Brad Hunt and Travis Dermott have been a pretty solid pair since the latter joined the Vancouver Canucks in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs just before the deadline on March 20th.
Dermott has yet to tally a point for Vancouver in five games, his highlights have included consecutive textbook executions of defending a 2-on-1 against the Minnesota Wild on the recent road trip. His skating is a bonus compared to the man he replaced on the roster, Travis Hamonic, and his decision making thus far has been mostly sound.
Meanwhile, Hunt’s been throwing up some offensive numbers. He scored the lone goal for Vancouver in St. Louis on Monday and he recently put together a four game point streak. A third pair defender with some occasional flair.
The ‘tired and listless’ element has not shown up in these two and they’re not the reason for the team’s demise.
Comparatively undersized, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Hunt got squashed twice in the home-and-home against St. Louis.
Before bouncing back with the goal in the third period on Monday, Hunt had been pinned awkwardly along the boards in the first period by behemoth Blues forward Alexei Toropchenko, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 225 pounds. ‘Huntsy’ limped to the bench.
Hunt was tripped up and slammed into the boards Wednesday night as well, this time by 6-foot-2, 195-pound left winger Mackenzie MacEachern late in the second period. MacEachern was penalized on the play while Hunt popped up and continued playing.
The 33-year-old Maple Ridge native has shown a certain comfort level and savvy with regular playing time.
It’ll be curious to see what occurs when the Canucks return Kyle Burroughs and/or Tucker Poolman, both righties, to the line-up. There will be some shuffling and it’ll mean the end of Dermott/Hunt.
Often times NHL third tandems can be exploited. It’s why opposing coaches love to see them trapped out following icing calls.
The textbook example is the 2016 Stanley Cup Final when the Pittsburgh Penguins consistently ran through, past, and around the San Jose Sharks 3rd pair of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak. An extreme example that was a key factor in the series.
The tandem of Hunt and Dermott hasn’t been ‘the problem’ in the Vancouver Canucks recent stumbles. Wednesday night they were on the ice for the Blues game winner, but it was a play in which Dermott blocked a shot and the carom took a fortuitous bounce on to the stick of the goal scorer Nathan Walker. Otherwise they’ve held their own.
Rearranging the Vancouver Canucks D pairs won’t be out of desperation or need at this point, it’ll simply be out of an opportunity to upgrade.
With a Cup contender, these 5-6 D-men become the 7-8 or 9. The Canucks aren’t a Cup contender. They’re also not a team that can hoist blame on their third pair.
Big picture they’re not the answer, but they have been an effective part of a temporary solution.