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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Sven Baertschi

Canucks’ GM Jim Benning raised more than a few eyebrows when he lumped Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund together in a recent interview — telling The Province that it was “a difficult year for both of them.”

On the surface, it appears foolish to compare Granlund and Baertschi — the former had just 12 points in 53 games after a 19 goal breakout campaign, whereas the latter was in line for a career-high in points with a clean bill of health.

Dive deeper beyond the surface though and you soon realize there may, in fact, be merit to the notion that Baertschi underperformed this season. It certainly wasn’t to the extent of Granlund and his precipitous decline, but it’s important to note nonetheless given Baertschi’s pending RFA status.

The most obvious sign of inflated production is Baertschi’s 17.1% shooting clip. This boost was perhaps felt in no greater capacity than on the man advantage, where Baertschi tallied seven powerplay goals on the back of a conversion rate north of 30%. These results came in spite of the fact that he generated unblocked shot attempts on the powerplay at his lowest rate since the 2013/14 season.

Isolating even-strength play brings Baertschi’s gaudy point totals into perspective, with just 19 five-on-five points compared to the 28 he notched last season. A big reason for this offensive decline was Baertschi’s inability to generate meaningful scoring chances for himself. His individual shots per hour rate was down for a second consecutive season, ahead of only Darren Archibald and Henrik Sedin.

The stipulating factor when addressing Baertschi’s lacklustre shot volume in years past has been his prioritization of quality over quantity, though it appears the former suffered this season as well.

Baertschi finished outside of the top 12 Canucks forwards when looking at both individual scoring chances and high danger shot attempts per hour.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see then that he scored nine fewer even-strength goals relative to last season. Baertschi’s instead been able to add points by racking up assists playing alongside Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. While Baertschi’s underrated playmaking acumen was likely the primary factor for this production, his team-high 10.2% on-ice conversion rate at even-strength must have had a favourable effect as well.

The extent of the latter’s effect looks to be even greater when looking at the microdata tracked by Corey Sznajder.

Shot assists are recorded each time a player makes a pass that directly leads to a shot on goal. Baertschi failed to distinguish himself as a marquee playmaker in this sample; finishing 7th on a porous Canucks’ forward group.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, Baertschi’s defensive game appeared to take a hit as well.

Baertschi was among a handful of Canucks’ forwards to negatively affect his teammates’ ability to control possession by greater than 2%. Not only that, but the top-line with Horvat and Boeser had better underlying numbers away from Baertschi.

Boeser and Horvat controlled possession and scoring chances significantly better with Nikolay Goldobin as their linemate, as opposed to Baertschi.

Adding further validation to Baertschi’s underwhelming two-way performance is his poor goals above replacement mark.

The GAR statistic aims to consolidate performance in all facets of the game, both at even-strength and special teams into a single, composite figure. Baertschi finishes 11th among Canucks’ forwards in contributing a little over three goals relative to a replacement-level player.

Conclusion

Sven Baertschi’s surface level results masked an otherwise underwhelming season from the Swiss winger. Unsustainable power play production boosted otherwise mediocre even-strength point totals when considering the luxury he had of playing with the team’s two most talented forwards.

A deeper look into the underlying numbers only exposed the holes in Baertschi’s performance this year. He struggled in creating offensive chances and had a negative effect on his teammates’ ability to control possession to go along with deteriorating defensive play.

All this isn’t to suggest that Baertschi is a bad player, but rather that his impressive point totals were inflated as a result of favourable contextual factors including linemates and shooting percentages.

Given that the Canucks are set to enter the NHL Entry Draft with fewer than their allotted picks for the second time in three years, perhaps this is an opportunity for the team to take advantage of a market inefficiency and sell high on Baertschi.



  • Sandpaper

    Baertschi is stop-gap material, although I would like too move on from him, I cant see that until some of the young prospects prive they can play at nhl level.

    • Killer Marmot

      Even with promising prospects coming up, the Canucks will not have so much scoring depth for the next couple of years that Baertschi will start to look redundant to needs.

  • argoleas

    The idea of trading him as per described market inefficiency has much merit, but I doubt he will be traded. Simply put, I think it comes down to Benning and Canucks still not being certain what their have in their LWs such as Goldy, Dahlen, and Leipsic.

    OTOH, if Baertschi contract demands are too high, they may just opt to move on and take their chances.

    • Fred-65

      To be honest I think the ability to trade Beartschi will depend on the length and size of his new contract. A favourable contract would help to get a return for him ……. it’s up to you Jim, no pressure LOL

      • argoleas

        If my read of UFA rules are correct, Baertschi could be 1 yr from UFA status, so the question is whether its a 1-yr deal, which almost guarantees Benning trades him at TDL, or a longer deal but UFA years will cost extra, and the extra money may make a trade more difficult.

  • TD

    Benning should consider trading Baertschi if he thinks Goldobin or another prospect is ready to take his place. And then the trade should only happen if the return is good. Either a high pick or a high level d prospect. I am worried that Goldobin or someone else will get exposed on waivers if a couple of their UFA’s are signed and they get a veteran centre.

  • truthseeker

    He’s already provided more value than an average second round pick pretty much ever does so that’s automatically a win. From a value perspective it was an excellent trade and a clear and obvious win.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t want to see the canucks give him too much term in a new contract. He’s not worth locking a lot of cap value up for too many years.

    I want to see how he plays next season because I think the canucks can increase his value even further and dump him at the trade deadline next season. Right now, as I mentioned before, I still think he’s an after thought for most of the league’s GMs and wouldn’t bring back what he’s worth on the team.

    All of this is comes with the caveat that he gets signed at a reasonable rate of course.

    • Freud

      This simple minded evaluation is laughable.

      What value has he provided? He’s been on a team that is last over the past 3 seasons. By the time the team is competitive again, Baertschi is too old and making too much money to be a depth 3rd or 4th liner.

      Calgary chose Rasmus Andersson with the pick they got for Baertschi. He just put up 39 pts in 56 games as a 21 yr old in the minors. Calgary would never trade Andersson straight up for Baertschi today. He would have played top 4 minutes in Vancouver last year.

      But this team doesn’t need young, offensive defence man at all. Ya, definitely a clear and obvious win.

      • Harman Dayal

        Just because his value hasn’t been felt due to the overall team’s incompetence doesn’t mean the trade was a waste. Baertschi probably nets the team a 1st round pick if they move him at the draft. Calgary isn’t losing sleep over the Baertschi trade, but it’s definitely a win from a Canucks point of view.

        • Killer Marmot

          Calgary should lose sleep over the Baertschi trade.

          The Canucks handling of Virtanen is a casebook study on how to deal with a young player who is struggling. The Flames handling of Baertschi was a casebook study on what NOT to do.

          When the dust had settled, the situation was so toxic that the Flames were forced to trade the talented young player, and the team who needs a trade the most generally is at a decided disadvantage.

        • Freud

          Harman – I liked your piece. I didn’t say the trade was a waste. I responded to a post saying it was a “clear and obvious win”

          In a vacuum Baertschi does have value.

          But 3 years ago Vancouver’s projected need was 21 yr old prospects entering their system today, that would make the team a competitor in 2020. The 2nd rounder they gave up is what they needed, not an older, third line winger.

          In 2020, they will instead have Baertschi who will be past his prime and who will be making too much money based on his inflated numbers playing with Horvat and on the PP.

          If he’s really worth a 1st or 2nd rounder, how could Benning not make that deal this summer?

          I have no confidence Benning is even considering this. Let’s believe it when we see it.

          • Harman Dayal

            The Canucks should absolutely consider a Baertschi trade if they can pry a 1st round pick, but I seriously doubt Jim Benning’s willingness to do so. Shopping Baertschi is less about trading him away, as much as it is adding necessary picks to bolster the prospect pool. The team has less than their allotted picks for the second time in three years. That’s simply unacceptable for a rebuilding team.

      • Baertschi has score 94 pts for the Canucks so far. Andersson has scored 0 for Calgary. If Benning were inclined, he could easily trade Baertschi for at least another 2nd round pick so he gets the investment back.

      • Killer Marmot

        Apparently Baertschi was supposed to single-handedly carry the team into the playoffs. Anything less means he’s inadequate.

        You’ve got high standards.

      • truthseeker

        lol….baiting stupid c…ts like you is too easy.

        He’s provided 94 points in 193 games. .49 points per game for the canucks. He’s played 259 NHL games. He’s already blown away the expectations of a number 53 pick.

        https://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-expected-value-of-nhl-draft-picks-1.317819

        You can cherry pick testimonial examples all you want, but all that does is make you look like the f…king idiot you are. Illogical f..king moron who doesn’t understand a basic rational argument.

        But hey…even if we give you your stupid Rasmus Andersson argument….a) we don’t know the canucks would have chosen him and capital f…king B) He’s played 11 NHL games and has a big fat f..king ZERO points. So at this point he’s accomplished nothing. You’re left with the losers argument strategy of “would of” and “could of”.

        change your name. your f…king stupidity is an embarrassment to one of history’s great thinkers.

        moron.

          • truthseeker

            the board maybe. but not him. He’s an insulting self loathing bully who constantly insults people. I will not suffer fools. I will not suffer people like him. I will call them out every single time. He might not be quite the c…t that PQW/Wisecanuck is (was? where’s he been..lol), but he’s pretty close. He’s done absolutely nothing to earn any respect around here.

  • Killer Marmot

    Baertschi’s shooting percentage over the last three years has been 13.9, 15.8, and 17.1. That is exceptionally high. Given that Baertschi has exceeded the league average of 9% by a considerable margin for three years in a row, the contention that this is mostly luck (“inflated”) becomes difficult to entertain. We may have to consider the possibility that Sven is a bit of a sniper.

    In the hands of a deft analyst, though, it becomes evidence that Baertshi’s play is deteriorating. As in “He did quite well, but he shouldn’t have done well, so it doesn’t count.”

    Rather than trading Baertschi, one might want to consider how to better exploit his superb shot.

    • Harman Dayal

      1) Baertschi had 19 even-strength points this season compared to the 28 he had last year. That’s despite having the luxury of playing shotgun with Boeser and Horvat. No doubt that’s disappointing for a player that’s been lauded for his five-on-five scoring ability.

      2) An abnormally high proportion of his points and goals came on the PP. That PP production can’t be counted on for next season when you consider that he was converting on almost one in three shots he took.

      3) Baertschi had just four even-strength points away from Boeser. Baertschi scored less than a point an hour in nearly 250 minutes TOI away from Boeser. That’s simply terrible.

      4) Baertschi’s underlying numbers were worse compared to last season and very poor overall.

      This isn’t to slam Baertschi, but to point out that the surface level results belie his actual contributions. From my perspective, he’s a middle-six winger that benefitted greatly from skating alongside the team’s most talented players.

      Side note: Baertschi’s high shooting percentage is less about his shot and more about how picky he is with his shot selection(not that that’s a bad thing). He rarely shoots the puck.

      • Sandpaper

        Sounds too me like Baertschi’s production was fine until Brock came along and Horvat found someone better to dish the puck to.
        Not only is Brock a better player, he is also on Bo’s dominant side for recieving a pass.
        The great Willie Desjardins would agree with you, as he stated that, this team would be in a better situation if Sven was on the 4th line.

      • Killer Marmot

        So your contention is that when Baertschi was (1) even strength, and (2) playing with Gagner (Baertschi didn’t play with Henrik) as centre, he didn’t produce much.

        When you split up a player’s stats by whether they were on the power play or even strength, who they were combined with, and so on, everyone’s stats look lopsided due to small sample sizes. This is especially so when the player played only 53 games due to injuries.

        Torturing the data a little can extract the truth, but do it too much and it’ll tell you anything you want to hear.

      • LTFan

        HD – Stats, stats, stats. First of all where do all your numbers come from? You have no reference. IMO the critical point in favour of Baertschi is that he has played over 250 NHL games. He is 25 years old and if traded for a pick the best you can expect is a 2nd rounder. So why would anyone trade a bonafide NHL player for a prospect? SB probably has another 3 to 5 years of decent production? Do not trade.

        • Harman Dayal

          All stats are either from Corsica and Natural Stattrick.

          As for the prospects of trading Baertschi, the Hartman and Tatar’s deadline trades give me the feeling that Baertschi can bring back more than a 2nd round pick

          • LTFan

            Hmmm. So you are saying he would bring back a 1st Round pick? For what it is worth, if he can bring more than a 2nd round pick then why trade him. The problem with so many of these deals that many people think can be made is – the other side of any trade. The other side is not stupid and will not overpay (rarely) and will do whatever it takes to underpay.

            The only scenario for trading Baertschi would be in a package with other players and maybe a later round pick – and why bother.

      • TD

        There is value to pieces that fit. Most good lines are built around two good players and they look for a lesser player that fits as the third. Burrows was never a first line player, but fit with the Sedins. Looking back over many successful lines you can see the pattern. Gretzky, Kurri and ???, Getzlaf, Perry and ???, etc. Baertschi may not be able to generate a ton on his own, but he is a valuable piece if he elevates his production when he plays with better players.

        • Harman Dayal

          Teams tend to place lots of stock into counting stats, even if they may not be sustainable. Looking at Baertschi with that lens gives him lots of value.

    • canuckfan

      The Canucks should give him some term, but at a reasonable price. He fills the need on the left side and as the Canucks aquire more talent he will produce more. In two years he will have done the Canucks well and will have more value from both his record and the value of his contract. Trading him now for a draft pick unless in the top 10 won’t bring any real return.
      Not sure why everyone wants to keep trading valuable players for draft picks better to build players profile and production signing for term and from that their value increases.

      • Cageyvet

        canuckfan I agree completely, and would add that at a time when these same prognosticators ask how we replace the Sedins’ 50 pts each, they want to trade someone who may do that for the possibility of a player down the road. It’s mind-numbing how many people want to give away a proven middle-six forward for a possible bust draft pick. At the levels many want to deal him, 2nd round or late 1st at best or a B prospect, the odds are easily 50 per cent that you get a Baertschi level player in return, or a lesser player, or a bust. Sure, trade Baertschi, because we have cap issues? We’re overloaded with scoring at any position? He’s one of our lowest value contracts? He’s too old and is declining? I mean wtf, he’s way down on my list of guys to move, unless you give me a kick-ass deal, then fine, he’s not untouchable by any means.

  • Bud Poile

    Benning is talking contract as he’s an RFA.
    Baertschi was a great-as in GREAT- trade for the Nucks at a time in which this team struggled to find anything prospective from the Gillis Bleak Years.
    Baertschi is an RFA.Sign him to a fair contract and get a first rounder for him on draft day.