While many of us have come to appreciate the steady and improved play of Florida Panthers young defenceman Erik Gudbranson over the past 20 or so games, his healthy scratch on Sunday night against the Ottawa Senators was met with some displeasure amongst his many followers. Myself included, as I was perturbed to say the least at the initial announcement that Big G was going to be watching the Sens game from the press box. The reason for his benching primarily was due to a slow line change in the Nashville game on Saturday night, which caused late coverage on the third goal. It was also reported that Gudbranson was given a “private” bag skate on Sunday morning.
The young defender has made huge strides this season after being brought along slowly early in the year, allowing him to adjust to the pace of the NHL. He has been playing with signficantly more regularity lately, and in more important situations. He’s also seen time on the power play with an opportunity to utilize his slapshot, which when he perfects will be extremely dangerous.
The maturation process of a defenceman in the NHL takes longer than any of the other positions, and Erik will be better off for this one game hiatus. He admitted that he didn’t like sitting, but understood the reason for it, and knows it’s for his ultimate benefit. While he may have just turned 20, his response about his “night off” was spoken like a man much wiser than his 20 years, and is a true testament of the type of person that he is today, and will be tomorrow:
“It’s no fun to sit out and watch your team playing out there,” Gudbranson said. “As a young guy, I can see the game and learn from this. Being on the ice is very different. The way to treat this is learn and make it a positive. I’m not going to question their decision, that’s for sure. Whatever is best for the team to win a game is best by me.”
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