On Thursday night, Hunter Shinkaruk and Markus Granlund faced off for the first time against each other.
For a minute, Shinkaruk forgot what team he played for.
Shinkaruk, from Tryamkin! So nice to see the youth movement paying off in Vancouver.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) April 8, 2016
All jokes aside, Shinkaruk had himself a fine game. He registered four shots and didn’t look out of place on the Flames top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Shinkaruk was second among all Flames forwards with a +7 Fenwick differential at even-strength. In comparison, Granlund was worst among the Canucks forwards at -5.
In a short sample size, you can safely say Shinkaruk is off to a solid start in his Flames career.
Can you say the same for Granlund?
On February 22nd, Canucks general manager Jim Benning swapped the 21-year-old Shinkaruk with the Flames for Granlund. It’s a trade that could go down to burn the Canucks for years to come.
Shinkaruk’s ability to score goals is one of the most valuable assets in hockey.
He exploded offensively this season with 26 goals in 59 AHL games. Despite spending the last two weeks up in Calgary, he is still seventh overall in goals down in the AHL.
However, Benning wasn’t convinced that Shinkaruk would accomplish the same at hockey’s highest level.
“He likes to score,” said Benning in a conference call following the trade. “We don’t know if that’s going to translate to the NHL or not.
“At the end of the day, we didnt feel like he was ready to be a full-time NHL player yet,” he said.
Oddly enough, Shinkaruk looks more NHL ready that Granlund at the moment. Sure, it helps that Shinkaruk is playing on Calgary’s top line and has a couple of power play points to boot, but what word can you use to describe Granlund’s first 15 games as a Canuck?
I don’t know if anyone other than Willie Desjardins would say that Granlund has been “real good.”
Maybe Granlund improves next season when the Canucks aren’t ravaged by injuries. Maybe he improves when he isn’t playing 16 minutes per night.
However it should be abundantly clear that Shinkaruk has a much higher offensive potential than Granlund, which is the whole reason why Flames general manager Brad Treliving made the deal in the first place.
“When I look at our reserve list, we’re still void — outside of the NHL level — of players that potentially could play in a top-six role or a scoring role, play on the power-play, bring an offensive skill-set,” said Treliving in an interview with the Calgary Sun.
“It’s hard to find those type of guys,” he said.
It sure is hard to find those type of guys, which is why it’s mind-boggling that the Canucks traded away such an offensively gifted player in Shinkaruk.
The Canucks, who are 29th in the league in goals-for, need to hang onto all the offensive prospects they can get. Looking into the future, they lack a dynamic goal-scoring talent who can supplant the Sedins’ in a couple years down the road.
Trading a player with top-six potential for a forward who’s potential is probably Jannik Hansen, at best, is putrid asset management for a team who needs help scoring goals.
Calgary on the other hand, added a potential offensive weapon to their already 8th ranked goal scoring offence this season. For the record, the Flames have the best goals-per-game total among all non-playoff clubs.
One of the reasons Benning felt Shinkaruk was expendable was due to the emergence of Sven Baertschi and the arrival of Anton Rodin next fall. Maybe that excuse makes more sense if Benning makes a sensible deal for Shinkaruk. However, trading such an asset to a division rival for a bottom-six player looks a lot like Benning settling for a player rather than making a deal that will benefit his club down the road.
Sure Shinkaruk needs to add size to his frame, but muscle is easier to attain over goal-scoring ability.
This isn’t the first time a swap of young players has caused uneasy feelings for Canucks fans.
There is the outside chance that this turns into another Cody Hodgson – Zack Kassian swap where the trade never really materializes into anything for either team.
That might be a best-case scenario for the Canucks.
Granlund scores.. Just like Shinkaruk right? Same same.. Trade is a wash. right? pic.twitter.com/akyrn6HWuX
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) April 1, 2016
It’s hard to see that happening, but no one was really predicting back in 2012 when former general manager Mike Gillis made that trade with Buffalo.
Four years later, those feeling of unrest should creep back up into the minds of Canucks fans everywhere.
“We felt that it was a good deal for us,” said Benning at the time of the trade.
I wonder how he’ll feel about it three years from now.