FGD: Twin City Showdown

Ryan Pike
November 05 2013 12:29PM

 

(photo courtesy Stadium Journey)

 

After opening their road trip with a hard-fought and gutsy win in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Calgary Flames (6-6-2) head north to visit a former divisional rival, the Minnesota Wild (8-4-3) tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. The puck drops at 6pm MT on Sportsnet West, Fan960 and all over the Twitters.

This will be the 75th meeting between the two teams, the first 74 of which took place when both teams were part of the since-disbanded Northwest Division. The Flames have a 41-20-13 edge all-time and went 2-1-2 in five games with the Wild last season.

THE LINE-UP

A bit of tinkering took place with the line-up, as Bob Hartley is parking Derek Smith and Sven Baertschi on the sidelines in favour of the debuting Chad Billins and Lance Bouma. Smith's benching will probably be met with less fanfare, but he's been just fine and Billins' insertion is probably a reward for his hard work and an attempt to gauge where Billins fits in. Roger Millions noted on Twitter that Billins' parents are coming in from Michigan to see his first NHL game, which is pretty special.

From DailyFaceoff, the lines:

Glencross (A) – Stajan (A) – Jones
Cammalleri (A) – Colborne – Galiardi
Bouma – Monahan – Hudler
Jackman – Backlund – McGrattan

Butler – Brodie
Russell – Wideman
Billins – O'Brien

Berra
Ramo

Baertschi was used sparingly in Sunday's win against Chicago, putting up just 13:12 in ice-time and seeing some of his shifts go to Mikael Backlund in the third period, although he still ended up with four more minutes of ice-time than Backlund did. Once again, the question of what Baertschi needs to do to stick in the line-up full-time comes into the forefront. It's probably some version of “play hard in all three zones.” He may not have a lot of offensive upside, but Lance Bouma plays hard.

Calgary's power-play is now officially goal-less in six straight.

THE OPPOSITION

The Wild lack a lot of upper-end star power, but they have a roster that's got a lot of top-end depth. Jason Pominville is having a great year so far with 10 goals, but Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund are also off to strong starts. The Wild last played on Sunday, just like Calgary, when they shut-out the New Jersey Devils.

Via DailyFaceoff, lines:

Coyle – Parise (A) – Koivu (C)
Neiderreiter – Granlund – Pominville
Cooke – Brodziak – Mitchell
McMillan – Konopka – Heatley

Suter (A) – Brodin
Stoner – Ballard
Scandella – Spurgeon

Harding
Backstrom

Per Roger Millions, it appears that Charlie Coyle has recovered from a nagging day-to-day injury and that means Justin Fontaine is headed back to the AHL potentially.

Last year's Masterton winner, Josh Harding, gets the start. He has a 7-2-1 record with an insane 1.10 goals against average and .950 save percentage. A cynic would suggest that he's going to regress (he will), but that's just a great start for a guy that has had a rough couple of years and handled it with great character.

The Wild are one of the better five-on-five teams in hockey right now, with their even-strength scoring differential being roughly twice Calgary's. They also boast the NHL's second-best power-play (behind St. Louis). Their glaring weakness is their PK, which is actually worse than Calgary's.

Either way, the Flames are on an emotional high after beating Chicago in overtime, and they'll need that momentum heading into Minnesota.

ELSEWHERE

While the Flames are in St. Paul taking on the Wild, the Abbotsford Heat return home from a sweep of their three-game road trip and face the San Antonio Rampage tonight. Joey MacDonald joins the Heat, but expect Joni Ortio to start after winning all three weekend games. That game starts at 8pm on TeamRadio.ca, so in theory one could watch the Flames game and then listen to the Heat.

And in the Dub, Brett Kulak and the Vancouver Giants host the Edmonton Oil Kings.

SUM IT UP

The Flames are back at .500 after beating Chicago, and to be honest, probably have more points so far than anybody expected them to get on this road trip. A win tonight could guarantee that they go at least .500 on the trip. And with a back-to-back Thursday and Friday against St. Louis and Colorado, they might not have a better chance to get points than tonight.

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Now in his fourth season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers and the Wrestling Observer.
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#1 the forgotten man
November 05 2013, 12:34PM
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Atta Boy Hartley...gotta love it when the Coach dresses sub-optimal lineups - guess he wants a top 5 draft pick as much as me. #truculence

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#2 Flames fan in YEG
November 05 2013, 12:49PM
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Looking forward to seeing Berra start again. It'll be interesting to see how he does.

I'm not sure I really understand why Baertschi continues to get time up in the press box. Sure, he's not the most defensive orientated forward the Flames have, but I would argue that he's certainly not the worst either. I've really enjoyed watching him, Monahan, and Hudler click. We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so, but does anyone else worry what messages the coaching staff have been sending him as of late? How much will he put up with before he starts to just not respond anymore? I would hate to see a kid with his talent start doubting himself even more.

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#3 exsanguinator
November 05 2013, 12:51PM
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Hartley announced that forward Sven Baertschi and defenceman Derek Smith will sit as healthy scratches tonight. The decision to sit Baertschi is similar to when he was held out of the lineup earlier this year. The coaching staff wants the youngster to get a better grasp of the game in all three zones.

"We're going to have a video session this afternoon. I told him on the ice that I want to show him where we need an improvement. At the same time, guys like Jackman, McGrattan and Bouma, they're bringing something every day to the table.

"Our number one priority as a coaching staff is to win some games. Number two, we want to make sure that we're a solid team, we're a solid family. We need everyone. The best way to stay in the lineup on a game-to-game basis is to perform."

According to Hartley, the mental aspect of sitting as a healthy scratch is also something a young player can learn from.

"That's part of his challenge. Mental toughness ... is a big part of this deal. This is a business for men. This is the best hockey league in the world."

Just thought I would share this from the website so I could see other fans' reactions to his reasoning.

I agree with him to a point but the players he's dressing are somewhat concerning. At this point I'm inclined to trust Hartley, he's been a champion coach at every level so far so I think he knows something about Baertschi that we don't.

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#4 exsanguinator
November 05 2013, 12:54PM
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And holy crap, I never noticed this but the Flames are 5-2-2 in one goal games so far. I wonder what their fenwick close looks like.

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#5 Chad
November 05 2013, 12:57PM
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The Flames really don't know how to develop young offensive talent. Either leave the player out of the NHL until they are over ready or if they are in the NHL you play them on the second unit power play and adjust the 5 on 5 ice time depending on how they are doing.

What you don't want to do is play them in a bottom six role then rotate them to the press box every time they make a mistake.

#Free Baertschi

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#6 Charleston Kingsley
November 05 2013, 12:59PM
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Mehnesotta Wild.

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#8 Kent Wilson
November 05 2013, 01:08PM
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@exsanguinator

At the same time, guys like Jackman, McGrattan and Bouma, they're bringing something every day to the table.

What would that something be, exactly? Ill-timed penalties and 5 minutes of ice time?

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#9 mk
November 05 2013, 01:16PM
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To be fair, we often laugh at the Oilers method of developing young players: leave them in the line-up in situations over their heads to no end. I don't think the young B's sitting a couple games will 'ruin' them.

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#10 Parallex
November 05 2013, 01:18PM
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@Flames fan in YEG

"We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so"

We do? I can't think of a single instance where anyone has questioned his attitude.

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#11 Charleston Kingsley
November 05 2013, 01:20PM
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What's the Baertschi equivalent of TSN.ca's Deshar-nay headline?

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#12 seve927
November 05 2013, 01:37PM
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Parallex wrote:

"We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so"

We do? I can't think of a single instance where anyone has questioned his attitude.

There are always rumours. From everything I've heard him say, I have no questions about his attitude.

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#13 SmellOfVictory
November 05 2013, 01:45PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

At the same time, guys like Jackman, McGrattan and Bouma, they're bringing something every day to the table.

What would that something be, exactly? Ill-timed penalties and 5 minutes of ice time?

McGrattan also brings a withering stare, and Jackman brings a jawline so strong it lifts its own weights.

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#14 ChinookArch
November 05 2013, 01:53PM
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Every time I look at Hartley's tinkering and the 4th line goes untouched, I want to organize a mob. I like Bouma, but he should go in at McGrattan's slot not Baertschi's.

It would be nice, if after a decade we might be able to actually enjoy a Wild/Flames game. I hope to be awake by the 3rd. We'll see.

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#15 Flames fan in YEG
November 05 2013, 02:16PM
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Parallex wrote:

"We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so"

We do? I can't think of a single instance where anyone has questioned his attitude.

During an interview last year, he was quoted saying that when he was sent back down to the Heat for a stint, that he had a lot of frustration with it, and that his confidence had hit rock bottom.

"“In the first couple of games in Abby I wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “I didn’t want to be there. And then at the same time, I realized again if I want to go back up there, I’ve got to perform here."

I was also referring to this during the young stars in Penticton.

"He's putting a lot of pressure on himself," said assistant to the general manager Craig Conroy. "We've talked to Sven, told him 'Hey, do what you do. Have fun. Smile.' For a while there, at the Penticton tournament he seemed ... he just wasn't in a good place. He did't seem to be enjoying himself. The weight of the world seemed to be on his shoulders." Conroy wants to see Baertschi return to his speed game and make plays, but time is running out for him to cement his place on the Flames' roster.

Some of the reports out of the tournament suggested that Baertschi wasn't overly thrilled about being there.

I'm not saying any of these things are necessarily true, but some of these things can be related to attitude. (Note: The Flames have to take some of the blame with the way he's been handled)

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#16 Kent Wilson
November 05 2013, 02:21PM
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Re: Sven

I personally don't know hat the team is looking for when it comes to the kid. He hasn't been dominant this year and there's been a few games where he's struggled, but overall I have liked his compete level and decision making.

That said, he's in his 20/21 year old season. As was pointed out in this space prior to the season, not a lot of guys are regular NHLers at this age. Giroux and Getzlaf we're even full timers at this point in their careers for instance.

So it won't be terrible if they end up sending him down to the AHL to ripen a bit more. That said, I hope he's not as confused as I am as to what he has to do to stick in the line-up. And it should go without saying that he's vastly more valuable to the club than someone like Jackman. Both now and particularly in the future, so that's also a head scratcher.

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#17 McRib
November 05 2013, 02:43PM
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"Calgary's power-play is now officially goal-less in six straight."

In related news Sven Baerschi is sitting tonight!!!

You know he has been part of the most consistent even strength line all season (along with Monahan, Hudler) and did manage to score 2PPG in Junior, but come PP time lets yank him for Matty "Franchise"!!!

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#18 Dr. Philosophy
November 05 2013, 02:50PM
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@Kent Wilson

The video session mentioned above should probably help dissolve some of the confusion with why he's being scratched on Sven's part at least.

A lot of the conversation and outrage over the fourth line is misplaced IMO. Look at the definition of a fourth line: between 5 and 10 minutes a game. There's not a lot of opportunity to make a difference, whether you're Jackman, Grats, Crosby, or Gretzky. Just chill out over whether Sven should play over Jackman; neither one of them is probably going to be a difference maker on the 4th line.

Moreover, with the organizational aspirations for Sven, he's not competing with Jackman or Grats anyways. He's sitting not because he's worse than the fourth liners we're playing, but because he's worse than the first and second liners we're playing.

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#19 Derzie
November 05 2013, 02:55PM
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There should be a limit to 1 or fewer dancing bears per lineup. Sven sitting is an abomination.

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#20 McRib
November 05 2013, 02:56PM
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@Dr. Philosophy

"He's sitting not because he's worse than the fourth liners we're playing, but because he's worse than the first and second liners we're playing."

I don't know the line of Hudler-Monahan-Baerschi has been the most consistent line even strength all season. The reason Hudler/Monahan have more points is Hartley loves to pull Baerschi off for Power Plays and Key Offensive Zone Situation's.

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#21 Jeff In Lethbridge
November 05 2013, 02:59PM
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@Kent Wilson

It may only be five minutes, but wow, what an amazing 5 minutes!

Where have I heard that before!!!!!!

:-P

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#22 prendrefeu
November 05 2013, 03:00PM
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Geez there's a lot of hand-wringing here.

I had to double check to make sure I wasn't accidentally reading a blog for overly-concerned Asian mothers.

Sheesh.

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#23 ?
November 05 2013, 03:09PM
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@Dr. Philosophy

Then let's rewrite the definition of a fourth line. 5-10 minutes a game for guys who need to play against other 4th lines and must be fed offensive zone starts to survive doesn't make sense. Flames could put Baertschi with Backs on the "4th", and play them 15 minutes. Why not give each line around the same time 5 on 5, and sit the guys who can't play hockey like Jackman and Mcgratten?

And if Sven is less ready than the 1st and 2nd liners that the Flames currently have, which I agree with, then he shouldn't be in the pressbox every other week. He should be down in Abby playing 18 minutes a night with someone like Troy Ward developing him.

Just my 2 cents, getting tired of reading "Hartley scratches Baertschi"

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#24 jonahgo
November 05 2013, 03:11PM
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whatever hartley. whatever man. this line-up truthfully resembles the platonic ideal of "11th Place in the Western Conference."

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#25 wot96
November 05 2013, 03:23PM
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@Flames fan in YEG

I think you are reading between the lines that are between the lines. The kid may need work on his positioning but I don't think his attitude is questionable.

If this was Keenan, and not Hartley, we would be saying this was head games. I tend to think this is BB unhappy with a kid that size, playing in the NHL that isn't also running people through the boards.

I just wish they would be honest with him (and us) and have him develop in Abby.

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#26 MK
November 05 2013, 03:24PM
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I thought we are in rebuilding state and need to work with our young guys to bring them along. How does sitting Sven is going to motivate this guy. I thought the kline of MOn, Hud and sven looked very good every time I saw them on the ice. I do not understand this coach philosophy at all. I think he has some lose screws.

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#28 McRib
November 05 2013, 03:26PM
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I wonder if whilst in the press box Sven Baertschi will get to learn as much as he did the last time he was a healthy scratch. You know a 5-1 drubbing against one of the worst teams in the Western Conference is a great way of saying hey you aren't good enough for this team!!!

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#29 RexLibris
November 05 2013, 03:38PM
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exsanguinator wrote:

And holy crap, I never noticed this but the Flames are 5-2-2 in one goal games so far. I wonder what their fenwick close looks like.

http://www.extraskater.com/team/calgary-flames/2013

Give it a second and let the graphs load and you'll get a good visual.

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#30 kittensandcookies
November 05 2013, 03:40PM
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Brett Sutter waived. Edmonton should totally pick him up.

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#32 kittensandcookies
November 05 2013, 03:44PM
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Damn, Edmonton needs more truculence.

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#33 ChinookArch
November 05 2013, 03:45PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Remember, this team is probably gonna jettison some vets at the deadline. That means Baertschi won't be able to be as shielded by the coaching staff.

Yes, I've been thinking in those terms as well. But I don't see any market for McGrattan at the deadline, Jackman is a stretch as well since he's basically less than a replacement level forward, at this point in his career. That leaves Cammalleri, Stajan, Stempniak, and Butler, all of whom would be playing anyway.

The goon line just makes no sense, regardless of your view on fighting or grit chart. It's not a winning strategy.

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#34 ChinookArch
November 05 2013, 03:50PM
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kittensandcookies wrote:

Damn, Edmonton needs more truculence.

And a playing structure, team identity, 2 top pairing dmen, and a goalie.

Funny I haven't heard any S'oiler fans professing the great future of the young oilers since the season started.

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#35 Kevin R
November 05 2013, 03:53PM
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I don't like Sven in the press box either. It's BS & there have been some good points being made here. But this isn't the first future NHL star Hartley has coached. These kids are young, 21, hell I know what my 21 year old kid is like. Sven is pumped, he's serious, he probably takes things very personal & very critical on himself. We know it doesn't make sense in the decision from a performance point of view of sitting him out. There is an off ice development/point that seems to be at work here. I've read many are worried what message this sends to the young player. The message is pretty simple, no one is bigger than the team, no one is perceived greater than his team mates. As a player, you are paid very good to accept whatever role the coach wants you to play whether you think it's right or not. I think they are deliberately putting Sven in frustrating situations beyond his control to get him to handle the ups & downs of having a pro hockey career in the best league in the world. Maybe they are trying to influence his approach to being the best he can be, regardless of the role he plays. Time will tell if this approach to his mental growth destroys a real high potential young player or gets him to become the elite player he possibly can be.

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#36 SeanCharles
November 05 2013, 03:56PM
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Does not compute...

Sven= My favorite player therefore this is extremely frustrating. But I will be patient and hope this is a 'big picture' move.

Monahan, Sven and Brodie are the future of this team so I will trust they know what they are doing. For now.

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#37 SeanCharles
November 05 2013, 04:00PM
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Kevin R wrote:

I don't like Sven in the press box either. It's BS & there have been some good points being made here. But this isn't the first future NHL star Hartley has coached. These kids are young, 21, hell I know what my 21 year old kid is like. Sven is pumped, he's serious, he probably takes things very personal & very critical on himself. We know it doesn't make sense in the decision from a performance point of view of sitting him out. There is an off ice development/point that seems to be at work here. I've read many are worried what message this sends to the young player. The message is pretty simple, no one is bigger than the team, no one is perceived greater than his team mates. As a player, you are paid very good to accept whatever role the coach wants you to play whether you think it's right or not. I think they are deliberately putting Sven in frustrating situations beyond his control to get him to handle the ups & downs of having a pro hockey career in the best league in the world. Maybe they are trying to influence his approach to being the best he can be, regardless of the role he plays. Time will tell if this approach to his mental growth destroys a real high potential young player or gets him to become the elite player he possibly can be.

I agree with your assessment. It became obvious to me when they kept playing Sven with below average prospects in the rookie camp.

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#38 CutterMcAwesome
November 05 2013, 04:01PM
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Sometimes a view from above isnt a bad thing. Perspective and Communication. He's still pretty young and has lots of time to figure it all out.

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#39 Nighteyes
November 05 2013, 04:22PM
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Hartley repeatedly says the organization treats players according to merit, and thus if you play well you get ice time and if you don't, you get less or are scratched. All in all, he says there is no favouritism. But it is clear he has it in for certain guys and others he just loves for no apparent reason. Jackman and McGrattan bring something to the table? Please tell me what that is Hartley.

Then you scratch Bouma last game and now put him on the third line to replace Baertschi? Oh yea that's a real upgrade while you keep Backs between the two goons. I think he would be better off putting Backs on the wing with Monahan and Hudler if he insists on scratching Baertschi, who I think hasn't played all that bad. Give him more ice time, maybe then he can show you he belongs? I like Bouma but he is not going to do anything for that line. Hartley is just baffling me right now. His justifications for his actions do not seem to be holding up, in my opinion.

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#40 piscera.infada
November 05 2013, 04:28PM
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@Kevin R

"The message is pretty simple, no one is bigger than the team, no one is perceived greater than his team mates...

Hear, hear.

While I don't agree with the rest of your assessment, I believe this statement is exactly what is going on. In my mind, it should be something that we instill in our young players as well - I don't know if it's actually an issue with Sven.

That said, I hate seeing him sit, but I think it's far too early to say this is definitively going to hurt his development or confidence.

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#41 Craig
November 05 2013, 04:35PM
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I'm so sad that Sven is scratched again. I love this flames team this year, I just wish that the players would be used properly.

This team was so much fun to start out this season, and now it just frustrates me when my two favourite players are mishandled!

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#42 Flames fan in YEG
November 05 2013, 04:43PM
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@wot96

All I was trying to elude to was, if there were/is any cracks in his mindset and attitude, than the Flames are doing him and themselves a large disservice by having him sit in the press box and/or the Heat by flip flopping their expectations all the time.

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#43 SoCalFlamesFan
November 05 2013, 04:58PM
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My two bits: 1) Can't you TALK to Sven then let him show you rather than show him video and bench. Most people learn better learning better with encouragement rather than discipline. Just saying.

2) How does "Homework" like that really develop character or work ethic or attitude anyways or 3 zone play? Positioning, work ethic, attitude are all learned by doing.

This benching seems a real counter productive act.

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#45 prendrefeu
November 05 2013, 05:04PM
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Craig wrote:

I'm so sad that Sven is scratched again. I love this flames team this year, I just wish that the players would be used properly.

This team was so much fun to start out this season, and now it just frustrates me when my two favourite players are mishandled!

They're still fun.

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#46 gussey
November 05 2013, 05:13PM
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My guess: effort (in practice and games), coachability, willingness to do whatever is required to help win. Coaches like that.

Of course we could adopt the oilers policy and play young, entitled, offensively skilled forwards who don't play defence and are more worried about stats then wins. That's working out well.

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#48 Burnward
November 05 2013, 05:29PM
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Maybe the mold for us in this rebuild is Boston, not Edmonton. Build through depth and a commitment to a total team game.

Not saying Sven isn't going to get there, but as a 21 year old kid he will undoubtedly have some nights like this early on.

Breathe guys.

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#49 exsanguinator
November 05 2013, 05:38PM
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Burnward wrote:

Maybe the mold for us in this rebuild is Boston, not Edmonton. Build through depth and a commitment to a total team game.

Not saying Sven isn't going to get there, but as a 21 year old kid he will undoubtedly have some nights like this early on.

Breathe guys.

I'm not too worried about Sven at this point either. I am disappointed that he's not playing as much as I'd like him to but he's also pretty young. If he's still getting this treatment at 23/24 then I'd be worried about his future with the organization.

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#50 exsanguinator
November 05 2013, 05:41PM
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RexLibris wrote:

http://www.extraskater.com/team/calgary-flames/2013

Give it a second and let the graphs load and you'll get a good visual.

I don't know how I missed the graphs when I was there earlier but can someone explain the percentage thing for me?

I'm not really a statistician but from what I've gathered so far above 50% is good and below is bad so their 48.8% is simply... ok? Does a stat like Fenwick close typically regress to a normal range throughout a season or do the good teams usually maintain a high Fenwick or Corsi close throughout the year?

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