Nashville Predators: Gudbranson A Good Buy At Trade Deadline

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile (right) is honored by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for being the winningest general manager in NHL history before a game between the Predators and the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile (right) is honored by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for being the winningest general manager in NHL history before a game between the Predators and the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Okay, Nashville Predators fans, let’s wrap. By wrap, I mean to put a bow on the 2021 Trade Deadline, which for Preds fans was a relatively quiet one. Or so I thought until I checked Twitter at roughly 3:30 ET just after final trade calls were submitted to the league office…

GM David Poile, in some respects, did push all his chips into the middle of the table this 2021 deadline.

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No, not by way of fancy, brand name acquisitions possibly overpaying for Taylor Hall (although it seemed like Buffalo was just willing to give him away).

Nor by bringing in reinforcements like Rickard Rakell, Nick Foligno, or any number of scenarios that could have cost the Predators other significant future assets.

Poile stood relatively pat, choosing to put his faith in his team that is on a 12-3 run, propped up by the most rookies to dress in the NHL, some timely performances from the few remaining healthy veterans, and some incredible goaltending from Juuse Saros.

Poile put his faith in the team he assembled to continue performing well and get into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As a true fan of this team, it’s what all of us should be clamoring for, given everything that has occurred in this wild, roller-coaster of a season. Even despite what the outlook may be in any possible first-round matchup with the powers of the Central Division.

Did Poile sell expiring assets like most wanted him to do? No. Should he have? That remains to be seen. This article isn’t about what he didn’t do at this deadline. However, it’s what he did do and why Predators fans should be embracing it and not questioning it.

What did Poile do, you ask? He rewarded this incredible run by adding at the deadline, which six weeks ago seemed as likely as Jimmy Vesey signing with the Predators back in 2016 (that seemed to work out okay, actually).

Before we get into this, I am of complete sound body and mind knowing that the Predators did not pick up a Josh Manson or David Savard. I must be clear on that.

Poile added a physically punishing, experienced leader in 2010 3rd overall pick Erik Gudbranson from the Ottawa Senators for a 2023 (you read that right, three drafts from now) 7th round selection in the NHL Entry Draft and Brandon Fortunato. Be honest, Predators fans. Who’s heard of that name until yesterday?

As I scroll through social media on various Predators fan pages and blogs, I see a lot of pure and utter OUTRAGE at this transaction. The shock that Poile could part with two “assets” in exchange for a Defenseman with poor analytics and a paltry 3 points in 36 games.

Let’s break this down from a hockey club’s standpoint that has gone on a run like this before, in a time not that long ago.

The Predators are a team who deserve some reinforcements in a season riddled with injuries and the inevitable need for depth heading into the last 13 games of a very up and down 2020/2021 season that still could result in a playoff spot (fingers crossed).

Just get to the dance and see what happens. And although it was a painful ending, let’s not forget 2017, folks. Get in, and it’s possible to win. This is a positive vibes-only article.

Biography

Here is a rundown of some key stats for Erik Donald Stanley Gudbranson. Yes, that’s his actual name. Let’s put some emphasis on “Stanley.”

  • Right-handed shot defenseman (*premium in today’s NHL)
  • 6’5, 222 pounds
  • 554 games of NHL experience
  • Served as an alternate captain for the Ottawa Senators in his first season with the club
  • Led team in hits with 92
  • Third on the team with 51 blocked shots
  • Averaged 18:04 of ice time per game
  • A regular contributor on the Penalty Kill

Alright, so there’s the good. Let’s take a look at the analytics because it wouldn’t be 2021 if we didn’t.

The Analytics

It’s not pretty. It really isn’t pretty. However, the image circulating in Predators’ circles shows many red blotches where blue should be and vice versa.

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for most NHL defensemen worthy of Norris Trophy consideration. However, it’s a good thing Gudbranson is not garnering any Norris Trophy attention, nor is he expected to.

At the end of the day, analytics is a valuable tool for determining the “fancy” stats.

Do you know what analytics don’t measure? How much an opponent’s heart rate goes up when he has to go into a corner with a dude built like a truck, and how much a guy is willing to get in front of a screaming wrister or slap shot from a high danger zone chance to prevent a goal.

Analytics are numbers worthy of consideration in any industry and in any acquisition where the price tag warrants a deep-dive background check.

Analytics isn’t beneficial when you’re looking to pick up a 2005 Honda Civic with good mileage that’s reasonably priced, meant to get you from point A to point B while your Mustang is parked for the winter.

Clearance Pricing, Aisle 44!

Gudbranson is not going to turn a lot of heads in his time with the Nashville Predators. He shouldn’t be expected to.

Nashville acquired Gudbranson for a 7th round selection three drafts from now. According to Dobber Prospects, a 7th round pick yields a 10% chance at selecting a player that will ever see any NHL ice time.

As for Brandon Fortunato, at 24 years of age and barely able to crack an AHL lineup (9 GP, 0 Points), he will be real “Fortunato” to ever see meaningful action for the Ottawa Senators or any of the other soon to be 31 teams in the NHL.

Gudbranson is meant to fill a role. 12-15 minutes a night, especially in the immediate term when his mandated seven-day quarantine period is over, while regulars like Fabbro and Carrier continue to get healthy.

Gudbranson will provide physicality, guidance, experience, and heart for a still inexperienced defensive corps in spots four through six as it currently stands (Ben Harpur 127 GP, Jeremy Davies 13 GP, Dante Fabbro 106 GP, Alexandre Carrier 20 GP).

Should the Predators secure 4th place, the 554 games of experience Gudbranson boasts will be helpful no matter if it’s on the third pairing, in the locker room, or at practice.

Brian Burke, GM of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup team, has stated that it takes eight, nine, ten NHL caliber Defensemen to go deep in the playoffs and succeed.

As we all know this year, injuries, poor performance, and a myriad of other scenarios in a COVID world are on the table.

Acquiring an experienced, depth defenseman to play on the right side is certainly not the worst addition you can make, given the price, to help meet that quota of capable NHL defensemen needed for crunch time success.

The Log Jam

While it has been incredibly refreshing to see the youth movement take place for the Predators, this is more youth than I believe the front office envisioned at the beginning of the year.

With youth and inexperience come growing pains. These growing pains are greatly mitigated by having options in your lineup that have “been there, done that” before.

At this time of the year, every point in the standings, every blocked shot, every momentum turning hit, and every piece of advice you can pass on to younger players matters. That’s what Gudbranson brings in a limited role for the Nashville Predators.

Any professional sports organization’s goal is to win games, get into the playoffs, and subsequently do their best to be the last team standing and hold, in this case, the 34.5-pound silver chalice at the end of it all.

In a year like many fans will likely never see again given COVID, the rash of injuries, divisional realignment, a compressed schedule, NHL highs in rookies dressed, and more, it makes complete sense to make a low-cost depth acquisition. It shows that there is faith that this team can “get in and win.”

Related Story. Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons to Sitting Out Trade Deadline. light

Let’s not get this twisted for what it’s meant to be and get lost in the analytics. Let’s see what your eyes tell you, what your hockey fan IQ tells you. That will be the true measure of the value in taking a chance on a depth blueliner at the deadline.

I rest my case. David Poile, good buy on Gudbranson. Let’s go get 4th place!