Not all is sunshine and roses where the Canucks youngest players are concerned. Like a litter of dogs, the alphas have pressed themselves upon mothers milk and left the runts behind to starve.
As one might expect, the lactate praise and ice-time that secretes has proven insufficient for the pack.
While Jared McCann leads the team in goals, Ben Hutton in assists among defencemen and Jake Virtanen murders, Sven Baertschi has left a decidedly faint impression in his nine games this season.
I’d like to think that I have a firm enough grasp as to why Baertschi has struggled to this point in the Canucks season. One we’ll touch on, on the other side of the jump.
For the sake of journalistic integrity, I’ll qualify my theory by pointing to the authentic purveyor of this ugly truth. I require myself to be more than the typical lowly blogger; ones who probably never played the game; live in their mother’s basement, and the like. So instead, I look the guidance of The Province’s Ben Kuzma. Kuzma is a staple of the Vancouver Canucks beat and has been covering the team for as long as I can remember. Only makes sense that this epiphany would strike him first…
It’s Vey 2.0. Baertschi given too much, too fast. Got to earn your spot, not be promised one. https://t.co/QQk6XugEu3
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) October 30, 2015
This really does make one think. I mean, the parallels are almost endless. Both were acquired by Jim Benning; both had prolific scoring rates in the AHL and a track record of offensive potency spanning as far back as junior. I’ll be damned, they were both acquired at the cost of a second-round selection to boot. They’re basically the same player if you think about it.
Digging through the vault of the since estranged Vey’s first season with Vancouver, one can see the extent to which entitlement derailed his season – perhaps his career. Acquired to provide the Canucks with scoring punch down the middle, Vey was handed a first unit power play role as the floater in the slot.
Did it matter that he had a beer league shot? Hardly. Was his inability to find and exploit even the most obvious passing lanes apparent to all? Certainly. Yet there he remained, for the better part of the first half of the season.
Is Baertschi getting an extended look on the first unit power play, alongside the Sedin twins? Not necessarily, but he is seventh among all Canuck forwards in power play ice time this season. He’s getting his opportunities, no matter how sparse. When Baertschi begins to capitalize on them, it’s likely he’ll be rewarded. Can’t be handed these things, you see.
As a secondary scoring option, though, one might reasonably expect Baertschi to contribute a sizeable chunk of the club’s offence at even strength. That hasn’t been the case to this point, as Baertschi’s 0.72 pts/60 is second lowest among Canucks forwards. Now, that might be 0.72 points per sixty more than Bo Horvat, but that’s beside the point. Let’s stick to the matter at hand: accountability.
This isn’t anywhere near the level of offence the Canucks were hoping for from their Suisse sniper, especially given the second line role that they’d hoped to establish him in.
Baertschi was given second-line wing spot even before camp started. Way too much. He coasted. https://t.co/6ZBy18ilj1
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) October 30, 2015
Therein lies the problem, though. With this younger generation of stars, everything has to be earned. This is especially true of players from wimpy neutral nations, like Switzerland. Let Baertschi float through conflict, refuse to engage in battles along the boards and he will. It’s in his nature. As soon as he was handed that second line role, he stopped trying, in all likelihood.
It doesn’t really matter that the Canucks are shooting at just a hair above 2% at even strength with Baertschi on the ice. If Baertschi didn’t feel entitled to a league average on-ice sh%, then perhaps the Canucks would be more proficient with him on the ice.
All this is food for thought. I think with a player like Virtanen, the Canucks were right to pencil him into their lineup last May, regardless of his mediocre production end-of-season production. The reality is, such a move was never going to create a sense of entitlement in Virtanen because he’s from a country that refuses to be entitled. With Baertschi though, handing him the second line role has proven a disaster.
He’s entitled and it shows.