Why the Canucks win not trading Horvat for Drouin


Image courtesy the fantastic Matthew Henderson (follow him on twitter @mhenderon95)

Just a week ago J.D. Burke put together a piece arguing that the Canucks would win a hypothetical Bo Horvat for Jonathan Drouin trade. Using a series of statistical and qualitative points to state his case, Burke was so bold as to suggest the Canucks would come out on top.

For objectivities sake, I’ve taken it upon myself to present an argument to the contrary. Regardless where my allegiances lie, there’s most definitely an argument to be made that the Canucks would be on the losing end of this deal. One I intend to make.

One could make a case for this being the great schism of our time in Canucks fandom. Would it be better to keep the known commodity, with likely the lesser talent ceiling? Or is it worth the risk to try and take on a malcontent who’s yet to hit on his sky-high ceiling?

Before I get started, let me state my case as an unabashed fan of Horvat’s game. A centre with two-way chops at this stage in his career – poor underlying numbers, be damned – earning this level of trust from the coaching staff is a rare commodity. Now that Horvat’s offensive game has rebounded nicely alongside Sven Baertschi, the Canucks have a second line that can carry this club offensively in spurts. Once the underlying results align with the level of defensive acumen Horvat’s coach is observing, the Canucks might have a second line centre in Horvat that can help in all three zones and chip in on special teams.

Horvat’s game may be short on some of the skills we’ve come to expect from a first-line centre, but that could be subject to change – this is a 20-year old, after all. More realistically, the Canucks likely have their second line centre for a generation, in the making.

At the crux of this argument though is that Horvat plays a premium position, at centre. Should the Canucks send Horvat to South Florida, it leaves a gaping hole down the middle of their lineup that could last well into the future. The Canucks may have Henrik Sedin for now, but how much longer? That leaves the Canucks with Jared McCann, Brandon Sutter and Linden Vey as their top three centres – everything remaining constant. Of course, a lot can happen, but this illustrates the challenges Vancouver would face.

Meanwhile, the Canucks have Baertschi, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Brock Boeser and Emerson Etem on the wing. Adding Drouin just adds to an area where the Canucks have established good depth.

Let’s be fair, though. Drouin has the potential to be an elite playmaking winger. In fact, were this conversation had a few months ago, Canucks fans would hop on this deal as though it were being made by the wonky AI in NHL16. It’s funny how quick things can change.

So there’s the difference on-ice. Horvat is a good player, relatively known commodity and plays a premium position. Drouin likely offers more offensively, but comes with his fair share of baggage.

That last caveat likely means more than we give credit for, too. Character seems to be a huge factor in the decision making process of Jim Benning. Arguing for a player’s character shouldn’t be the sole reason to acquire, or not acquire the player in question as it’s not a particularly prudent way of accumulating talent. However, it is something that the team which inherits Drouin should worry about. Are Drouin’s complaints exclusive to Tampa Bay, or something that might come up again the next time he faces any level of adversity.

Most projection models and advanced metrics – not to mention rankings – suggest that Drouin for Horvat is a no-brainer for the Canucks. There is still a fair argument that because of Horvat’s position, development and character that the Canucks would do well to hold onto Horvat. 

For these reasons, I think the Canucks should chart that exact course. By acquiring Baertschi, Etem and Andrey Pedan, Benning has shown a propensity for taking advantage of situations teetering on the edge of untenable. With that in mind, one can only hope that Horvat was the starting point of the negotiations, before Benning is able to take full advantage of this situation and lay the smackdown on Stevie Y.

If that’s the case, I’m all for it. Put him in a room with the Twins and watch them work their charitable, Swedish magic. Long as Drouin gets his chance to shine, the off-ice issues are likely a thing of the past. I just don’t want Horvat to be the sacrificial lamb that makes it happen.

  • Dirty30

    Here’s the crux of the argument against this trade: Drouin has an entire team playing ahead of him, including the much-coveted Stamkos.

    Horvat has an injured — albeit still incredible — Sedin ahead of him.

    Bo has been asked to take on a huge responsibility at a difficult position on a team that doesn’t have a ton of alternative support around him. He’s not playing with vets, he’s playing with another relatively new player and he’s making things happen.

    Drouin has not been put in the challenging and demanding situation that Bo has faced, and the former’s numbers are not outstanding, particularly on an Eastern based team where things are a little more open.

    If JB can get Drouin for a reasonable cost, that would be great. Give him to the Sedins to develop and one day you may have a superstar.

    Reverse the situation and imagine Bo’s development in Tampa and what would you pay to pry him out of Stevie’s hands?

    I’ll bet it would be a lot more than just Drouin.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Since when is a group of five wingers – three having failed to get more than a cup of coffee with the big club and one of those having just been drafted mere months ago and never even played a single game in the AHL, much less the NHL – having “established good depth”?

    And how can a twenty year old (former overall ninth pick or not) be considered a “relatively known quantity”?

    A lack of any numbers to back up any of the assertions made in this article only strengthens JD’s stance, in my opinion. Should have done that Drouin deal, Benning: players who can be counted on to not screw up defensively more than average are, by definition, nearly 50% of all skaters. Prolific scorers are much harder to add to a roster.

    Now, that being said, let the rebuttals commence!

    I’ll even throw in the two most common ones complete with my own rebuttals for free: “we don’t need a cancerous malcontent with a bad attitude in the dressing room!” You mean like Sven B was to the Flames? Yeah, we totally lost on that one. “We don’t need any undersized players!” Yeah, because players that are under 6′ tall are TOTALLY useless. Et tu, Patrick Kane and your three Stanley Cup Championship rings? Kiss the (Stanley Cup Championship) rings, size haters!

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      In their rookie years Horvat goes 13g-12a-25p on a line with Dorsett and Kenins…No PP time at all. avg 12mins a night

      Drouin goes 4-28-32 with 3 out of 4 goals on the PP playing with Stamkos.

      Nothing Drouin has done SO FAR shows he is going to be a prolific scorer at the NHL Level.

      There is no getting around that so far Horvat has played much harder minutes vs much higher quality of comp and delivered above everyone’s expectations.

      No way that trade should be made. Even if Drouin does turn out to be a 60-70 point guy and Horvat tops out in the 45-50 point territory, having a potential Selke candidate 2C who is going to be a major part of the leadership core going forward is just as important.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        Comparing their rookie year point totals is fair, though their deployments were drastically different, as you pointed out. However,it’s also worth remembering that while Horvat was playing with Dorsett and Kenins and Drouin was playing with Steven “Gretzky of Florida” Stamkos, it’s a two way street: do you think when the Canucks ice Dorsett-Horvat-Kenins in the offensive zone that any coaches are icing their top line and shutdown D pairing in mortal terror? Not exactly. Whereas if Tampa ices Stamkos with, well, anybody in the offensive zone it’s far more likely he’s going to see a shutdown pairing and a first or second line. You have a couple of good points, but QoC matters.

        But “potential Selke candidate” and “a major part of the leadership core”? Let’s not numerize our chicken embryos before they’ve fully gestated.

        • pheenster

          No argument that QoC matters, but not enough to move the needle on whether or not to make a deal like this. More of an interesting footnote than a key data point for decision making.

          As for counting chickens, Bo being a “major part of the leadership core” is already a thing and if you’ve missed that you haven’t been paying attention. “Potential Selke candidate” is more in the eye of the beholder, but I’d suggest to you that if you made a list of all the 20-year-old centres in the NHL and narrowed it down to three guys who might win the Selke one day, Bo’s name would be on that list.

        • Andy

          Actually if you go back and look at last year, Horvat was put out against some top centres. Kesler, Carter, Kopitar, all in Horvat’s top 10 minutes against. Followed by this year with Sutter’s injury, Horvat has played a ton against the other teams top players, not to mention being the to PK forward by over 30mins.

          Drouin couldn’t even earn a spot on the Lightning team.

          As to the Selke and leadership, Bo has already show the work ethic and passion to be a leader on the club. He will only become more a force as he ages.

          Selke “potential”. May or may not happen, kinda like Drouin’s “potential” to maybe be a “prolific scorer”.

    • Andy

      You can’t refer to P. Kane as if he is the median marker for small-ish players…he is the best player in the NHL right now. If the debate was should they trade Horvat for P. Kane in his second year then yes you trade Horvat; however, that is not the debate.

      I would not trade Horvat for Drouin. Horvat is already a solid NHLer and as the “Bull” gets stronger and gains more experience, he will just get better (and continue to prove the doubters wrong).

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        Actually, in this context I’d say it’s fair because when someone is saying carte blanche that it’s not worth selecting “undersize players”, they’re throwing the baby (Kane) out with the bathwater (the vast majority, the picks who bust or end up being mediocre that are also deemed “too small”). Because he once was a first overall pick doesn’t make him exempt. Drouin was picked third overall four years after him. Drouin could boom, he could bust or he could land anywhere between. Regardless, they both start their careers as a dice roll…unless no one even bothers because of one physical trait of negligible importance. It’s as dangerously ignorant a bias as not selecting a Russian player, a blue-eyed player, a player who writes left handed, etc.

        I’m not saying that Horvat isn’t a good NHLer, even. Just that I personally agree with JD that Drouin is probably worth the dice roll.

  • pheenster

    Much of the thought in this article was already covered (in a much better fashion) by the commenters in Burke’s article. Feels like the article came to a party with warm beer and a bucket of KFC a week after the party already happened. We’d be better served with an article on how TOM SESTITO IS BACK IN THE NHL, BABY!!!

  • andyg

    I just don’t get this fascination with smallish skilled forwards. This website seems to have a fetish for this type of player. Drouin is not a Kane type of player. He is not even at the Gaudreau level. For smaller players to become stars in this league they need to have that fearless attitude that pushes them to go to the tough areas of the ice. Tampa coaching staff feels he is not ready or has not shown the desire to.
    This is why we picked up Sven for a second. Bo Horvat has shown the exact opposite. He not only has the size but he uses it to enter and dominate the areas in front of the net.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      I don’t think it’s a “fetish” for smaller forwards – like so many commenters have accused – so much as it is a focus on an increasingly untapped resource. There’s way too much “high school coach” mentality among fans these days. Sort of like “You’re a hell of a player, Smith. Too bad you’re 5’11” and 199 lbs…you’ll never make it in the big leauges. Jones: [points at the 6’0″ 201 lb kid who is a noticeably worse player] you’re up, son. You’re gonna be a star one day!” This sort of thinking is a prime example of the kind of bias that people are (unfortunately) very prone to. A psychological trick we’ve played on ourselves, if you will. Like not buying something that’s $100 because it’s “too expensive” but buying the same item next week because it’s on sale at $99.99.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        Yes but isn’t this going a bit in the opposite direction? Not all smallish skilled players are going to be successful, in the same way that not all power forwards are going to be lumbering tanks.

        I think that Horvat shows significant offensive skill and flair — that toe drag move, quick and heavy shot, excellent acceleration that he’s added — not just defensive acumen. Preferring Horvat doesn’t mean I don’t like Drouin — I don’t have questions about his character or eventual skill. I think he’s been misused in many ways in TB. But that doesn’t mean I’d rather have him over Horvat.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          A bit, but not not much. Would you say that because someone is one or two inches taller than you that you now clearly stand no chance against them in a fight simply because of the small height differential? Probably not, so why would your opinion about someone else’s height who’s playing ice hockey instead of fighting be radically different?

          And when you’re hit by a guy who’s 200 lbs on skates is it vastly worse than being hit by someone who’s 185? No, because it’s only a 15 lb difference and you have acceleration playing a factor as well.

          I’m only saying that it’s easy to fall into the same old “bigger is better” mentality, so it’s important to keep in mind not only that it isn’t necessarily, but that exactly how much (or not-so-much, in some cases) bigger is worth questioning as well, all things being relative.

          • Smyl and Snepsts

            You need to work on your Physics. Acceleration makes that 15 pounds difference even bigger. (Mass times Acceleration).
            I will take a good big man over a good little man any day.

          • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

            Well, of course if they’re of an equivalent skill level you would take the bigger one.

            Next you’re not going to tell me if there are two women with ten million dollars that you like the same, you marry the hotter one, are you?

            As for getting hit, I don’t care about a fifteen lb difference, I’m probably the odd man out there, too, though…

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          Hahaha. Sure, let’s go with that.

          Seriously, though: no, I’m just saying it’s good to keep an open mind on this subject. There’s been a lot of “bigger is BIGGER” rhetoric bandied about by commenters lately and it’s important to remind everybody to calm down, take a step back and realize that it doesn’t always mean “better”. Especially if you’re only losing a relatively small amount of size and increasing your skill/potential offensive upside by more proportionally.

          Besides, let’s face it: this isn’t basketball. Ice hockey has a very small vertical plane in terms of where the vast majority of play occurs and a lot more in the other two dimensions of space. An added inch or two of height in your roster here and there isn’t a make or break difference between a Stanley Cup champion team and a 25th place finish.

          • pheenster

            The core of your argument appears to be that there’s this whole pool of talent out there just waiting to be tapped into because the GMs who run the game fetishize size over everything else (in other words, they’re stupid). I think this may have been true 20 years ago but stopped being so quite some time ago. There’s plenty of room for the smaller skilled player in this league and the Canucks already have several of those guys. All of which is interesting discussion but I don’t see how “small guys can be good hockey players too” is any kind of a justification for trading Horvat for Drouin.

          • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

            I never said I thought modern GM’s are stupid: you’re putting words in my mouth. I simply said that sub-6’0″ players of all skill levels are an increasingly under-utilized market.

            And that’s not my justification at all. My justification is that they’re both still young players with room to develop, but Drouin and players similar to him historically are simply a smarter roll of the dice based on probable outcomes.

          • pheenster

            So just to clarify, you’re saying that there’s a whole bunch of decent sub-6′ players out there right under the noses of 30 NHL GMs but they’re too stup… sorry short-sighted to notice? I’m having a tough time discerning the difference between the scenario I’m describing and “an under-utilized market”.

          • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

            Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying: there’s a secret society of 5’11 and under players that happen to be the best players in the world, but there’s a league-wide conspiracy to keep them off of NHL rosters.

            That, or just that there are NHL GM’s whose preference for size is a deciding factor in picking larger players over more skilled but smaller players sometimes and that personally, I disagree with this philosophy. That’s all.

          • Cageyvet

            Except these players are all still getting a shot, just selected a little later, to the dismay of those who overlooked them.

            Anyhow, it’s not about big vs. small or slagging any of these players. It’s armchair GM time because it’s all we’ve got right now.

            I think Drouin would be a great acquisition, but not a hope in he’ll I give up Horvat for him. Trades are all about getting value, and that deal is suspect. If Benning can pry him out of there for the right price, give the kid a chance. I agree Tampa seems a bit “off” these days and I’d be willing to risk the intangibles for the high end potential. I won’t venture to guess what it would take, but Bo, Sven, and Jake are not on the table.

          • argoleas

            I’d take a chance on Drouin also, but as you say, at the right price, which is not Horvat, and considering Bae’s rise from the ashes”, plus the chemistry being developed by Bo and Bae, neither would Bae. Jake would be a much closer call, and I’d need to be very very sure that Drouin’s “character flaws” would disappear. Besides, isn’t Jake the calendar guy or something? So no to Jake too. Don’t take that calendar thing seriously, I think he has shown well fresh out of junior, and Vancouver should keep him.

          • Andy

            I’m willing to wait until after the trade deadline, when more vets are out of the lineup and we see what Grenier, Shinkaruk, Gaunce & our other bunches of 20-25 year old prospects have to offer; we can probably teams to bite on them more in trades.

    • Andy

      You mean besides the fact that history tells us hockey teams haven’t learned to stop underestimating them? Martin St Louis, Johnny Gaudreau, even Marco Scandella are ‘small’ players that have an impact and are perpetually underrated early in their career.

      So, you seek areas of unexpected value.

      • andyg

        Yes,but you don’t give up a Horvat hoping this kid finds his game !!!!

        What you do is pick up a player like Sven for a second round pick. You draft them and hope for the best. Work with them and develop them.

        Would you give up our 1st round pick for Drouin? I might.

        • Andy

          1. You’re absolutely right; for me, it’s that I’m more sure about Horvat than I am about Drouin, rather than ‘one is small, one is big’.

          2. You’re absolutely right on that as well – the best part of undervalued players is that you can get them for cheaper than market price (like Sven)

          3. Considering our position in the standings, I’d offer a conditional 1st round pick (If we miss the playoffs, defer to 2017), a 3/4 round pick and a marginal player/prospect (Kenins/Friesen or Weber/Higgins) for Drouin.

  • Thefreshpots

    Marty St. Louis jumps ship. Drouin jumps ship. Stamkos is likely jumping ship. Why is nobody talking about how maybe something is up with coaching/mgmt in Tampa?

  • Andy

    Horvat is a leader. Horvat is a Centre. And most importantly, Horvat has developed ENORMOUSLY since being drafted. When he was drafted, he was a seen as a reliable two way player who was best in his own zone but needed to work on his skating, size, and shot. Now, a couple years later, Horvat is a tank and plays a power forward game. No one saw that coming. Drouin has 6 goals over a season and a bit while playing on the top line with Stamkos, Horvat scored more getting 9 or 10 minutes a night from the 4th line. Drouin may shape up to be something really great in the NHL but at this point, Horvat trumps him on character, leadership, position, development, work ethic, size, skating, strength, and value. Drouin can set up a nice goal but so far, that’s all he’s really PROVEN.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Let us consider the very model of a successful NHL franchise — the Detroit Red Wings. They have made the playoffs 28 out of the last 30 seasons, and look to do so again this year.

    Their current top six point getters — Zetterburg, Larkin, Tatar, Nyquist, Datsyuk, and Abdelkader — were all drafted by Detroit and came up through their system.

    If you want to build a culture of success, a team full of mercenaries might not be the way to go.

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      I think referencing the Detroit model is getting a bit outdated. Since Lidstrom retired they haven’t been in the conversation of elite. Don’t get me wrong – I think they’re a franchise that has an ability to find and develop good players but they’re hardly the ultimate franchise anymore that everyone likes to proclaim.

      “Mercenaries” like Carter, Richards and Gaborik seemed to work pretty well for LA

      • Andy

        First, I didn’t say Detroit was consistently at the top of the league, which is too much to ask any team, only that they have consistently made the playoffs. Over the long run their record is much better than LA’s.

        Second, I didn’t say it was impossible to build a good team by trading. I do suggest that developing most of your roster is the surer way to go.

        Loyalty and commitment are two-way streets — it’s hard to ask it from players if management trades them like hockey cards.

  • andyg

    So just to be clear. I am not against smaller players. This is a physical game as much as it is a high skill one. So for smaller players they must have the drive or personality to push through and deal with the physical side of the game.

    So my point is that Sven was picked up for a 2nd round pick because he was looking like a perimeter player. At this point Drouin has also shown himself to be a player who wants to make plays from the outside. He can have all the skill in the world but will he find a way to use it at this level. He comes with a lot of risk.

  • andyg

    I’m a firm believer that you have to build your team from the net out, up through centre down through defence and then back out to the wings.
    I feel like afuture top six centre for a top six winger is actually working backwards. It creates a talent gap down the middle in the second most responsible position on the team.
    If Drouin was a prolific shooter I’d think about it, but he’s not. I have to side with Ryan on this one.

  • andyg

    There is equal chance that Drouin is a bum. It’s a risky trade, with a high pay-off but also a way to slow down the rebuilding process.

    If you are to trade Horvat, get yourself a quality young defenceman in return, even if it be by a packaged deal.

  • pheenster

    On the note of size benning had been praising alex debrincat a lot at least before the world juniors so I really don’t think that’s an issue for him. Also the more you all keep talking about how size matters the less I think we’re talking about hockey 😉

  • Andy

    While I completely agree with Ryan Biech’s take here, I really don’t think we need to leave this discussion up to the dreaded “intangbles” argument.

    While I think I already made a pretty strong case on this issue when JD originally posted on it centered primarily around the comparison between Zone Start differentials between the players and their much more compelling comparative G/60 where Bo wins hands down as a guy who drives ACTUAL SCORING rather than “Scoring Chances” which include blocked and wide shots where JD was making the case for the strength of Drouin’s possession numbers and his declining Assists/60 driving his actual scoring contribution while he has been gifted offensive situations at a hilariously high comparative rate to that which Bo has seen.

    I would further add that the projection models referenced don’t typically bring to light all the numbers that should be considered. There are several more statistical categories that Bo currently dominates in the comparison and is likely to for at least a decade to come. Bo has 25% more hits per game than Drouin blocks 3 times as many shots per game and is significantly more likely than Drouin to take away a puck from the opposition than he is to turn it over to the opposition when looking at Take Away Vs Turnovers.

    Finally while it is a ridiculously small sample size each has played 6 playoff games. In those playoff games Bo has 1 Goal, 3 assists, +1 rating and a 49.7% Corsi while enduring a mere 44.7% Offensive zone starts playing on a team that lost in the first round to the Calgary Flames (sigh…) while Drouin has 0 goals, 0 assists, -7 rating and a 44.4% Corsi while enjoying 57.7% Offensive Zone starts playing for a team that eventually ( after they sat him down and played better players after they almost lost to Detroit in the first round) went on to lose in 6 in the Stanley Cup Final

    SO I say again, do we want a 200 foot Centre who hits people, blocks shots and puts the puck in the net at a rate twice that of Drouin in the regular season and then steps his game up in every conceivable metric in the playoffs or a perimeter winger who makes nifty passes while playing sheltered minutes and disappears in the playoffs?

    I vote for keeping Horvat!

    • andyg

      Has more hits and more takeaways can easily mean = possesses the puck less.

      Blocks more shots can easily mean = possesses the puck less and gets trapped in the defensive zone.

      I’m somewhat agnostic on the Horvat-Drouin debate. I’m not sure the stats you cite are all that important though, except in Grapesland of course.

  • Curmudgeon

    Under no circumstances should Horvat be traded for anybody. He will soon make everyone forget Ryan Kesler and is shaping up to be the kind of leader that Mark Messier was BEFORE he came to Vancouver to try out retirement for three years. Horvat will be the next captain of the team after Henrik is done.

    All I see in Drouin is a player who wants more than he has earned, and is willing to sit out, thereby demonstrating to the hockey world that he is unwilling to pay the price to become an every day player in the NHL. Drouin may turn out to be a great player, but so will Horvat. Horvat possesses exemplary character. Drouin does not.

  • Cageyvet

    Buffalobillsofhockey wrote, in part:

    “I’ll even throw in the two most common ones complete with my own rebuttals for free: “we don’t need a cancerous malcontent with a bad attitude in the dressing room!” You mean like Sven B was to the Flames? Yeah, we totally lost on that one. ”

    It seems to me you’re comparing two very different situations.

    Sven was on an expiring contract and had his agent tell the Flames he wouldn’t re-sign with them. He reported to the AHL and complied with his contract. He didn’t go out in public with it. Unfortunately he couldn’t control his father who was reported in Switzerland to have said a trade would be best for all, but Sven just kept playing, even while being publicly slagged by the Flames’ president. Frankly, I thought he should more class than the Flames did.

    By contrast, Drouin was not on an expiring contract. He demanded a trade, made it public, had his agent publicly challenge the Lightning saying they shouldn’t play him unti he was traded, then refused to report to the AHL to comply with his contract.

    The situations are different. Those who rake Sven over the coals as a malcontent are imo being unfair to him.

  • pheenster

    Smaller players can play in the NHL but if you have more than one or two on your roster you end up with an oft-injured bunch of forwards that play on the perimeter … just look at the Oilers the last few years.