Blue Jackets Defenseman Erik Gudbranson Bouncing Back On Defense in 2023-24

By Coby Maeir on February 7, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Gudbranson is in the second year of a four-year, $4M AAV contract he signed in the summer of 2022. He's one of the more respected players in the Blue Jackets locker room and brings a physical presence on the ice. 

He's also been one of the league's best defenders this season after a rough year in 2022-23. 

According to, Gudbranson is second in the NHL in both even-strength defensive goals above replacement (EVD) with 5.6 and overall defensive goals above replacement (Def) with 6.9. Additionally, he's ninth in expected even-strength defensive goals above replacement (xEVD) with 4.6 while ranking 22nd in overall expected defensive goals above replacement (xDef) with 4.5. 

Among 845 skaters in 2022-23, he was tied for 785th with -3.9 EVD, tied for 748th with -3.3 Def, tied for 834th with -7.9 xEVD, and 835th with -8.2 xDef. 

What stands out the most between his 2022-23 stats and his 2023-24 numbers is his average time on ice. Last season, he played a career-high 21:17/game, but has played 19:27/game this season, a 1:50 decrease. 

Gudbranson thriving in his current role has been a positive development for the Blue Jackets in an otherwise dreadful season. If he can play like this as a third-pairing defenseman for the remainder of his contract, it'll be a win for both him and the club. 

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