Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Saying Gud-Bye to the Same Six Defencemen

Canucks fans were sitting close to their phones on Monday afternoon, with the trade deadline upon us it had many fans wondering if Nikolay Goldobin would be swapped for a similar skilled player in a sour situation. Instead, they were we in for a surprise when it was announced that the Canucks had moved on from Erik Gudbranson instead.

At this point in the season the Vancouver Canucks have now moved on from Michael Del Zotto and Erik Gudbranson, two of the players that were going to be roadblocks for this defence core as the Canucks move forward in this part of the rebuild. Erik Gudbranson came to Vancouver with significant fanfare, with time the term “captain material” even thrown around multiple times by Canucks management. By all accounts, the front office was confident that they had found that big, right shot defenceman that every team needs in a deep playoff run.

Then he started playing.

It quickly became evident that the NHL had passed him by; speed and skill was taking over for size and grit and Erik Gudbranson was unable to evolve in lock-step with the rest of the league. The unnecessary icings, countless boxed breakout passes and dashingly handsome postgame interviews were becoming more common in Vancouver than rain in October.

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When Gudbranson arrived in Vancouver he was only months away from a tough six game playoff series loss to the New York Islanders, in those six games Guddy averaged 26:54 of ice time and was leaned upon to be the number one defenceman during that playoff series.

Gudbranson was initially paired with Ben Hutton when he arrived in Vancouver in a combo that appeared to have all the makings of a competitive NHL second pairing. Hutton was coming off a good rookie campaign that saw him put up 25 points in 75 games.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, a puck moving young left handed defenceman paired up with the rugged, right shot, defensive defenceman who can bomb a 103mph slapshot as the icing on the cake.

In Gudbranson’s first season he was only healthy for 30 games, and in those 30 games he was paired up with Ben Hutton 85.2% of the time in five on five situations. This had to limit the potential for growth in Ben Hutton’s game as that season he saw a noticeable drop in five on five scoring, dropping down to only eight points in 71 games, compared to his rookie season that saw him stack up 18 points five on five points in 75 games.

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This was noticeable in the Goals For/Against ratio where the Gudbranson-Hutton pairing allowed a total of 68 five on five goals in 1225 minutes (an average of 3.33 goals against per 60 minutes) over a three-year period. When Ben Hutton was taken away from Gudbranson he saw his goals-against total drop down to two goals per 60 minutes. You can actually extend the differential even more when you include powerplay and penalty kill instead of only looking at even strength play.

But I’m a positive guy, so… let’s not do that.

Sure, Erik Gudbranson was a good guy in the room, and I’m sure he was a great guy to have on the road for the single Canuck players too. The problem was simply that the game has evolved and he simply couldn’t keep up. Players of Gudbranson’s ilk are on the brink of extinction and finally the Canucks have moved on from him and his contract. Tanner Pearson brings the possibility of some depth scoring and if Luke Schenn’s first game against Anaheim was any indication, they may actually be better with Schenn in and Gudbranson out.

There are already some names that are in the Canucks system that could show promise to be NHL level defencemen.

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The Canucks need to keep stocking the shelves with defencemen who have top four upside, when the time of the 2019 draft rolls around my hope would be that they will target that position in the first two rounds, all things being equal. Obviously, there will be a lot more time to think about these things once the order of the first round is determined.

If this team can make a move involving Brandon Sutter in the offseason to make room for the Hockey Gaud to step in, this team will look drastically different next season. Moving on from Michael Del Zotto was a good start and now parting ways with Erik Gudbranson is another necessary step into the future. The only way to move forward was to break up a group of defencemen that simply wasn’t getting the job done. Now the next step is to go out and sign another defenceman named Erik.


  • Beer Can Boyd

    Both Hutton and Pouliots play improved immensely the minute they were moved off Gudbransons pairing. Pouliot has actually looked good the last few games paired with Biega. I’m not sure Pearson will amount to much, but getting rid of Guddy was definitely addition by subtraction.

      • Punisher

        The best trade Benning will ever make to improve this team! I actually yelled “Why?” when I learned of the contract extension – while Gudbranson was recovering from injury.

        Now if we can move on from Sutter and Eriksson (where excitement and offense goes to die…) we may have something.

  • Me

    Someone should tell Chris Faber that Luke Schenn and Luke Schenn don’t make great defensive partners. For some reason you never see both of them in a room (or on the ice) at the same time.

  • Mike Bossy

    Nice to see a non-snarky article about Guddy. He isn’t a good defenceman in today’s new-era NHL, but he also didn’t steal your lunch money, probably. 😛

  • Defenceman Factory

    Thanks Chris for a decent take on Gudbranson. Every evaluation of Hutton, Poulliot and Guddy’s other left side partners always had the element of doubt on whether quality of D partner was having a significant impact. His departure gives the coaches and management an opportunity for a clearer evaluation of the LHDs

    Guddy, MDZ and Gagner are gone. So is Linden. Probably a coincidence. Hopefully this off season Schaller is gone and Sutter is traded. The Eriksson contract doesn’t look movable till after next season. The press box is going to be very crowded with forwards at the end of the year when Sutter and Virtanen return.

  • Fred-65

    On the positive side I tend to think they have a prospect in Sautner, Brisbois may settle down but he’s a long from that player they need at this stage. JB should look himself in the mirror and give Biega a raise. Juolevi you get the feeling may be a 5-6 D but the expectations are falling. Luke Schenn needs to get serious about his conditioning if he wants to extend his career The one thing that I can’t figure in why JB is everse to McEnemy in favour of Brisbois ? his recovery from his injury seem to be well under way and leads the team for a D in Utica. At 6’3″/220 has the size to play his position, bit of a mystery, he’s a UFA this summer

      • petey40

        Nonsense. Juolevi had the worst plus minus amongst defencemen in the AHL so was nowhere near good enough for the bigs before yet another big injury.

        This kid has been unable to make the team from training camp since he was drafted 3 seasons ago – which is really saying something with the trainwreck on show in Van season after season!

        You fanbiys just need to admit that Juolevi is a massive injury nightmare bust who will be lucky to stick in the bigs if he even makes the show at all.

        Terrible drafting at five overall when the likes of Sergachev, McAvoy and superstar Matt Tkachuk were all available to the draft guru on a team DESPERATE for NHL ready players! Just accept the truth and move on, you’ll feel better.

    • bobdaley44

      5-6 D? He will be a better all round player than Hughes if he gets healthy. Guy was putting up decent numbers in the A. Much tougher league than the NCAA.

  • Dirty30

    If Schenn can be more effective than Gudbranson then the game hasn’t passed that type of player by, it’s simply passed by Gudbranson.

    Schenn looks like he lives on Molsons, donuts and face punches compared to Guddy, but he at least retains the ability to see the flow of the game and demonstrate some decent positioning.

    If Luke Schenn can outplay you at D, the problem is not size, fitness or good looks, there’s some deeper problems for a player like Guddy, and it seems like a complete lack of hockey IQ.

    If Schenn takes Bulldogs role and salary because Biega moves up a notch, that’s very fair value and deployment, and a much improved blue line.

  • Burnabybob

    “The Canucks need to keep stocking the shelves with defencemen who have top four upside, when the time of the 2019 draft rolls around my hope would be that they will target that position in the first two rounds, all things being equal.”

    Unless the Canucks dramatically move up in the standings over the final 18 games, Bowen Byram is the BPA to them, I bet they pick a forward in the first round. If they pick 7th, the best player available to them would be Matthew Boldy, according to the consolidated rankings.

    • The EliteProspects draft centre has a few rankings that puts Byram in the 6-7 range. MyNHLDraft currently has the Canucks selecting Byram at #8. The scouting reports I’ve read have been totally positive with top pairing as his potential ceiling. Even though he’s not a RHD, if we could get him at #8, that would be a steal. We could roll Byram, Hughes and Juolevi for an entire game with complimentary RHD’s like Stecher.

      • The problem then is finding more RHDs of Stecher’s caliber.

        Honestly I think people overstate the importance of handedness. All other things being equal you want an LHD/RHD pairing, but if you’ve got four great LHDs and only two great RHDs, then run with someone on their off-hand.

      • Burnabybob

        Byram would be a nice pick. It all depends when they pick and who else is available. The problem is that they are already relatively deep at RHD, with Hutton, Hughes, and Juolevi. If the Canucks pick 8th, I would consider him, after taking a long look at some of the forwards who will be available. Alex Newhook looks pretty good, and the Canucks need scoring depth.

  • Dan-gles

    I am surprised no one is complaining about the 2nd and fourth we sent Florida’s way with mccann. I looked it up and Florida selected Masherin in the second and a long shot to make the nhl in the fourth. But interestingly when the 2nd was used, DeBrincat, Hart, Dube, Raddysh, kuokkanen, Girard, and the famous Johnathan Dahlen were all available. Not saying benning would have used it to select one of these guys but that’s a lot of good young players to select from. There is an alternate universe where we didn’t trade for guddy and still have mccann plus one of these prospects.

      • Kootenaydude

        Nothing wrong with the trade I’d Gudbranson played to expectations. Even if he played half decent and wasn’t injured. Like I previously said. When you can trade an expendable unproven third line cantre for a big, high draft pick, RHD that fills your positional needs. You make that trade every day of the week. I think the market is so high for Dmen and centres that the Canucks should keep drafting centres and Dmen. Trade or UFA for wingers.

        • The problem was expecting Gudbranson to play like a top-four defenceman. He *never* played that way in his career. The season before the trade Travis Yost wrote a fair bit about how the Mitchell/Gudbranson pairing was the *worst* pairing in the NHL. Gudbranson has always been bad, and if management expected him to be good, well that says a lot about management’s ability to assess NHL talent.

    • Duke Hauser

      I complained yesterday about this when someone was gloating how Benning fleeced Rutherford on the Gudbranson trade. Absolutely a horrible trade for a rebuilding team. There needs to be more noise on how poor some of Benning’s decisions have been. More draft picks not less for a team desperate for more talent. It drives me crazy to see a man who can draft not loading up on picks.

    • Defenceman Factory

      The trade for Gudbranson was a good idea but definitely the wrong player. If the Canucks had actually landed a big 2nd pairing RHD it would have been a home run. Guddy, unfortunately was a swing and a miss.

    • truthseeker

      It’s funny how people who argue against the trade also ignore the 5th rounder we got back. Like we gave up McCann a 2nd and 4th for Guddy and nothing else. So really it was McCann and a 2nd. 4th and 5th balance each other as the odds of success of any player from those rounds are virtually identical.

      Once again, because everyone seems to keep ignoring this, it was proven with first hand information by 2 sources, not second hand, first hand, that McCann was not liked and was a problem in the locker room. And where is McCann now? Given up on by the Panthers. Moved to the wing in Pittsburgh because he’s useless at center. Has a couple of “I’m on a new team” goals, but we’ll see how long it lasts.

      And when assessing the value of a pick it’s not logical to cherry pick the second rounders that end up being successful (although a few on your list haven’t done anything yet). You judge on the odds of the pick itself.

      So the canucks gave up McCann and a 2nd round pick that has around a 12% chance of ever becoming a top 6/top 4 NHL player, for Gudbranson.

      The other fallacy people are doing now is judging the Guddy trade based off the ability and perception of him right now and applying that as what he was back at the time of the trade. Not logical.

      Even if we give Goon’s argument that at the time of the trade people like Yost were complaining about him based on his corsi (which I do admit is a valid point, the canucks probably should have paid more attention to those numbers) the fact remains in his final year in Florida he was, as the article says, coming off a strong playoffs and a regular season where he had a GF% above 50%. So it’s not like there wasn’t some evidence that he might/could be an effective player.

      And the last point that everyone ignores is the value of NHL D. Simple fact is, trade precedent has proven time and time and time again that D is super expensive in the NHL. If you want a D man you will pay more in terms of value of other positions (aside from #1 center) and draft picks. People here still insist on thinking of trades in purely “talent for talent” terms and ignore these factors.

      At the time of the trade Benning would have to give up more to get an NHL D man. Simple as that. That’s not justifying the trade itself, but it does justify the cost if that is a trade one would want to make.

      And Goon, you’ve mentioned this idea that the Yost wrote about the Mitchell/Guddy pairing being the “worst” before, and I believe I called you out on it to provide a source for that claim. You didn’t. I google that and find nothing. Only the trade article about Guddy himself. So once again, source this claim that Yost “wrote a fair bit” about them being the worst.

      Everyone can read exactly what Yost said right here about the trade.


      • He tweeted it about 30 times that year and mentioned it multiple times on his podcast with Dimitri Filipovic. I do not have the time or the interest to go back through a hockey writer’s tweets from four years ago.

      • You can also just look up his stats from that season and see he was brutal.

        The idea that Benning “had” to trade for a defenseman just isn’t the case. He didn’t. And he could have traded for a dozen other defensemen who were cheaper than Gudbranson because they didn’t have his draft pedigree or completely undeserved reputation and who would have given the Canucks better play. And that’s totally undermined by the fact that the Canucks have now given Gudbranson away for a reclamation project winger (the one position where they have depth) when the only replacement player they have or him is Luke Schenn (who coincidentally probably would have been available a couple years ago for less than Gudbranson, and probably would have played better).

        • truthseeker

          I did. That’s where I found that his GF% was over 50% in his final season with Florida. Since that was the main argument used by this site to justify his being “the worst defender in the NHL” now, in order to convince the “eye test” crowd, I figured it would be appropriate to note that at the time of the trade his GF% was decent. Surely that number can be some proof that he was a better player at the time of the trade? Any comment on that argument?

          Where did I say Benning “had” to trade for a defenseman?

          Speculative argument. What “other” D men “could he” have traded for at the time? Not to mention this entire line of your argument is a red herring. None of this is what my post is about.

          If you’re interested in countering any of the arguments I made, I’d be happy to respond, but complaining about Guddy’s “draft pedigree” or who the canucks “could have had” back then or bringing up the return they got for him now etc….well…that’s not addressing the points I made.

        • truthseeker

          That’s just because you’re too f…king stupid to understand even the most elementary logic.

          I mean you just proved it again. You just read a post where I clearly say that Benning probably should have considered some of the numbers Guddy had before making the trade, and where I clearly stated that the cost didn’t necessarily justify making the move. Yet in your little conformation biased pea brain you can’t even see that and think that I’m “boot licking”. lol. You really are a stupid human being.

      • Duke Hauser

        You bring up some excellent points but how is doubling down last year on a 3 year $12 million contract defensible. The trade return would of been far superior than Pearson last year.

        • truthseeker

          It’s not. Which is why I never mentioned it. In fact you can go back and check the comments boards and you’ll find I was in favor of simply letting him walk away when he reached FA. A position both the haters and the fanboys here did not agree with.

          I believe the most I ever said was, and this is after the signing, that the canucks would be able to “handle” his cap hit. And that is/was true. Guddy’s cap hit was not going to be an issue for the canucks.

          As for what trade value he had last year….that’s pure speculation. You could be right or you might be completely wrong. I personally don’t really care about stuff like that. Speculation like that is not sound reasoning and judging Benning or any other GM on hearsay, either to their benefit or against them, is not logical.

  • 51Geezer

    If the lottery puts them in the 2 or 3 spot they can trade down and take Byram and the BPA wherever he might be . Right now they are more likely to fall past 7 and into 8-10 and miss Byram. I’m hoping they sink to 28th or 29th.

  • I am Ted

    I would NOT be shocked if Guddy was a decent D-man in Pitt. Canucks are a poor team and he can’t be a foundational piece here. At best, he’s a complimentary piece on a good team. I did like his grit and edge but that isn’t enough.

    Erik Karlsson?! Are you insane? He’ll be 29 on July 1 and the payment will be massive. I can’t see the logic in this move. Canucks won’t be competitive for a few years (maybe) and EK will be in decline by then; an aging D man who will probably be breaking down (he seems to already be dealing with a recurring groin issue much like our own B Sutter). So, no, this is a bad idea. Very bad.

    Canucks can’t look at players over 26 or so at this point. Keep drafting and trading. Maybe the Laffs will part with Kapanen for Tanev over the summer. Benning will have to be smart about making trades and try and stay away from older free agents.

    • I Am Ted

      Just checking to see I can still post, even though i have been lurking for weeks lol. Excuse the serious ‘hockey’ post, I will be back to obsessing on B*tthole Burke and trolling as usual very soon.

      • petey 40

        Hey, where is everyone? I made this fake name here to make fun of this guy and no one noticed? This is the kind of stuff that pushes me to self harm. I’ll post a picture sometime of me stretching my scrotum to my chin, then you’ll be sorry for ignoring me, the great PQW. lol