When the Vancouver Canucks acquired Sven Baertschi for a second-round pick some years ago, it was clear that their divisional rival in Calgary had given up on the former 13th overall pick. For whatever reason, he’d never quite been able to make much of an impact in the Flames uniform, never topping more than 26 games or 11 points over parts of four seasons.
He’s since found a new stride in Vancouver, fitting into the Canucks top-six as a regular player over the past two seasons, as he finished third in goal scoring this season on the team.
In what was one of the toughest seasons in team history, how did Baertschi fare?
Baertschi missed most of February and part of March with a concussion, while being knocked out of the season’s final few games with what the team described as an “upper body/ neck injury”. While healthy, however, he was arguably one of the Canucks’ best forwards.
*Gets out polarizing players chart*
Shh… he finished a point ahead of Brandon Sutter in scoring, despite playing 443 less minutes and 13 less games. He was the team’s second highest scoring winger behind a certain Sedin, putting up a career high 35 points.
He finished with a 5v5 points/60 of 1.89, 77th in the league amongst forwards with at least 500 minutes played, and first amongst Canucks.
When healthy, he played with Bo Horvat, and while he was with Vancouver, they were often joined by Alex Burrows. Besides that, no other forward played over 100 minutes alongside Baertschi, so it’s tough to draw any reasonable conclusions on their chemistry levels. His possession numbers weren’t great, as he managed only a 46.1% Corsi For % at 5v5, but we have to also factor in that this guy played for, well, you know, the Canucks.
Plus, he was 1/1 in faceoffs. A switch to centre in the cards, perhaps?
Offensively, he likely met or exceeded most expectations in the time he had. If all 82 games were played, he was on pace for about 41 or 42 points and likely would’ve hit, which is a respectable enough amount for a second-line winger.
But while there’s plenty of positives in relation to his teammates and his expectations, it’s not like Baertschi is really anything more than an average player. 21 teams had at least six guys with 35 points this season, while 20 had at least five with 42, which is what he was on pace for this season. Just about every team has three-five forwards who are capable of performing, meaning he’s much closer to the five-six category when we talk about “top-six” forwards.
What’s up next?
As we know, 2017-18 isn’t exactly shaping up to be a banner year for the Canucks. It’s a shame for a guy like Baertschi who’s turning 25 in October and has played just two playoff games in his career, but at least it will be an opportunity to see if he can prove himself in a potentially larger role. Few people are really giving the Canucks roster a chance to return to the postseason, so it should be at least interesting to see in what will mostly be 82 games
But, personally he’s coming up on an RFA contract year. Baertschi will no doubt be under pressure to perform. He’s a near lock to be protected under the expansion draft, so he should be back for next season, assuming his name doesn’t soon get caught up in trade rumours. You can no doubt figure he’ll be giving it his best shot difference in 10 or 15 points or could be the difference between hundreds of thousands, if not million(s) of dollars. He’ll get his chances in Vancouver’s top six, and if his points/60 are any indication, could produce a career high in points if he’s able to stay healthy.
It wouldn’t be that crazy to see Baertschi come close to or breaking the 50 point barrier if given the proper role
I wrote last week that next year is probably the time to start giving Bo Horvat 1C responsibilities, so it’ll be interesting to see if Baertschi gets the chance to tag along as well. As the Sedins start to get shifted out from being the key drivers of the team’s offence, it’ll be much up to guys like Baertschi to provide the team’s depth to take them to the next level.
In his second full year with the Canucks, Baertschi was an admirable enough performer and a bright spot in what was mostly an abysmal season. He’s providing solid enough value for what he was acquired for and put up great rate stats, but unfortunately coupled with an extremely weak offensive roster, is likely asked to do a little bit too much. He’s still got a year left before his RFA deal, and as the team goes through tumultuous times, is likely a player who’s been recognized as “not the problem” by the management group. In what is slated to be another tough year, Sven Baertschi might just give you a good enough reason to keep watching.