I am pretty sure I can safely say that nobody expected Brendan Gaunce would merit his own post in the player reviews this year. A late first round pick back in the underwhelming 2012 NHL Draft, Gaunce never was able to find his footing in the NHL. He spent seven years in the Vancouver Canucks organization, splitting time between the big club and Utica before joining the Bruins organization for a season. After playing just one game in the NHL with Boston, Gaunce headed overseas to try his luck in Sweden, where he ended up winning the SHL championship.
The Blue Jackets must have liked what they saw, because they saw fit to sign him to a two-way deal this past offseason. Gaunce lit it up for the Monsters to start off the year, leading the offense in goals and points in the time he was there. He eventually earned the call-up back to the NHL where to my surprise he stuck around, playing 30 games with the Blue Jackets, setting a career high with 7 points in a fourth line energy role. There were a few healthy scratches along the way, but with COVID and injuries plaguing the team all year, he was never sent back down to Cleveland nor did he spend any real long stretches in the press box.
5v5 CF%: 52.9
5v5 FF%: 54,6
Gaunce came to Columbus on a one year deal and is once again an unrestricted free agent. At 28 years old, he proved to be a solid depth player with the Jackets and a leader in Cleveland, both in the room and on the ice. If he is willing to come back in a similar role, I wouldn’t mind the Blue Jackets bringing him back for another year, considering he seemed comfortable with the team and his role on it.
On a cold Sunday night in February, Gaunce had a career night, leading the way (along with Dean Kukan) to a 7-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. It was the first three point night of his NHL career, and he was able to achieve it with less than eight minutes of ice time. Not too shabby.
Gaunce impressed at the start of his stint with the Blue Jackets, putting up 5 points in 10 games. Unfortunately, from there the points were much fewer and far between. In his final 20 games, he registered only two more points with 4 minor penalties committed in his limited ice time.
Gaunce filled a role on the fourth line, didn’t look out of place and wasn’t a detriment to the team. He did take ice time away from some young guys who I would have preferred to see more of *cough TFW Cough*. For his efforts, I am giving him a solid C.
How would you grade Brendan Gaunce’s 2021-22 season?
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