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.
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.
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.
There has to be AT LEAST 2-3 NHLers on this list right? Mix them up with Stetcher, Hutton and a few more defencemen in the 2019 Draft and we got ourselves a defence core!
— Chris Faber 🤙🔥🎤 (@ChrisFaber39) February 27, 2019
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.