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!