensive chops to drive a fourth-line that keeps its head above the water by shot and goal differentials alike.

In 2016-17, he accomplished that goal with flying colours on a line with Michael Chaput and Jack Skille, but this season the success didn’t quite carry over.

Viz by Bill Comeau

The difference this year was the lack of offence the Canucks produced with Gaunce on the ice.

It may come as a surprise, but in 2016-17 Gaunce posted the third and seventh best on-ice rates among Canucks’ forwards for shots and scoring chances generated respectively.

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Gaunce’s offensive shortcomings reflected more transparently this season, where the team struggled to create meaningful scoring chances.

What remained constant year over year was the versatile forward’s sterling defensive play. Here, his second-best goals against rate would have surely been influenced by the .942 on-ice five-on-five save percentage he was blessed with, though there’s ample evidence to suggest he performed decent defensively nevertheless.

Viz courtesy Micah McCurdy
Viz courtesy Micah McCurdy




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Gaunce finished among the top-6 Canucks’ forwards for suppressing unblocked shot attempts(FA/60), scoring chances(SCA/60) and expected goals(xGA/60) while deployed. Figures of this calibre would normally imply a job well done for most players, but it’s not enough to make up for the offensive price the team pays with Gaunce on the ice.

It’s an assertion that holds up under further scrutiny as well, as he was one of a handful of the team’s players to own a sub 45% expected goals share.

Unfortunately, there are too many variables at play to pinpoint the exact cause of Gaunce’s mediocrity this season. Most likely it’s a combination of adjusting to new linemates, coaches and systems that conspired to undermine his play. Couple those factors with tough injury luck and no apparent signs of an offensive breakout and it’s no wonder that the Canucks are fine with the possibility of moving on from the former first-round pick.

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Gaunce’s positional utility and sound play off the puck should give him some attraction as a depth piece, but with the Canucks facing a roster crunch it doesn’t look likely he’ll get another opportunity to prove that in Vancouver.

    • Dahlenfan

      Completely agree. Hes a reason they signed the 3 ufas. He had that role the last 2 yrs and hasn’t proven anything. he is decent defensively but a black hole offensively.
      A career ahl player. A good one at that.

      • argoleas

        Schaller basically the Gaunce replacement, and not just for the defensive play but for the grit. It seems obvious that with the influx of scoring talent, mgmt wanted more vet grit to protect them. Gaunce just did not provide that. I have no idea what his future holds.

      • Cageyvet

        Count me in as well. It’s the combination of lack of scoring and not using his size effectively enough that make him expendable. I hope he’s around for depth but I don’t expect much from him anymore.

  • bushdog

    why not give links for all of those gaudy, large tables? perhaps they serve a purpose tho as they make a couple of hundred-word articles look like 1000. just another way to push more adverts without paying the posters?

  • Doodly Doot

    It will be interesting to see how he shows at camp. I wonder if he could become like a forward position version of Biega. Keep him handy in the pressbox and deploy in emergencies. He’ll likely always be ready to go and he’s not likely to hurt you defensively.

    • Canuck4Life20

      So your point is that Sutter is better than Gaunce? Or do you seriously expect Green to play lesser players in place of Sutter because you just can’t stand a slightly overpaid third line center? Or are you still mad about a quote that Benning made three years ago about Sutter being a foundational player, as if that has any bearing on what he does on the ice? It’s really hard to figure out where such a brilliant mind like yours is coming from but I would suggest sticking to the only thing that you’re good at – calling Benning childish names and criticizing his looks.

    • So your point is that if you play depth players above their ability, the team will perform worse? No kidding.

      Place Sutter in Henrik’s role last year and the team finishes 29th instead of 26th. That’s what we’re going to get this year, though.

      Gaunce is a fine depth player. He shouldn’t be relied on to play 20 hard minutes a night and no reasonable person thinks otherwise.

      • Bud Poile

        “Place Sutter in Henrik’s role last year and the team finishes 29th instead of 26th. That’s what we’re going to get this year, though.” Goon

        Henrik was a black hole defensively and in the circle.
        Henrik dzone f/o% :43.5% -the worst of all nine Canuck centers.
        Henrik ozone f/o%: 48.3%.Sutter had the best %.
        Henrik neutral zone f/o% :45% . Again,the worst of all Canucks centers,including Dowd,Chaput and Burmistrov.
        Henrik’s -22 +/- ranking was tied for worst on the team.
        Sutter was a +8,the best on the team by a long shot.Couple that with d-zone starts up against the NHL’s best.
        Henrk had 3 goals. Sutter had 11 goals.
        Hank had 67 shots and a 4.5% shooting average.
        Sutter had 106 shots for a 10.4% shooting average.

        • Do you intentionally cherry-pick the most useless and misleading stats, or do you just not recognize that these stats are useless and misleading?

          Sutter is a fine defensive centre and had a fine season last year. He is not a top-six centre and cannot produce offence. The Canucks have one bona fide top-six centre in Bo Horvat. Everyone else will be playing above their talent level and will be playing more minutes than they can handle. Sutter should be the third line centre. He will be the second. Beagle should be the fourth line centre. He should be the third. And so on.

  • wojohowitz

    I don`t think Gaunce has been given a fair shot. Line mates like Megna, Chaput and Skille. Eight or nine minutes a game on the third or fourth line. Not even a chance to play center regularly.

    Give him fair warning. He`s going to play 20 minutes at center on the top two lines with wingers who can play and score. Give him a five game tryout and tell him beforehand; This is it kid. It`s make or break time. Put him out there with Boeser, Baertschi, Virtanen or even Goldobin who is another on the bubble.

    I say the same about Hutton – top four, twenty minutes – prove it.

    Instead what are we going to see? Eriksson, Gagner, Sutter, Beagle. They will start losing almost immediately but look good with scores like 1-0 and 2-1. Then Hutton and Gaunce get claimed on waivers and have ten year careers playing somewhere else. Reminds me a bit of Grabner being the last cut from the roster two years in a row before getting traded because the Canucks and Vigneault didn`t know what he could do and couldn`t find a roster spot for him.

    • speering major

      Gaunce is not a skilled player. I thought Baertschi was completely useless when he first arrived. I couldn’t believe they kept giving him chances and understood why Calgary let him go. He turned it around. The key difference is Sven has always been skilled, even when he was struggling it showed. Goldobin is in a similar spot now. Gaunce on the other hand is not highly skilled and hasn’t produced notable offense at any level.

      Gaunce is the kind of guy you root for but he just doesn’t have it. His scoring ability has been a disaster. They should send him down to Utica and leave him there until he starts scoring regularly and gets some confidence or the Canucks need to call someone up due to injuries. There is an endless stream of players on the fringe that can be responsible defensively and score 10 goals a season. Losing Gaunce is not a problem. He needs to get better, plain and simple

  • PQW

    No biggy guys, nothing much was expected from Gaunce by us elite hockey minds as a lowly 26th pick in a weak draft. In fact, GM Mike Gillis only had ONE top nine pick during his entire illustrious tenure and that turned out to be our top centre and next ‘C’ Bo Horvat.

    Guys, in comparison Benning has been gifted a SIXTH, a FIFTH, another FIFTH and a SEVENTH overall and still hasn’t hit a proven home run like Bowie is. Everyone of his given picks is a big fat question mark.

    Smell the coffee blowhards, as my comment and proven facts attest, Vancouver is now the worst run franchise in the league and Benning is the worst GM alongside fellow stooges Bergevin and Dorian – which makes me hope these three clowns can stumble through a three way deal which moves the likes of Gaunce, Slugbranson and Juolevi OUT and brings superstar ERIK KARLSSON IN to Van City…

      • El Kabong

        I’ve always been a fan of Gaunce and have been pulling for him since day one. I do think that given an opportunity this year he would double his points from last year but that would be his ceiling.
        Nice kid, good team mate but I can’t worry about a fourth liner.

      • PQW

        No, I am focusing on top nine picks pal and the fact that GMMG had just ONE and delivered while Benning has had FOUR and failed to hit a proven home run yet. As for Boeser, looks promising after one season, but as the saying goes… even a blind squirrel finds a choice acorn once in a while”.

        • “nine’ is an arbitrary cut-off. Gillis also had the 10th overall pick in his first year, and took Cody Hodgson.

          I am a big fan of Gillis’s tenure with the Canucks but one area you absolutely cannot argue is drafting – it was a weakness under Gillis, and it’s been a strength under Benning. Cut out the first round and just compare depth – Benning still comes out way ahead.

          Gillis tops Benning in free agent signings, college signings, trades, internal re-signing, coaching and management decisions, and pretty much every other category, but you just look even more a buffoon to try and say Gillis was some sort of unheralded drafting wizard. The team’s drafting outside the first round for basically the past twenty years before Benning arrived was completely abysmal.

    • Braindead Benning

      Roughly the looks similiat as it took Beagle around 5 years to get into the double digit point category… seems Gaunce could have the same career path

  • Killer Marmot

    Gaunce had an even-strength goal differential of zero last year playing for a weak team. So long as games are decided by whichever side gets the most goals, that will appeal to a lot of coaches. Green, with his preference for a shut-down line, is likely among them.

  • Killer Marmot

    There is a strong tendency among analysts and fans alike to give more value to offensive than defensive abilities, even though “a goal prevented is a goal scored”.

    As an example, fans would decry the loss of Goldobin and yet shrug at the loss of Gaunce, despite the latter having a far superior even-strength goal differential.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    Gaunce is 24 years old, and everyone here is writing him off already. I don’t really see old man Beagle being much of an improvement, especially now that he has 12 million reasons to relax.