This hasn’t been a banner year for the Vancouver Canucks. The team has a 25-28-12 record, tying them for fifth-worst in the NHL. They’re destined to miss the playoffs, and by a fair margin.
Surely, everyone associated with the Canucks has come to that realization by now.
But it hasn’t been all bad concerning the boys in blue and green this season. One player in particular that has been a real bright light, especially of late, is Sven Baertschi.
Baertschi was acquired at last year’s trade deadline in probably GM Jim Benning’s best move with the Canucks to date. Benning gave up a late second round pick (53rd overall) for Baertschi, a former first rounder with loads of potential.
After being penciled in on the Canucks’ second line to start the season, the 23-year-old winger from Bern, Switzerland was a healthy scratch for 3 of the first 13 games of the season. Willie Desjardins didn’t appear to have confidence in Baertschi, giving him less than 10 minutes of ice time 11 times in his first 22 games.
Still, he did reasonably well on the stats sheet, scoring 7 points (2-5-7) in his first 14 games. Then, Baertschi went pointless for his next 13 games and looked like he was going to be this year’s version of Linden Vey.
But unlike Vey, whose production dried out as the season went on, Baertschi has quietly been very good for Willie Desjardins.
He has 11 goals and 17 points in the last 30 games, and has become one of Vancouver’s best threats on the power play. He hasn’t seen his ice time dip below 10 minutes since December and he played a season-high of 18:42 on Saturday against the Sharks.
Here’s Baertschi doing some great work with the man advantage, on a goal that tipped off Daniel Sedin.
Baertschi is a huge reason why the Canucks, who despite numerous injuries, are 9-for-31 on the power play in their last 10 games. He’s looks at home with the man advantage, proving to be an upgrade to what Radim Vrbata was giving them for much of the season.
But Baertschi’s isn’t simply a power play specialist. He’s going to the dirty areas, getting it done in many different ways.
Here’s his goal on Thursday against the Sharks, tipping a shot in from the point:
Baertschi now has 24 points (13-11-24) in 57 games, which is fine production for a player averaging just 13 minutes of ice time per night and ranking 11th on the team in average power play time.
The Canucks have benefitted from Baertschi’s poise with the puck, his playmaking ability, and his accurate shot. He’s currently fifth on the team in points, and third in goals.
After Calgary gave up on him last year, he’s found a home in Vancouver and should solidify his spot on the team with consistent ice time and opportunities on the power play. All of a sudden, it isn’t farfetched to predict 20 goals and 50 points for Baertschi as soon as next season.
If he does that, he’ll be a nice building block for the Canucks moving forward.