Why, statistically, now is the time is now for the Canucks to trade Anthony Beauvillier
Photo credit:© Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Liu6 months ago
Last week, an author at this site penned a column suggesting that the Canucks “should not be afraid” of the idea of shopping Anthony Beauvillier on the trade market as Friday’s deadline approaches. But today, we’re going all in. Now is the time, and the numbers don’t lie.
After a multi-goal effort against the Dallas Stars, it seems odd to even suggest the notion of trading Anthony Beauvillier. What at first was seen as just a toss-in for the Bo Horvat trade to match some salary, has become one of the biggest contributors for the Canucks as of late. He might not be the most valuable piece in the return, but Beauvillier is certainly making the scales tilt toward Vancouver.
Which is why right now is the best opportunity to cash in on him.
But why trade a performing winger when he’s playing some of his best hockey? The numbers behind Beauvillier’s success have some light to shed on this matter.
High tide on the west coast
Since coming over to Vancouver, Beauvillier’s play jumped up an entire notch and then some. After posting 20 points through the first 49 games of the season, the winger has gone on to record 11 points in his 11 games thus far with the Canucks. Right now, Beauvillier is on pace to score a career-high in goals after scoring just 9 in 49 games.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that his advanced stats have also seen an incredible jump. Beauvillier wasn’t bad on the Islanders by any means, but the metrics that he has put up in the past 11 games have been very different from the ones that he recorded in the first 49. In New York, he held a 52.25 CF%, 51.26 SF%, 50.57 FF%, 48.75 xGF%, and a 50.00 HDCF%. Not bad by any means, a solid top 10 forward on their roster by any measure.
In comparison to that, his numbers in Vancouver look nearly night and day. So far into his tenure, Beauvillier has racked up 62.85 CF%, 64.11 SF%, 64.16 FF%, 68.35 xGF%, and 60.00 HDCF%. He’s gone from being a top 10 player on the Islanders to being a top 5 forward on this Canucks team. The advanced stats suggest his tangible performance is deserved, and the marked improvement he’s showing is not him just getting lucky.
But why did Beauvillier see such a dramatic jump? Moving from a defensive-focused system in New York to one that’s a little more free-flowing out in Vancouver would have some impact, but it doesn’t explain why on some nights, Beauvillier is a top-3 forward on this roster.
One big thing that stands out on the stat sheet is the difference in deployment that Beauvillier has been getting. Not only is he featuring on the top power-play unit at times for the Canucks, but the winger’s 5v5 shift starts are skewed toward the offensive zone. With the Islanders, Beauvillier received 64.84% of his shift starts in the offensive zone, while 59.53% of his faceoff starts were in the offensive zone. With the Canucks, those numbers jump to 74.71% and 73.03% respectively.
Obviously, just because Beauvillier is starting in the offensive zone doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to automatically produce. But what is happening is that the Canucks coaching staff is putting Beauvillier in a position where he is most likely to succeed. Having the majority of his starts in the offensive zone not only gives Beauvillier the opportunity to contribute more offensively on any given shift but also impacts his defensive metrics by reducing the amount of time he will spend in his own end.
It isn’t to say he’s a defensive liability, but the deployment would explain why his rate metrics look as good as they do. By decreasing the amount of CA he’s out there against, Beauvillier’s CF% will jump, as well as xGF% and all the others that depend on shots going toward the opponent’s net versus his own.
Credit to Beauvillier too, for being in the right places at the right time. He’s always looked very positionally sound, using his brain to find the soft spots on the ice and getting to them consistently. The scoring touch wasn’t quite there in the first couple of games, but that’s all changed in the last couple matchups.
The Pettersson Effect
It’s no secret that Elias Pettersson has been on a heater this season, emerging as a two-way superstar if that wasn’t already obvious. But another thing that he’s been doing consistently is elevating his teammates, even managing to make Lane Pederson look like the second coming of Alex Burrows for a couple of games.
Beauvillier has spent the most amount of time alongside Pettersson since arriving in Vancouver. Again, credit to the coaching staff for putting him in a position to succeed, because the trio of Kuzmenko-Pettersson-Beauvillier have been the best unit the Canucks have had in the last month. It’s yet another high-performing line featuring Pettersson as the main centrepiece, of which Beauvillier has benefitted tremendously from.
Taking a look at his time with the Islanders, Beauvillier spent the majority of his season alongside Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. His advanced stats weren’t bad with them – in fact, they were a very solid middle-6 option. But what’s most interesting are Nelson and Lee’s numbers away from Beauvillier. Nelson recorded 49.29 CF%, 47.35 FF%, 44.03 xGF%, and a 46.67 HDCF% alongside Beauvillier. Those numbers jumped to 62.90 CF%, 62.86 FF%, 63.77 xGF%, and 67.52 HDCF% without Beauvillier. A similar story can be seen in Lee’s numbers, whose numbers also saw a big jump once playing away from the now-Canuck winger.
These stats seem to suggest that Beauvillier was dragging his linemates down in New York, being the weakest link on that line. In Vancouver, it’s been an entirely different story. Beauvillier’s stat line is sparkling alongside Pettersson, and of course his numbers suffer a little when playing away from the Canucks’ best forward. What the presence of a more skilled forward alongside Beauvillier has allowed for is more time and space to operate and get his shots through, as well as the knowledge that a pass will more than likely get to him in the right spots.
So why trade him?
Essentially, it comes down to whether or not you think this level of play from Beauvillier is sustainable. Obviously, he more than likely won’t be a point-per-game player, but the question is if the regression will be slight or significant as a long-term solution on the flanks. The Canucks have caught lightning in a bottle here – and it remains to be seen what they could do with their options.
There’s been some nice returns for similar players thus far this close to the trade deadline. Perhaps it’s worth selling high on Beauvillier, with additional retention as a way to drive the price up on a solid middle-6 winger. It’s not often that Vancouver has been in a position to flip an asset like this, and the options are definitely tantalizing to think about.
The numbers suggest that while his improved production is coming from a relatively sustainable place, Beauvillier’s deployment and success have been due to the way he’s been used in Vancouver thus far. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to replicate the same level of play with anyone else, such as the likes of JT Miller or someone like Sheldon Dries.
Whether trading or keeping him happens, Beauvillier has already done more than enough to surprise in the trade return. Anyone can play alongside Pettersson but not many are finishing at the clip that he is. But, at a time when Vancouver needs to gain some future assets, his play represents another fork in the road for management to take. Beauvillier’s value is peaking right now, and there might not ever be a better opportunity to capitalize on it.
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