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2 tormented Canucks surprisingly showing some game

Is it time for Jim Benning to sell high on two of his “prized” acquisitions?

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NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning
Neither of Loui Eriksson or Erik Gudbranson have received much love during their time in Vancouver. If they ever read anything about themselves online, they should read (the first half) of this.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is something that’s never been done in the online history of Canucks writing. It’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write.

We’re talking about praise for both Erik Gudbranson and Loui Eriksson.

Sure, JD Burke from The Athletic penciled an article lauding Gudbranson’s recent play, but we’re talking about compliments for BOTH players in the SAME article!

Have I lost my mind? Am I just here for the trolling? Do unicorns poop skittles?

You should get the answer to all of those by the end of this piece. Except that last question, there’s already a clear answer for that.

“All-Star” Guddy a Point-Producing Machine

Alright so last week I labelled Guddy as an All-Star. I hope you’re all keeping that in mind when it’s time to get voting.

That was last week against the Bruins, when the Canucks put up a touchdown with the two-point convert on Boston. Gudbranson factored in on the score sheet with his second multi-point game as a Canuck. The first was in December of 2016 against the Lightning, when the Canucks beat Tampa Bay with two-point games from Guddy and Jack Skille.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning
Dec 8, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After Edler and Tanev went down with injury against the Vegas Golden Knights on October 25th, it was Ben Hutton and Gudbranson who were tasked with being the Canucks shutdown pair. It seemed like a treacherous thought at the time, but Vancouver actually went 3-2 with Hutton and Gudbranson manning the top pair.

In those games, Gudbranson and Hutton struggled mightily against Pittsburgh, Colorado and Chicago. and were shelled in their own end. Perhaps Guddy isn’t well equipped to face the Crosby’s, MacKinnon’s and Kane’s of the world.

Hutton and Guddy did perform well against Arizona and Minnesota in those games. Their matchups against the top line weren’t as tough, but they still fared well regardless.

However, what’s caught the attention of most was Gudbranson’s five-game point streak (2 goals, 4 assists). In a market where points from defencemen are about as common as Donald Trump telling the truth, Guddy’s outburst was an unexpected surprise.

Even though those showings against Pittsburgh, Chicago and Colorado were less than impressive, Gudbranson is showing signs of improved play. One of the things that’s stood out to me is his willingness to jump up in the rush. The play that jumps to mind is the game against the Buffalo Sabres, where Gudbranson jumped up on the rush and rang one off the post.

It was a small moment, but how many of those plays have we ween from Guddy over his 102 games in Vancouver?

Eriksson Emerging on the Stats Sheet

After two brutal seasons to start his tenure in Vancouver, Eriksson was rewarded for his incompetence by being gifted a spot on the Canucks top line beside Elias Pettersson. Hey, new season, fresh slate.

The problem? Eriksson mostly squandered his opportunity on the top line. He has three assists in his first two games, but then went seven games without a point.

Whether it was the demotion in lineup or the return of Pettersson, something clicked with Uncle Loui. During that 7-6 thrill-ride against Colorado, Eriksson got back on the score sheet with his first goal of the season. Since then, he has eight points in six games.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Boston Bruins
Nov 8, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Loui Eriksson (21) gets set for a face-off during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The bar has been lowered for Loui, but he’s already showing signs of being a different player from last season. He scored a power play goal against Boston, his first since the 2016-17 season. He’s also got seven even-strength assists in 20 games, after putting up at eight assists at even strength in 50 games last year.

He’s also doing most of his damage without Pettersson. Since his point streak began, Eriksson has mostly played alongside Bo Horvat, with a rotating door of wingers at left wing (Tim Schaller, Brendan Leipsic, Antoine Roussel).

This bodes well for Uncle Loui and the Canucks. If he can keep up his production alongside Horvat, the Canucks could optimistically picture themselves with two scoring lines when Baertschi returns.

Can We Expect it to Continue?

In a word, no. Honestly, if there was any chance of selling high on either of Eriksson or Gudbranson, now wouldn’t be a terrible time to do so.

Of course that’s wishful thinking, but there are signs that this won’t keep up for either player.

Even though Eriksson has played well over the last handful of games, he has teased Canucks fans during his first two seasons as well. In both 2016-17 and 2017-18, Eriksson raked together a solid ten game stretch where he potted a few goals and teased his former top-six potential.

Let’s flashback to November 2016. It took Eriksson until Game 14 to pot his first goal as a Canuck. That kick-started a ten-game stretch where Eriksson would score six goals. He would only score five in next 42 games.

Now to November 2017, shall we? Eriksson went down with injury four games into the season. When he returned, he posted five goals and ten points in ten games. The rest of the way? He had five goals and 12 points in 36 games.

Not that Eriksson’s streak hasn’t been enjoyable, but there’s reason to question whether or not it’s sustainable. Same goes for Gudbranson.

Looking at Gudbranson’s stats from this year compared to past, not much has changed. His turnover ratio is still poor and he still gets shelled in terms of scoring chances. The only discernible difference at the moment is that his on-ice shooting percentage is nearly 9%. For most of his career, it’s been around the 5-6% mark. Thus, Guddy got the reputation as a player who killed offence.

Canucks fans can hope that despite the bad stats, despite the poor decision making, that Gudbranson has turned a corner and is here to stay as a reliable top-six defenceman.

You can also hope that Eriksson has put his demons behind him, and that he can provide the Canucks with a secondary scoring push they desparately lacked, until this season.

You can also hope for a trade for either player, but don’t hold your breath.