Leash Tightening on Brendan Gaunce

He’s not a player that gets a lot of fanfare in Vancouver.

That’s saying something for a team that, well, usually gives almost all of its players some sort fanfare.

If you’re Brendan Gaunce, chances are you probably want to fight for a little bit more love from the fans. Although Gaunce is known for his defensive game, he’s becoming almost too invisible for the Canucks.

That’s what happens when you don’t score for 83 games.

Gaunce’s lack of goals was documented last season, when he went 57 games without registering a single tally. He did have five assists while playing in a bottom-six role throughout the season.

He’s now eight games into this season without a goal, and it’s bringing back all the old questions about his ability to score. In the AHL, Gaunce has shown the ability to put the puck in the net. Can he get it done at the NHL level?

Gaunce Is Generating

Through his first eight games of the season, Gaunce does look like a man on a mission.

Since his return against the Calgary Flames, Gaunce’s 2.25 shots per game leads the team, albeit by a narrow margin. He was really hitting his stride during the games in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where he registered 10 shots in two games.

It helps that he has the support of head coach Travis Green. In Gaunce’s first game after offseason shoulder surgery, Green played him more than 16 minutes. He played as much as 18:21 in a Nov. 22 game against the Penguins.

Brendan Gaunce Canucks
Brendan Gaunce is playing well, but the goals will eventually have to come. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Gaunce was originally slotted in on the Brandon Sutter line as a checking winger, so generating offence wasn’t his first priority. The fact that Sutter also hasn’t scored that much this season isn’t a bonus for the offensively woeful Gaunce.

Even when Gaunce was shifted from that line, he continued to look sharp.

Against the New York Rangers on Saturday, Gaunce played on a line with Markus Granlund and Jake Virtanen. That unit was one of the best for the Canucks in that game. It was the hard work on the boards by Gaunce and Granlund that led to Virtanen’s goal.

Goals Need to Come for Gaunce

There are positives for Gaunce, but he desperately needs to keep his foot on the gas. Why, you might ask? Let’s just say that offensive reinforcements are on the way.

Although he was called up due to injury, Nikolay Goldobin joined the Canucks earlier in the week. The winger has seven goals and 19 points in 17 games down in Utica. He’s the type of player the Canucks are relying on for offence down the road.

Through the first 20 games of the season, the Canucks’ strength has been in preventing goals. Where they struggle is with creating offence.

Even though Gaunce is a solid defensive player, he’s not the type of player that the Canucks desperately need. Before Gaunce rejoined the team, the Canucks were already a top-10 team in terms of goals against.

As of now, the Canucks are 21st overall in scoring, a stat that needs to change as this team progresses. If Gaunce can’t contribute at least some offence, his future with the team is in jeopardy. Luckily for Gaunce, he’s playing with passion so far this season and looks due to bump his streak.