The Vancouver Canucks are going to have to trust Assistant GM John Weisbrod on Markus Granlund.
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The Vancouver Canucks traded a 20-year-old scorer for a 21-year-old two-way centreman named Markus Granlund. Vancouver will have to wait to see the newest Canuck in action for just a couple of days, as the next game is Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.
So as the majority of the fanbase mourns the loss of prospect favourite Hunter Shinkaruk and I chuckle at Willie Desjardins trying to fit six healthy centremen into the lineup, shouldn’t analytics have a say in all this?
After all, the eye test has had the first say. John Weisbrod, the former Assistant GM of the Calgary Flames, was a major factor in this acquisition. Weisbrod was the assistant in Calgary when the Flames drafted Emile Poirier 22nd overall in 2011, which is also the draft in which Sven Baertschi was drafted.
Shinkaruk was drafted two picks after Poirier and Granlund 45th overall. If this trade were to have happened during the 2011 draft, Mike Gillis would have been fired. Turning a first-round pick Shinkruk into a second round pick, and then drafting a player who is one year older in Granlund? Mike Gillis would have surely been fired, nor would he have been insane enough in the first place to make such ridiculous deal.
Well, look on the flip side.
Despite being one year older and being drafted some 20 picks after Shinkaruk, Granlund has overcome that 20-pick difference and the age difference to become (arguably) Shinkaruk’s equal. Why else would Grandlund be sought after in this trade? Granlund has proven already that he can improve.
Back to analytics, it is difficult to compare Shinkaruk to Granlund. Not only do the two play different styles of hockey, Shinkaruk has just one NHL game under his belt while Granlund has 86 games of NHL experience.
So I took a different approach.
To the left is Granlund’s 2015-16 statistics over 31 games this season. To the right is his 2014-15 season stats over 48 games with the Flames.
At a first glance, it seems that Jim Benning has gotten the skilled two-way player that he always preaches about. At a second glance, though, you will cringe at how his production has tapered off recently.
But note the main linemates that Granlund has played with (the two forwards that have played the most minutes with Granlund in each season).
- 2014-15 main linemates: Jiri Hudler (76 pts in 78 GP), Johnny Gaudreau (64 pts in 80 GP)
- 2015-16 main linemates: Jiri Hudler (33 pts in 51 GP), Sam Bennett (29 pts, 57 GP)
Playing with half-point-per-game teammates after playing with point-per-game producers is never easy. It is frustrating to say the least. But Granlund has pulled it off.
Looking at the quality of Granlund’s linemates, one cannot be surprised that the 2015-16 version of Granlund (seven points in 31 games) has taken a step back following the 2014-15 season (18 points in 48 games) in the offensive department.
In fact, I am slightly surprised that his production has so marginally decreased. The Flames as a whole have taken a step back from last year’s stellar performance, you know.
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But looking more carefully at the visual, note how Granlund’s Corsi Against per 60 (CA60) has improved, signalling that he has had better success in suppressing shots. More impressive is the GA60 column, which shows that his goal suppression impact has taken a significant leap forward, too.
Perhaps this stat should be taken with a grain of salt. Granlund has started only 39.8 percent of his shifts in the defensive his season. Tthere is a case to be made about sheltered usage.
Beyond the simple possession metrics shown on the WARRIOR charts, the giveaway-takeaway stat line is also showing a great improvement. After 27 takeaways and 16 giveaways last year, Granlund has recorded 17 takeaways and just five giveaways this season.
The faceoffs is another area in which Granlund has improved. After just winning 37.4 percent of his draws in 2014-15, his 44.7 percent win rate certainly shows that he is learning to adapt to the life of a centreman after playing so long in Finland as a winger.
Granlund is improving. As Jim Benning said, he is a skilled two-way player who is one year ahead of the learning curve than Hunter Shinkaruk is. He is not as undersized as Shinkaruk is, being a 6-foot player at 178 pounds. Shinkaruk is a 5-foot-10 at 181 pounds, as listed on NHL.com.
The very fact that he has overtaken Shinkaruk by Vancouver standards after being drafted some 20 picks later is an evidence of his willingness to improve. Perhaps he is not the most flashiest of players. Perhaps the trade was not worth it. Maybe Shinkaruk becomes the second coming of a Gaudreau, a prolific undersized scorer.
In any case, Shinkaruk was not, is not, and will not be a Benning-type of player who scores the Benning type of goals at the NHL level. Granlund is what Benning wanted, Granlund is what Benning got. Let’s wait and see.
Again, Linden Vey fits nowhere on this lineup, even with Brandon Sutter injured. When Sutter comes back, Vey is the most expendable player the Canucks will have. Well, the trade deadline is just days away while Sutter is still weeks away. Time for Vey to go, as Granlund brings a younger, more dynamic pair of legs to the lineup.