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.