Why the Canucks Win a Horvat for Drouin Swap

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(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.

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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.

  • Dirty30

    I think Drouin is too much of an unknown to risk Horvat. Honestly, who the hell says I am going to opt out of AHL games so I don’t get injured before a trade?! What an ass-hat.

    I am sure Drouin has more talent that Bo but Bo may win out on intangibles. Bo was drafted for grit, ability to play in the playoffs and so on. The Canucks seem to be lacking guys who can thrive in the playoffs – Bo could be the better candidate there too.

    Bo for Drouin is risky and I’d pass on it right now.

  • I dunno…. even if you’re going by the numbers you’ve presented alone, Drouin doesn’t strike me as a big upgrade to Horvat.

    Then when you start factoring in size/speed/strength components, all of a sudden I’d say it starts tilting in Bo’s favor. From my subjective viewing, it looks like you’re giving up a demonstrated strong forward (reluctant to call power-forward) who’s shown flashes of the “X-factor” or difference maker, for someone who can make the skilled and pretty plays. I believe you need a combination of skill-type and speed/strength players, and we seem to already have a fair number of the former.

    And I’ve even left out the character comparisons at this point.

  • TrueBlue

    This is groundless idea. It’s obvious that Canucks organization wants to Bo became future team leader, captain and commander of our squad. It’s obvious because.. He was the first kid since Ryan Kesler that have been given a chance, he told Virtanen & McCann that they made a team. And they’re right. He might not be super produktive, but he can grow up to Mikko Koivu / Bergeron’s role or even in Kopitar’s role.

    Drouin is maybe future super star and can became one of the top point leaders in the future, but he will always be individual. Bo will be the TEAM.

    And Linden & Benning knows that, thanks god.

    Yeah, for sure, we need creative forward and yeah, I would give Drouin in Canucks jersey chance, maybe for Gaunce, Brisebois + pick, but no more.

    But NO for Bo. And I’glad that thats not gonna happend.

  • TrueBlue

    I laughed. Until I realized the writer wasn’t Ekim Sillig. You do realize that centers are much more valuable in the league, right? At this point most of their fancy stats are considerably similar if you consider their match-ups, Drouin has been sheltered in terms of quality of matchups whereas Horvat is usually facing the best lines every night. This might not be shown as much in the HERO chart because early in his career he struggled and was sheltered, thus skewing the stats a bit but you know as well as I know he is a different player than what a considerable amount of the sample size this chart draws from. Bo Horvat has first line center upside at this point, you don’t think that is worth more than first line winger upside? Yes, I will accept the fact that Drouin is much more likely to reach that upside. But 7/10 times you’re losing a Drouin-Horvat swap in my mind, and when Stevie Y has very little leverage, I don’t see why you would make that trade.

  • canook

    Cooper’s guilt in Drouin’s spat with Tampa is completely irrelevant. No other team is going to give this charitable an interpretation to the Lightning’s mess with Drouin and offer a one-for-one swap with a piece of Horvat’s value. When the Lightning wind up acquiring less than a top-10 pick for Drouin, you will see it makes no sense to say the Canucks would be winners in this trade.

  • canook

    Wow, homerism uber alles.

    Horvat is a character guy no doubt and a very solid player but nothing he has done statistically historically indicates he will be elite.

    Every Stanley Cup winner has a few elite players and Drouin’s history indicates he might be that. He may still wash out but if you want the Canucks to ever win a cup they need to make gambles like this when the odds favour them.

  • Dirty30

    As much as I think Drioun is a drama queen and making himself untradeable by not playing. Yzerman is also to blame if he’s asking for Horvat. Or Chalbot and another top prospect from Ottawa. There’s no way any GM is going to bail the Bolts GM for this mess. They could of drafted Jones, Domi, etc or a handful of players after. But Bolts just look at his Junior stats and went wow. Did not even consider McKinnon was the one driving the line and Drioun was just a beneficiary. Yzerman needs to be more realistic. If he continues being so demanding he’s going to loose his franchise player come July 1st. And the Bolts will be the Florida team relocating to Quebec.

    • Dirty30

      McKinnon driving that line? Did you see Drouin’s stats the season that McKinnon left? GP-46 Goals-29 Assist-79 and Point-108. Playoffs looked even beeter with 41 point in 16 games. So was Mckinnon driving that line what he was in Denver?

  • Dirty30

    “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.”

    One thing to note – if you were the actual GM of an actual team, you might feel a bit differently. Having to deal with a problem player all the time, no matter how good they are on the ice, would be draining for yourself and everyone in the organization. That kind of thing adds up over time, and can eat away at the team to some extent. I’m not saying Drouin would be like that, but if a GM is concerned that he will be, he might not think it’s worth the hassle. That’s a reasonable human reaction to me.

  • Dirty30

    Drouin requested trade in November, IF, A discussion between JB & Stevie took place it may have happened back then.(before request became public). Assuming that is when it took place Benning has told Tampa to pound sand, thankfully.

    Drouin reminds of another player that we should all be aware of around here, former Vancouver Giant Gilbert Brule. Where is he now.

  • Steampuck

    Methinks there’s a lot more going on than a bunch of good ol’ boys talking grit and character. Horvat plays centre. Drouin, for all intents and purposes, does not. Horvat can be deployed in any situation. Drouin, for all intents and purposes, cannot. Horvat brings size. Drouin does not. I’m not disputing Drouin’s immense talent, but setting aside the old school excuses for why Canucks management won’t bite, I think there are other factors involved.

    Too: in recent Canucks history, when players have wanted out of Vancouver, we’ve been fleeced on the return. Why should Benning pony up a legit piece when the Canucks have received pennies on the dollar in return for Luongo, Kesler (though maybe less so as McCann develops), and others?

    Three: even if Drouin does pan out (and I prefer the odds of Horvat being a next gen version of Toews/Kesler), he’s going to want salary to match. That makes affording the kind of key pieces to a championship team that much harder to come by. I really think Horvat wears a little C over the bigger C on his sweater in Vancouver in the not-so-distant future. He looks like that kind of guy.

  • Dirty30

    not a chance.

    this reminds me a bit of peca for mogilny. even if you don’t count mckee and wilson i hated that trade. it led to all that crap and a total rebuild.

    so far horvat has the potential to be a top 6 forward who wears the “c” based not solely on scoring. those guys win you cups and do not come along often.

  • Cageyvet

    But in all seriousness, the reason you don’t trade Horvat for Drouin is because you don’t have to.

    Drouin’s value is at an all time low, so even if he is better than Horvat, it likely won’t take Horvat to get him (evidence of this is in the Botchford bit where he asks executives what they would do).

    So if you can get Drouin for a lesser prospect + a pick, or Virtanen/McCann straight up, then why not do that? I would.

  • I get the sense that some earlier posters had it on the nose with the click bait theory.

    Since the latest pro head-hunting excursion swept through and took what seemed to be the last of the hardcore numbers guys there seems to be a search on for direction with this site. I was under the distinct impression that the main thrust here was that with the right kind of statistical analysis, more of what made a player who he was, is, and will be could be quantified, and therefore less open to interpretation.

    This whole article seems to fly directly in the face of that. It’s almost as if the writer just picked those stats that could be used to support his argument and conveniently forgot the rest (as Maxfun quickly pointed out). This kind of argument is hardly rare, and frankly, is tiresome to wade through.

    You post some good stuff J.D. Beware of short cuts (and the urge to click bait).

  • Dirty30

    Are you flipping crazy dude! have you ever heard of leadership, character,attitude? Horvat is our Linden part 2. JD is going to be remembered as Lindros part 2. we have a future captain they have a future memory. how did you get this gig? Man, they will let anybody write online!

  • Dirty30

    Are you flipping crazy dude! have you ever heard of leadership, character,attitude? Horvat is our Linden part 2. JD is going to be remembered as Lindros part 2. we have a future captain they have a future memory. how did you get this gig? Man, they will let anybody write online!

  • TrueBlue

    I love Bo and would hate to lose him, but when a potentially elite talent like Drouin is available, a trade like this warrants serious consideration.

    If we can do something else to acquire Drouin, that would be great. Have our cake and eat it too. But he is a guy that you want on your team.

  • sh1t4brains

    The relative stats are complete garbage. Horvat played with Dorsett, Kenins, and Hansen in his first year. Drouin played with STAMKOS. Pretty obvious indicator why Drouin has a better primary assist rating. Horvat has been mostly single handedly carrying the Canucks defensively this season while Drouin plays offensive zone primarily. Another reason for why Horvat’s defensive play seems flawed. Sutter is back now, that will start to change. Drouin played the top line and amassed a whole 4 goals in a season while Horvat more than doubled that as a 4C in a sheltered role. There’s no argument that Drouin for Horvat is fair. Drouin was handed everything and did ok with it. Horvat was thrown to the wolves after Sutter got injured and has since developed because of it. Horvat is a key piece to a team, Drouin looks more like a nice addition.