(Graphic created by the indispensable, Matt Henderson. Follow him @MHenderson95)
Although early reports indicated that the Canucks weren’t actively involved in the Jonathan Drouin sweepstakes, it is becoming increasingly clear that they – at the very least – kicked the tires on the disgruntled forward.
In response to the Canucks query, it is rumoured that the Tampa Bay Lightning keyed in on Bo Horvat and were summarily dismissed. A sentiment echoed less than a week ago in Jason Botchford’s post-game article, wherein the industry insiders he talked to agreed with this decision – unanimously no less.
I’m not surprised that people aren’t warm to the idea, but I didn’t expect a unanimous no. If you read yesterday’s Monday Morning Musing, you’d already know I’m of a different mind, though.
Before we get into my argument to the contrary, let’s take a look at what exactly was said in Botchford’s column…
I asked a group of people in the league, who are smart, forward thinking people, people who have had success already, about this possible trade. I asked if they would do a Horvat for Drouin straight-up swap, and do it from the Canucks perspective.
It was unanimous.
They all said no.
Some did mention what I would call character issues. Drouin is something of a question mark right now. Is he really a player who is going to drive a coach mad?
Is he going to take up a lot of management’s time dealing with issues?
Is he selfish?
Are you willing to take the risk he’s not?
And if you are, are you willing to trade the player who is set to be the heartbeat of your team for the next decade, even if he’s probably a 3L C right now who has struggled defensively?
There’s a lot to chew on there. While I generally think making player evaluations based on fairy dust like character, heart and intangibles is a recipe for disaster, there really might be something here. How much of something remains in question and certainly bears examining.
Is Drouin’s situation without precedent? More recently, maybe. Although, one glaring example to the contrary is Kyle Turris, who’s been a model citizen for the Ottawa Senators since requesting a trade out of the Coyotes organization – not to mention a really damn good hockey player. On the opposite end of that coin, we’ve seen similarly “poor attitudes” force the hands of their keeper, with Tyler Seguin securing his ticket out of Boston post-haste.
I don’t think it’s entirely fair to isolate these complaints as exclusively Drouin, either. Steven Stamkos is, by all accounts, not the biggest fan of Jonathan Cooper (the head coach at the crux of Drouin’s frustration) and he’s not being admonished for it to nearly the sam extent. Even if these issues were exclusively Drouin, I can’t look at what the young winger has accomplished to this point in his career and mount an argument to the contrary. Everything about his play thus far indicates that he’s a very capable middle-six winger, already. There is zero reason for Drouin to play in the AHL.
All of this and I haven’t even touched on the fact that Drouin is just twenty years old. I mean, it’s not like he’s bound to grow or change in these next few years. No, not in the slightest. Speaking from experience, anyways.
Frankly, a player’s character is the last thing I’d be basing this decision on. People in Vancouver should know this all too well. Ryan Kesler turning from hero to heel in a matter of years, as one recent example.
With that out of the way, we’re at the pressing matter of whether Drouin is worth the Canucks sacred cow, Horvat. From where I’m standing, the answer is yes.
Curiously enough, I think most people’s reluctance with this potential swap stems from the belief that Horvat is the more certain of the two to achieve any level of long-term NHL success. This certainly doesn’t stem from their play at the junior level or pedigree, as Drouin bests Horvat in both categories by a near country mile. In all likelihood, people see Drouin getting sent to the AHL and struggling to win over Cooper and assume “he’s a coach, so yeah… I guess he’s right and Drouin is struggling”.
There’s something to that, but not an awful lot. Coaches have blind spots. Alain Vigneault loves Tanner Glass. These are fallible humans, worth questioning along the way. In the case of Drouin vs. Cooper, I’m of the utmost certainty that Drouin is not only NHL ready, but that he’s already proven as much in his 89-games of NHL action thus far. This doesn’t diminish my opinion of Cooper in the slightest either, as I think the world of him as a coach.
In these conditions, Drouin has amassed seven fewer points than Horvat, with 28 fewer games to his credit. Some of this can be attributed to deployment, as Horvat’s rocking a 49.2 CorT% to Drouin’s 52 CorT% (Corsi Teammate Percentage). Then again, Horvat’s rocking an inflated 11.8 PSh% to Drouin’s 3.5%. I wouldn’t say any one player has been marked substantially more than the other by favourable, or unfavourable circumstances.
Given what we know then, it’s fair to say based solely on their professional careers that Horvat is likely a better defensive forward while Drouin can offer more prolific offence – assuming percentages normalize (they will), it’s not unfair to say much more prolific offence.
If, by some miracle, Horvat can continue to shatter expectations and develop into a Ryan O’Reilly type player, is this a player that the Canucks can build a Stanley Cup contender around? Likely, no. It wasn’t all that long ago that it was remarked that Drouin can develop into a Martin St. Louis style of player. Those, you can contend with. Two teams have, to varying extents.
To that exact end, this should be a slam dunk trade for the Canucks. You can teach star players to check, but you can’t teach checking forwards to score. This truism drives home which of the two skills should be more highly sought after and valued, with the goal of contending for a Stanley Cup. Risk aversion be damned.
If the Canucks miss out on Horvat’s high-end top-six ceiling, trying to hit on Drouin’s high-end first line ceiling, it was an endeavour worth taking a hundred times over.