Five things: Where we stand

Ryan Lambert
November 21 2013 10:21AM

1. Why does Bob Hartley hate Sven Baertschi?

On Monday, ahead of the shootout win over the Jets, it was speculated that Sven Baertschi would not be in Bob Hartley's lineup despite the fact that he had points in the two previous games and had generally been pretty good when it comes to puck possession.

That this was outrageously poor decision-making was obvious, but that it barely raised eyebrows was sad. This is what we've come to expect from Hartley vis a vis the former first-round pick: Inexplicably unfair treatment. Now, it should be said that he's not piling up the shots and he's been sheltered a pretty fair bit recently, but he's nonetheless keeping the puck. This, however, apparently only warranted 13:49 in an overtime game. Who knows why any more?

But it's worth asking what purpose this all serves. He's a player now just 43 games into his pro career and Hartley is acting as though he's a veteran whose mistakes must be paid for in healthy scratches and benchings. Kids make mistakes, right? That's why we're so willing to give Sean Monahan a pass when he disappears altogether for games at a time.

Baertschi has exactly 22 games more NHL experience than this wunderkind who gets all the leeway he wants, and perhaps it would be wise to start treating him that way. Monahan gets 16-plus minutes a night. Baertschi doesn't. And almost all the extra time comes on the power play. Think that'd help Baertschi's production? Maybe his shot total? Nah, the kid just needs to think about the game in the press box every once in a while. That's the ticket.

2. Whither Monahan?

Speaking of the rookie, after he scored the shootout winner against Winnipeg the other night there was a whole lot of talk about how he'd turned the corner, or whatever. I can't imagine anyone who thought that actually watched the game.

Yes, he was on the ice for a goal for at even strength, but corsi when he was on the ice was atrocious. I didn't know until I looked it up exactly what they were, but they certainly weren't pretty: 20 against and only six for (23.1 percent). Not that I necessarily hold it against him, as he too should receive the benefit of the doubt given his youthful inexperience, but we're really ready to say he's broken out of a slump, and overlook the fact that he got drilled in the course of playing regular hockey, because he scored a shootout goal? Just because he snapped that six-game losing streak? That seems crazy to me.

3. We're a quarter of the way done already

Crazy to think of, isn't it? Not a lot of good to pull from the already-no-longer-smoldering wreckage of this campaign. As I write this, they're 13 points out of a playoff spot and only six up from the bottom of the league, which I guess is right around where I thought they would and should be.

Your mileage is obviously going to vary on what you're getting out of this campaign, but for me, it's going to be interesting to see just how much worse they can get. It's been said a million times but the sell-off is coming. Mike Cammalleri has been playing some inspired hockey of late, no doubt in a pronounced effort to get the hell out of town, and bidders are going to come calling soon enough. A few other veterans will probably go along with him. And that opens up minutes for the kids on this team to either sink or swim with, as well as really and truly tanking it, which is all the better for what should be the end goal: Giving yourself as high a draft pick as possible.

Obviously I'm of the belief that this should have been the goal all along, and maybe it secretly was. But I wonder. Just as I don't think this is a team that should be going 4-2-2 for any stretch of the season, I also don't know that things are bad enough that they should be going 2-7-1 in any 10 game stretch. I don't think anyone except maybe Buffalo is that bad.

This team is likely to settle into a groove of losing very soon. It'll be for the best. One other thing that's going to help...?

4. All the goalies suck

Wow are they terrible. Reto Berra is well on his way to being the worst on this team, which is saying something given how Karri Ramo has played this season. I'd say they're young too, and be a little bit willing to give them the benefit of the doubt along with the team's other youngsters, but both have been playing pro hockey for about a decade at this point. They know what it takes, and none of this should be taking them by surprise.

NHL players are obviously better than those in Finland and Sweden and the KHL, and adjustment obviously takes time. With that having been said, even on a baseline level, you should be able to post save percentages — individually and as a team — north of .890. This is honestly astounding; by the end of this season it's very likely that the Flames are going to account for the two worst team save percentages in the Behind The Net era.

Good for the tank job, and other teams' goal totals, but not exactly enough to inspire be confidence in the team's decision-making.

5. Checkin' in on Providence College

The good news about the goaltending situation, if there is any, is that Jon Gillies is looking more and more like the real deal. In case you missed the news over the weekend, he recorded the eighth shutout of his college career in just his 45th start. It was also his third in 10 games this season, so it would seem he is picking up the pace.

To say that he's been revelatory in the crease for Providence is no exaggeration. His save percentage this season is .949, and no, that isn't a typo. His GAA, as you might expect, is extremely low at 1.59, and consequently his record this year is 8-1-1. With that having been said, he's played a relatively soft schedule so far this year (only one of the five teams he's played against is above .500 a month into the season). The thing is, though, that he's also perfectly capable of doing this against the best teams in the nation, too. And he probably will all season.

There's less good news to report with the oft-discussed Mark Jankowski, though. After starting the season with 4-1-5 in his first four games, and often looking like a difference-maker in those games (which is to say that these weren't easily-come-by points), he's once again faded into the background almost entirely. He has just two goals and no assists in his last seven games, and both those goals came in a breezy win over Merrimack College (currently just 3-6-1).

Worse, his shot totals — usually a good indicator of how involved a player is in proceedings, since corsi isn't readily available for college games — have dropped off a cliff. He has 20 SOG this season, but of those, 14 came in his first seven games. A good rule of thumb in NCAA hockey is that two shots a night is above average, and three is excellent. (By way of comparison, Johnny Gaudreau is the best forward in the country, and has 46 in 11 games.)

Jankowski has six shots on goal in his last six games, and that's awful. Especially considering that all of them have come against Hockey East bottom feeders BU, Merrimack and, most recently, Vermont. Worse, four of those shots came in that two-goal game against Merrimack.

I thought he was invisible in watching the Vermont games over the weekend, apart from the fact that he took a bad penalty next to the Vermont net. The stats back that up: Two games, no shots on goal. Despite his age, he really needs to figure it out quickly. It's gone beyond just not moving his feet, which was a problem earlier in the year. He's not in any way asserting himself at this point. It's confusing.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
November 21 2013, 03:21PM
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SeanCharles wrote:

Sven will be fine. He is way too young to be giving up on.

He's an NHLer at 21 and I thought he was one of the best skating playiers last night.

Patience young grasshopper, it takes time to become master..

I hope so. I just find his lack of killer instinct around the net a little worrying, but hopefully it materializes with time.

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#52 TRAV
November 21 2013, 03:26PM
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CDB wrote:

Very true, Sven is competing hard. Which is a positive development Hartley should get some credit for, that I failed to mention. Good point.

Answer me this though, Hartley still wants to bench him despite Sven being the 3rd forward high, 1st backchecker and competing in all 3 zones...

Agree with you on Backlund to some degree. I think when given chances he's faired pretty well (but wow was he bad the other night), but his confidence has to be tanked right now.

Give both of them some PP time and confidence. When you're down 7-3, those guys should be out on the PP.

He has done some good work that I failed to mention when my blood was boiling and I was firing off my evaluation. I agree.

Sounds like we are pretty much on the same page.

I don't know how much stock we can put in Hartley wanting to bench Sven the other night. The way I saw it Miliions tweeted it then all media retweeted and reported it as though it were a fact. Could it be possible that Millions just made mistake?

Can' t really hold against a guy what we think he thought... better to judge him on what he does...

Still hard to argue that some guys seem a bit fragile right now.

The only other two cents I wouldn't mind throwing in is that I am glad that the coach isn't treating them all the same. I think that a good coach knows how to push different buttons for different players. Some guys need constant pats on the back while others need a kick on the shins. Motivation according to personality and response. Time for coach to try something different with Backs though. Nhis approach right now isn't working...

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#53 ???
November 21 2013, 04:16PM
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As far as Colborne is concerned: He's a guy who can score in the shootout, and that's something the Flames DESPERATELY need; I can't count how many points this team has thrown away coz they couldn't score in the shootout.

And yeah, he needs to score more (a lot more), but including the shootout and last night, I count 3 games where the Flames put points up because of Joe Colborne goals: I mean, they've all mattered, and to my eye they've all been things of beauty, real skill. So of course you keep playing him. (I'm fine with playing him on the 4th line - I just wish that line was Bouma-Colborne-Jones and playing 10 to 12 minutes a night)

And re: Jankowski. Yeah I wish he was scoring 2 goals every 3 games, and Lambert gets to see him play a whole lot more than me. But on Fan960 this week even Lambert made a point of saying that Janko's still the 4th youngest player in the entire conference. And like Joe Colborne, the flashes he's shown this year have been REALLY something, the kind of goals you can only score if you're a big man with real skills.

No, flashes are not enough. But big men with real skills who play center are a seriously valuable commodity. Worth taking a chance on and worth waiting for.

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#54 SmellOfVictory
November 21 2013, 04:36PM
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Kurt wrote:

I'm not alarmist. I'm agreeing we all need to calm down. Where we differ is that you think Sven is just on a slow curve to 1st line all star. I think he is on a slow curve to decent 2nd line player.

I'm not alarmist at all. I think people are being unrealistic, which is completely different than saying he is a flop.

I actually think Hartley is developing him nice and slow and proper. Much like Babcock develops their players. The Coilers would give Sven 25 minutes of ice and 1st line PP. I want more Detroit, less Coiler style development. Not sure how that is 'alarmist'.

I wouldn't even venture to say what level he will hit; I just think people should recognize that he is essentially an NHL level player already, and not get so caught up in what they think he will turn into. He shows flashes of ability that look very first line, while often appearing outmatched in ways that a first liner would not. At the moment he's learning to improve his play at an NHL level, and the fact that he does appear to be improving and has seen a degree of success is something that everyone should focus on and appreciate.

What I think, is that unless someone provides an in-depth analysis of comparable players at a similar age and their results, the prognostications of "level of NHLer" are unnecessary.

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#55 piscera.infada
November 21 2013, 04:37PM
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Kurt wrote:

I'm not alarmist. I'm agreeing we all need to calm down. Where we differ is that you think Sven is just on a slow curve to 1st line all star. I think he is on a slow curve to decent 2nd line player.

I'm not alarmist at all. I think people are being unrealistic, which is completely different than saying he is a flop.

I actually think Hartley is developing him nice and slow and proper. Much like Babcock develops their players. The Coilers would give Sven 25 minutes of ice and 1st line PP. I want more Detroit, less Coiler style development. Not sure how that is 'alarmist'.

Sven's not a perennial all-star? Blasphemer!!!

I actually couldn't agree more, it's unfair to label the kid an "elite prospect". That, in and of itself, is a loaded term, and IMO should be stricken from the rhetoric surrounding any prospect - it grossly inflates everything to do with the prospect, and heaps unrealistic expectations squarely on their shoulders. That however, is besides the point. I strongly believe Sven will end up being a great player in this league - first line, second line, who cares? And yes, he could be a perennial all-star, maybe.

I tend to consider those who assume that Hartley has ruined, or is intent on ruining, the kid because of three scratches in twenty-two games to be the true 'alarmists'.

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#56 TRAV
November 21 2013, 04:57PM
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Tim Jackman wrote:

I got traded guys :( Enjoy your 6th round pick although it will never replace the GRIT I was able to bring to the 4th line

Well the boys on here may finally get their wish. I really like this move. Adding drafts pick is never a bad thing and Jackman is replaceable by an upgrade in Jones.

Jackman had his time in town and there was a time when he was a hard working grinder who wasn't afraid to drop the mitts. Good luck in Duckland and you're welcome. (Interesting to see if he can crack the Ducks lineup when he couldn't dress for us.)

Hope Jones comes in and plays with both grit and skill..

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#57 coachedpotatoe
November 21 2013, 05:21PM
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Now that the Flames have moved Jackman and have brought up the right player based upon merit(hopefully Hartley gives him a real chance say 5-10 games) the rebuild can really start to progress. Not having to try and play Jackman allows the Flames some flexibility in bringing up some of the kids for longer looks and this what the team needs to do before the big trades begins.

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