Often touted as one of Jim Benning’s prime acquisitons, Sven Baertschi has long been a player of hope for the Canucks. A 2011 first-round draft pick (of the Calgary Flames), Baertschi has shown glimpses of offensive upside as well as a chemistry with prized centre Bo Horvat. The issue with Baertschi? He has never been able to stay healthy enough to establish a consistent offensive pedigree. Having had yet to play a full season over the course of his career, 2018-19 was no different, partaking in just 26 contests.
Ultimately, this was the theme of Sven Baertschi’s campaign. In those 26 games, he did manage a fairly respectable nine goals and 14 points — a 28-goal and 44-point pace over a full 82 games — but was ultimately overshadowed by his health. However, it’s not necessarily fair to judge one way or the other on the merits of a quarter of a season. Under that guise, it’s hard to rule whether Baertschi’s season, in a vacuum, was a failure or a success.
That being said, the 2018-19 campaign may prove to be a liability for Baertschi for more reasons than just individual output. Prior to the commencement of the campaign, many saw Baertschi as a fixture in the top-six, largely on the basis of his chemistry with Horvat. After having missed the majority of the season, however, others were able to make a case to supplant him. Jake Virtanen demonstrated a glimpse of what he could be with 15 goals (and an internet sensation by the name of Shotgun Jake), and will look to take another step this coming year. Josh Leivo turned out to be one of Benning’s best acquisitions, becoming a pleasant surprise with 10 goals and 18 points in 49 games. Additionally, Tanner Pearson, the return for Erik Gudbranson at the trade deadline, established himself as a fairly reliable scoring presence with nine goals and 12 points in his 19 games as a Canuck.
What does this mean for his future with the team? There are a multitude of paths that could be taken. Once thought of a potentially valuable trade chip, his injury history has made that a fairly remote possibility (at least as far as receiving a valuable package is concerned). A move certainly could be in the cards, given the logjam of forwards, but as we get closer to the season’s start that looks increasingly unlikely. Given his likely roster spot, where Baertschi will fit into the lineup presents an interesting conundrum. He could slot alongside Horvat, as he has in the past, providing a known quantity on the line. He could also find himself in a third line role, where is speed and tenacity could prove effective alongside possible linemates like Brandon Sutter, Adam Gaudette, or Jake Virtanen.
It’s not clear what the 2018-19 will wind up meaning for Baertschi moving forward, nor what the future holds for the Swiss winger. An optimistic case is that he can stay healthy, compliment a top-six winger, and reach his full potential. Conversely, it’s arguably more likely that he hits yet another injury, once again dooming his output. Only time will tell, and Baertschi will be one of many interesting Canucks to keep an eye on.