Erik Gudbranson Could Bounce Back In 2023-24 With A New Reduced Role

By Coby Maeir on August 2, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) shoots on goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Arena.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically, Erik Gudbranson was one of the NHL's worst players in 2022-23. In the first year of a four-year, $4M AAV deal with the Blue Jackets, Gudbranson had the 14th-lowest wins above replacement, per, and the seventh-lowest average game score among players with at least 50 games played, per

However, there is reason to be optimistic about Gudbranson heading into the 2023-24 season. With the acquisition of Damon Severson and the potential of David Jiricek being a full-time NHLer this season, the Blue Jackets have improved the right side of their defense. This likely will lead to Gudbranson playing in the bottom pair, which is where he can best help the team, and where he found success in 2021-22 with the Calgary Flames. In 2022-23, Gudbranson was second on the team in average time on ice with 21:18 (minimum 50 games played.) That was 3:10 more than he played in Calgary, where he was seventh on the team and fifth among defensemen in average time on ice. 

Erik Gudbranson,

There's no reason Gudbranson can't be an effective player for the Blue Jackets, but if he's playing over 20 minutes a night, that's probably not going to be the case. In his defense, the multitude of injuries to the team's blueline last season forced him up in the lineup, so a reduced role should lower his ice time. 

There's nothing wrong with being a third-pairing defenseman in the NHL and not being able to play top-pairing minutes. If Gudbranson plays around 18 minutes a night this season, he can help the Blue Jackets win games. 

If he does indeed have a reduced role, don't be surprised if Gudbranson has a bounce-back campaign in 2023-24.

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