STOKING THE FIRE - MARCH 19th

Vintage Flame
March 19 2012 04:04PM

 

As quickly as he came into our lives, he was also sent away. For five games we all had the pleasure to take a peek through the looking glass that was the Flames future, and for that brief glimpse, the future looked bright. It would be a little presumptuous to label Bärtschi a “rookie phenom”, but the excitement that surrounds the kid isn’t merely a desperate attempt from fans to grasp onto any measure of change to this hockey club. Three goals in his first five professional hockey games help that argument as well. While the goals certainly helped the team on the scoreboard, Sven’s influence, as the youngest member of the team, might also have been more noticeable than most people realize.

With the fate of the Flames held in the balance of the final ten games of the season, Sven hopefully left a little piece of himself behind before rejoining the Portland Winterhawks in their bid for the 2012 Memorial Cup. When Sven first arrived on the scene, it didn’t take long for his excitement for being called up, his excitement for the game itself, to become infectious amongst the other players in Calgary.

"He's been awesome," said centre Matt Stajan. ”Man, he was flying out there in the second half of the game. He was making plays. He's in on the forecheck. You know, he's a smart player with patience. I think we've got a special player coming up in the system, and we're seeing it first-hand right now." Bärtschi’s demeanor extended beyond his teammates to his coach as well; “I'd like not to have to send him back to Portland," Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday night. "But unfortunately, the rules are the rules."

With Bärtschi considered the one and only “Blue-chip” prospect the Flames have in the system, drafting has always been an area that management has taken it on the proverbial chin. If the fans have always felt that the team has little to nothing going forward, how must a basically new management team feel when they start sifting through the cupboards? Are they indeed bare and if so, can they be restocked with a flourish in two drafts? John Weisbrod seems to think so. Sven might be the one true blue-chip prospect, but he is not viewed as the only asset.

"Calgary beat us to the punch," says Weisbrod, recalling the disappointment of his then-employers, the Boston Bruins, who'd owned the last pick of that particular round. "There were people banging their hands on the table, like, 'Oh, we should have taken him a round earlier.' It's a calculated risk. The Flames got Gaudreau in a really good spot."

Where Gaudreau may be considered the wild card of the group, not because there is a question of his talent, rather just his size. Mighty Mouse might just be one part of a diversified look the Flames have taken in draft strategy.

"When I came in here, the draft as a whole - no matter how you define it or how you quantify it - had not been very good over the past 10 years," Weisbrod continued. "The results of what that does to your organization speaks for itself."

The cupboard of the Flames might seem bare because the team has taken a categorical look at drafting players into the system. Perhaps there is not just one big prospect cupboard, but rather a series of doors that address different needs of the parent club. As Weisbrod goes on to explain, the Flames believe they have wide variety of young players that should all be considered assets to the organization. When the draft has been a weak spot for a team for a period of time as long as a decade, there is no choice for a team other than to break the entire process down and compartmentalize what the team needs and when they should address those needs.

An organization won’t be able to address all areas of concern in one or two drafts so they have to prioritize a pseudo draft triage logic. Ron Sutter would agree, "How would I rate our group?" repeats Ron Sutter, the Flames' player-development coach. "It's the best group of kids we've had in my 11 years here."

Cruickshank’s article goes on to explain more in depth the qualities that Weisbrod admires about each prospect and why the Flames feel optimistic about their contribution to the future of the Calgary Flames.

Also on board are stay-at-home defenders (Joey Leach, Tyler Wotherspoon); power forwards (Michael Ferland); level-headed leaders (John Ramage); large-framed netminders (Laurent Brossoit); cerebral centremen (Max Reinhart); two-way wingers (Bill Arnold); European dashers (Markus Granlund); and wild-cards (Gaudreau).

DON’T LOSE YOURSELF

While Bärtschi’s departure may be sad news for the fans, the team has no time to dwell on the loss. They are starting to get players back form injury and the team needs everyone in the line-up gelling and on the same page. With only ten games left, there is no time for players to re-familiarize themselves with each other. The return of Lee Stempniak means the coach will shuffle the lines around in an attempt to find some instant chemistry. One of those shuffles include Moss on the third line, being replaced on the OMG line by Tom Kostopoulus; whether it is just trying out new things or if Sutter sees something there, remains to be seen.

If Sutter has been struggling with his line matching this season, then juggling them at this point could be a gamble as time is running out for the Flames playoff hopes. With the loss to the Oilers on Friday, there are some very key games for the team to focus on. Most likely, these games are going to include (but not be limited to) the two games against Colorado, the game against the Kings and at least one of the two matches against Dallas. That’s four or five, and if Calgary figures to need around seven more wins, then the Flames better not take for granted the games against Minnesota and the possibility that their season may be determined on the last day of the season, when they host Anaheim.

That means from here on out you have to be in playoff mode. For the most part the Flames have done that in March, with a record of 6-2-1, but they have also taken some nights off, and that just doesn’t cut it anymore. As Kent talked about with Lowetide on Nation Radio this weekend, it’s not so much that Calgary has to worry about how many points they are out of a playoff spot but rather how many teams they have to compete with to get into that spot.

“You just know you cannot afford to take a night off because you’re not just battling with one other team,” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “You can expect to maybe have one team where it’s not at its best, but you’ve got four or five teams, so the majority of the teams are going to be at their best every night.”

That’s pretty sage advice Cory, yet when the team goes out and loses to the 29th and 30th place teams back-to-back. I guess not a lot of your teammates seem to be listening. The loss to Edmonton was infuriating, but the loss last night to Columbus was nothing short of a joke.

Speaking of Mr. Sarich, there seems to be much ado about nothing. After Sarich laid a not-so boom on Taylor Hall, the oft-injured #4 was forced to leave the ice and not return. Later it was released that Hall had been concussed on the play. There have been many talks about the hit, and anyone with half a brain realizes that in no way was Sarich trying to knock Hall’s head off. Instead, it was an unfortunate event, basically caused by Hall himself. There was no doubt Sarich wanted to hit him hard into the boards, but he kept his elbow down and tight to his body. It was looking to be a straight on shoulder check, until Hall slipped and took the brunt of the hit in his head. End of story to an unfortunate mistake right? Wrong!

Apparently Edmonton’s illustrious version of our own Eric Francis, Dan Tencer saw things a little differently and took his critique to twitter following the hit. The comments in social media weren’t limited to Tencer either, as some of the other Edmonton Media-types got their digs in as well, mostly around the fact that after Sarich hammered Hall, he was unwilling to engage Theo Peckham. We all know that Hall acts like a girl at the best of times, hell he even looks like one, but the fact that Sarich has to answer to Peckham for a clean hit just to protect Hall’s ‘virtue’ is completely absurd. It doesn’t even warrant much more commentary than that, but have a look at the article and I welcome any opinions in the comment section.

Alright let’s wrap this up getting back to some of the good stuff.
Sven Bärtschi may have been forced by NHL rules to go back to Portland, but wanted to leave Flames fans with some parting messages to let them know that he may be gone, but not forgotten.

“Tell them thanks,” the 19-year-old said by way of a sketchy cell phone connection. “It was awesome.”

When asked to comment on being a 19 year old rookie playing in front of a fan base that knew more about him than he knew about them...

“When they were yelling my name, you know how you get that weird feeling – when your skin feels funny and you’re heart goes all warm?” he asked. “That was awesome. Just a dream.”

In the end, how did Sven feel about what he did in the five games he spent with the Flames?

“In the end, I’m really happy with what I did in Calgary. I took it as a huge compliment that I had the chance, that they made me an emergency recall. I had the best time of my life during the last couple of days.”

With that, one word pretty much sums up the whole experience... SVENmania!

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Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don't understand the sport yet. Follow Vintage_Flame on Twitter
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#1 Domebeers.com
March 19 2012, 04:31PM
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What Tencer et al need to understand is that if Sarich had any honour he would have retired two years ago.

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#2 Justin Azevedo
March 19 2012, 04:34PM
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tencer's a hack. the worst of the worst.

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#3 Bean-counting cowboy
March 19 2012, 04:57PM
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Can't wait to see Sven play next year. I say put him with Olli & Glenny - give him top 6 minutes. Moss can play with Backlund on the third line - which should be a pretty good line to drive possession.

Then you slowly start to make the Iggy line transition to the 2nd line as Sven improves & becomes a BEAST - not getting ahead of myself at all.

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#5 Shredder
March 19 2012, 06:19PM
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Puh-leeeesssee...you can critique Hall all you want for looking like a girl, but it was Sarich acting like a biatch Friday night. The Oilers coach even thought it was a clean hit and came out and said the same...Sarich has thrown his weight around a few times, and that's all well and good, but if any team were to take a run at Kipper, what would happen?

Now I find it very interesting that you are highlighting the prospects that the Flames have, as that seems to be your biggest criticism of Oiler fans - that we look to the future based on our prospects, not how our team is doing now. Yet here you are, your team in 11th and you're looking to the future...You've made comments that the draft isn't the way to build a team...yet Sven is your sign of hope? FYI: I believe the Flames are ranked 26th by hockey'sfuture.com in terms of prospect depth...

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#6 RexLibris
March 19 2012, 07:53PM
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Nice goad, er, I mean article, VF. ;-)

Baertschi looked good in the NHL and seems likely to start the season next year in Calgary. What he does over an entire season, handling the ups and downs, remains to be seen but I honestly think the young man will have a career in the NHL.

I would take Weisbrod's comments on Gaudreau with a grain of salt. He's commenting on how his former employer felt about his current employer drafting a player. It's anecdotal, circumstantial and perhaps is meant to reflect well on his current organization. Weisbrod didn't get to his level of management by an unabashed commitment to the truth. If you ever heard Kevin Prendergast (currently in charge of scouting for the National Junior Team) talk about all his Oiler draft picks every one of them was bound to become a franchise player of HOF proportions.

Finally, to offer up a little balance: Hall didn't get hit by something he brought on himself. He lost an edge and went down. He was going to get creamed by Sarich deep in his zone anyway, but the fall really put him in bad position. Sarich couldn't change course and Hall couldn't have known that his blades would give out that early in a period. You're blaming the victim.

Hall hasn't been as injured this year as either Glencross or Tanguay. He's missed 11 games to their 15 and 14, respectively. And several of those games were after having a teammate step on his face, so kudos to the young man for that.

Finally, in terms of the response to the Hall hit, I don't have a problem with players going for solid checks with the intent to hurt (but not injure! I'm deliberate in that distinction) a player and put him off his game. However, were an Oiler player to do the same to Tanguay or Baertschi would Flames fans expect that player to have to "face the music" as it were? It isn't necessarily right or even sane, but often the team (and the fans) feel that it is an appropriate response.

Sarich didn't have to fight, and I don't think any less of him for not. What I thought was in bad taste was saying about Peckham afterwards that he was a player that the Flames wanted to have on the ice, slandering through implication Peckham's abilities. Fans can do it, bloggers do it, I've done it. But as a player you don't say that in a television interview. That's in poor taste.

There, I tried to keep it short this time.

Thanks for the read and I look forward to the pre-season when our teams can meet up again.

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#9 flamesburn89
March 19 2012, 10:49PM
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Shredder wrote:

Puh-leeeesssee...you can critique Hall all you want for looking like a girl, but it was Sarich acting like a biatch Friday night. The Oilers coach even thought it was a clean hit and came out and said the same...Sarich has thrown his weight around a few times, and that's all well and good, but if any team were to take a run at Kipper, what would happen?

Now I find it very interesting that you are highlighting the prospects that the Flames have, as that seems to be your biggest criticism of Oiler fans - that we look to the future based on our prospects, not how our team is doing now. Yet here you are, your team in 11th and you're looking to the future...You've made comments that the draft isn't the way to build a team...yet Sven is your sign of hope? FYI: I believe the Flames are ranked 26th by hockey'sfuture.com in terms of prospect depth...

Kipper is a goalie. If a player took a run at him, the player would get a penalty, and possibly a suspension. And if Tom Renney thought Sarich's check was a clean hit, I don't see your point.

1) Sarich tries to hit Hall

2) Hall stumbles and falls

3) Sarich's is already in the middle of making the hit, and makes contact with Hall. Hall is injured on the play

4) Tom Renney says the hit is clean

Where is the problem??

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#10 Nolan Moore
March 19 2012, 11:45PM
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Who is this John Weisbrod? Did some scouting in the NJ organization and failed miserably in the NBA the last 10 years. Why? Why have people of failures and Americans running this team? Feaster isnt a hockey guy Weisbrod has no track record (yet he thinks he does) and Conroy (Have ton of respect for, no bad words for him) but is more of the smiley face in management. This team "ain't" going no where fast with these guys at the helm.

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#11 loudogYYC
March 20 2012, 01:19AM
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Nolan Moore wrote:

Who is this John Weisbrod? Did some scouting in the NJ organization and failed miserably in the NBA the last 10 years. Why? Why have people of failures and Americans running this team? Feaster isnt a hockey guy Weisbrod has no track record (yet he thinks he does) and Conroy (Have ton of respect for, no bad words for him) but is more of the smiley face in management. This team "ain't" going no where fast with these guys at the helm.

Why? Because the Flames already tried having the team run by a Canadian that only believed in Western Canadian hockey and failed to see any other way to the top than his own. Once it became painfully clear that his way to the top was outdated by a decade or so, the Flames hired who they they thought was the best available executive out there. Jim Nill probably didn't want to spend years fixing Darryl's mistakes and Stevie Y saw more potential in Tampa.

I did think it was kinda funny how Feaster's Interim title was removed right after Tampa announced Yzerman as their new GM.

Who knows if anyone of those 3 mentioned could actually fix the team. What I'm most happy about is the fact they're trying something different because they want a different result than what we've been getting here for 6 years.

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#12 SmellOfVictory
March 20 2012, 08:45AM
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@loudogYYC

When Yzerman was hunting around for a job, it was reported that he was very interested in the Flames and would have gone to them had they extended the offer.

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#13 everton fc
March 20 2012, 10:11AM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

When Yzerman was hunting around for a job, it was reported that he was very interested in the Flames and would have gone to them had they extended the offer.

This shows you how out-of-touch, how screwed we may be. The ownership chose Feaster over Yzerman. Few owners would have made that decision...

Brutal.

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#14 loudogYYC
March 20 2012, 10:41AM
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@SmellOfVictory

Do you remember where you read that? Every team tries to replicate what the Red Wings do, I have a hard time believing Murray Edwards and the boys would ignore Stevie Y.

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#15 the-wolf
March 20 2012, 11:56AM
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loudogYYC wrote:

Do you remember where you read that? Every team tries to replicate what the Red Wings do, I have a hard time believing Murray Edwards and the boys would ignore Stevie Y.

If memory serves, GJ from the Herald sweras by it.

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#16 the-wolf
March 20 2012, 11:57AM
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Of course, this also the same club that never interviewed Tippett or went after Hitch when he was available.

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#17 Nolan Moore
March 20 2012, 01:08PM
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Dont know if its ownership or upper management but ya you tried western Canadian guys. Sutter had some success but had one type of player he wanted. Someone who wasnt suited for todays NHL. The Feast claims he knows hockey, though i doubt he's ever been on skates. There are great American hockey minds, Sweet Lou, David Poile, James Patrick. But this team is so stubborn. I think that King has really stuck his neck out and is realizing hes made mistakes and is trying to fix it but not doing a great job. Had a chance to start anew with a new GM and coach but went with the status quo. My BIGGEST fear is that this team will miss the playoffs by a couple points and then they feel "We're one player away" and keep going.

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#18 the-wolf
March 20 2012, 01:21PM
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Nolan Moore wrote:

Dont know if its ownership or upper management but ya you tried western Canadian guys. Sutter had some success but had one type of player he wanted. Someone who wasnt suited for todays NHL. The Feast claims he knows hockey, though i doubt he's ever been on skates. There are great American hockey minds, Sweet Lou, David Poile, James Patrick. But this team is so stubborn. I think that King has really stuck his neck out and is realizing hes made mistakes and is trying to fix it but not doing a great job. Had a chance to start anew with a new GM and coach but went with the status quo. My BIGGEST fear is that this team will miss the playoffs by a couple points and then they feel "We're one player away" and keep going.

The triumvirate of excuse this summer:

1) Injuries - which the team doesn't use as an excuse, just continually mentions that they don't use them as an excuse. As long as you know they don't use them as an excuse. Injuries, that is.

2) Sven - again, sell hope.

3) New coach (most likely) - scapegoat.

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#19 loudogYYC
March 20 2012, 02:07PM
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@Nolan Moore

Feaster never claimed he knows hockey. Quite the opposite, he's stated he's not a hockey guy and he's been pretty open about his path to pro hockey management. What he's doing that's so different, is that he's actually using the resources available to him.

Weisbrod, like him or not, is spending tons of time combing through the NCAA, his supposed specialty. Conroy, is doing the same but throughout the CHL and Europe.

I'd love to hear what Todd Button and other scouts have to say about the change in regime. My feeling is that this management team is more of a democracy than a dictatorship. Still too early to say if this is a good thing or not.

I'm just glad Feaster sees himself as a manager, not a King.

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