Let’s start this off with one caveat: anything can happen in the NHL.
Yes, that might seem like a “get out of jail free card” used by GMs and fans alike who stumble into success (or manage to avoid it, as it were).
But it’s true. Good luck, bad luck, the ever infamous “intangibles”, however you want to define it, things happen in the NHL that we can’t account for. It’s why people have made jobs out of trying to tell people they know what can happen in the future. If you are able to show a talent for recognizing future trends, that’s a huge commodity. It’s why “old school scouts” got jobs (“I played the game, I can recognize the signs of great talent!”) and why advanced stats guys are starting to get hired now (“I wrote an excel sheet formula, it can recognize the signs of great talent!”).
At the end of the day, though, we are still far removed from a future when we all get scanned with a barcode and get tossed into the NHL reject or accept pile before we ever even hit the ice with skates strapped to our feet.
Enter the Canucks trading Hunter Shinkaruk for Markus Granlund.
Yes, Markus Granlund could end up being a better player than Hunter Shinkaruk. Yes, Hunter Shinkaruk could end up being a flop. In fact, this could very well end up in that black void known as the Hodgson-Kassian nebula, where neither player works out and instead it ends up being a running joke about “who won the trade” to pass the time.
To some, it’s a low impact transaction, and they truly don’t understand the reaction the trade garnered.
Canucks fan reaction on Twitter was largely negative. Those who didn’t like the trade, hated the trade. The reason there are such strong feelings, however, is more about what it represents.
Here is a quick breakdown of why people are a bit on edge about the trade:
- The Canucks are a team that struggles to score, yet they traded away one of their better scoring young players. Many people would rather roll the dice on a high risk high reward type of offensive player over a player that on the surface, looks like his ceiling is limited to a bottom six role.
- The idea that Shinkaruk couldn’t be here anymore because Sven Baertschi is here feels like a) they’ve already decided Baertschi will forever be better, and b) makes it seem like there is only room for so much skill on a team, which seems quite limiting in scope.
- Shinkaruk never got a real good look in the NHL. One game, under 10 minutes? Hard to see that as a “fair shot.”
- Granlund is waiver eligible next year, Shinkaruk is still on his entry-level contract, which means he would not be waiver eligible the next two seasons. If anything, this forces a much tighter timeline on an asset to see if they can make the team.
- It also means the team has a variety of low-end assets who are open to waivers (Linden Vey, Emerson Etem). Now, not a lot of people get poached on waivers, but it still seems like adding a problem you didn’t need in the first place.
- It goes against the idea of a longer rebuild. Getting a player who can “play now” treads dangerously close to the idea that the Canucks feel they can turn things around really quickly, instead of taking their time with younger assets. Not saying this is right or wrong, but just pointing out that people who are fine waiting on a patient rebuild won’t enjoy yesterday’s trade.
- The Canucks centre depth for next season is Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Jared McCann, Linden Vey, Markus Granlund… Yes, you can plop some of these guys on the wings, which is what they’ll have to do if they want them all to play.
- If assets are going to be traded, people would rather see defencemen coming back in return. Of course that is easier said than done, and Benning apparently tried looking for d-men. It’s just, living right beside the Edmonton Nightmare rebuild for so many years is a constant reminder of what a rebuild without defence can end up looking like.
- You have a similar deal that took place with Gustav Forsling and Adam Clendening (selling high on Forsling after his World Jr performance) that ended up with an older asset who did nothing of value for the organization. Not every trade is the same (and again, the caveat “anything can happen” applies), but the situation is close enough to bring up memories of a previous trade that seems like a bit of a bust.
- It’s a team that didn’t manage Frank Corrado as an asset very well, so it does make one lose trust in the team being fully aware of all of the factors surrounding players age, contract status, etc. It basically makes you question if they fully understand all of the options available to them, fair or not.
- Never underestimate the emotional side of things. You spend two or three years following a draft pick rise through the ranks, only to see him being dealt away during a hot stretch for an unknown? That can be hard to take. It would be like if your dad finally figured out how to put on the perfect birthday for you, except halfway through the night your mom told you she was divorcing him and then asked you to take a picture with “Uncle Ted” instead.
There are some silver linings if you want to look for them, though. Granlund did have an equivalent season to Shinkaruk during his AHL career at one point (46 points in 52 games in front of all 10 fans during the Abbotsford Heat days). Corey Pronman feels the Canucks came out with a slight win on the trade due to Granlund’s higher defensive awareness and ability to play different positions. Some people simply don’t like the chances of small scoring wingers making it in the NHL, and the rule of thumb is centre depth is greater than winger depth.
A lot of it comes down to, though, “would you roll the dice on a higher skill-set, riskier chance of making NHL” prospect in Shinkaruk, and “would you rather have higher roster maneuverability with an entry-level contract player” in Shinkaruk. On my end, I still feel like this is a trade that in no way needed to happen this season. The only reason you do this deal now is if you REALLY wanted Granlund (which doesn’t sound like it from the Canucks end) or if you REALLY think Shinkaruk is just a turd of a player.
I think yesterday’s reaction, if anything, mostly shows a lack of faith in management from many Canucks fans. In a day and age where stats are being recognized more and more, Benning’s “meat and potato” approach is met with many an arched eyebrow.
You have a management squad who claims they “looked at the WAY” Shinkaruk was scoring goals, and came away wondering if that would translate into the NHL, and are looking at underlying factors.
Which at face value, is great. They aren’t just looking at raw numbers, they are digging deeper to make sure this isn’t a Tom Sestito 42-goal situation. But this is also the same team that keeps playing Matt Bartkwoski, who has awful underlying numbers, and is only kind of good if you go based off of raw numbers. So it’s hard to tell what’s spin and what’s actual team philosophy. We end up hearing a lot more about “compete” and “scrum ability” than “great goal scorer” and “high end skill”, which is worrisome for people wanting a skilled team being iced.
Add in a losing season, with rumours of ownership being overly meddlesome, and a team whose direction is really hard to gauge, all taking place in a Canadian market?
You’re going to have some heated discussions about pretty much every decision made.
Again, Benning might be the smartest man in the room. Maybe his vaunted scouting background will pay off. Maybe he was dead on about about Shinkaruk being a flop and Granlund will end up being a player. Maybe it’s just overreactions from people heavily invested in the team.
It’s just going to take several years before we can figure that out. And in hockey mad Vancouver? That’s a lifetime.