STOKING THE FIRE – MARCH 19th

 

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!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    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.

  • Vintage Flame

    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…

    • Vintage Flame

      You know Shredder, I know you don’t like me, I won’t say it’s mutual because I don’t know you. But if you’re going to troll my articles then the least you can do is make sense, and try to maintain some sort of linear thought. In other words, like Jim Rome says, “Have a take and don’t suck.”

      Now…

      Now I find it very interesting that you are highlighting the prospects that the Flames have…

      No.. I’m not highlighting Flames prospects. I mentioned Gaudreau in regards to Weisbrod and a new strategy the Flames might be taking in their approach with the draft. The fact that Gaudreau was seen as a wild card pick, mostly in regards to his size or lack thereof. The break down of the types of prospects they have no way insinuate that they are loaded to the teeth, rather that what they do have slot into different categories, thereby changing their valuation.

      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.

      Again, no. You completely missed the point. I have never degraded the Oilers prospect or the talent of their youth. In fact despite him playing for the Oil, I remain a huge fan of Eberle, and that goes back to when he played for the Regina Pats. I would never deny his talent. My biggest criticism of the Oilers is that they ignore what areas they need the most help in. It was never my opinion that the it was a mistake to draft RNH; my criticism was that the Oilers should not have drafted him. Their forward youth is exciting as it was, they could have leveraged the 1st pick overall to garner a top tier D-man, like Shae Weber. Is it an addition to have RNH on your team? Of course it is, and since it looks like he is in serious contention for the Calder along with Landeskog, it may be a pay-off. BUT.. You nor the Oilers have a crystal ball to see what he is now, or what he will be in the future and since he can’t keep pucks out of the D-zone or out of the net, your beloved Oilers are no further ahead than before they had Nuuuuuge! I know, I know.. It’s just more fun to say when you’re losing right?

      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?

      Strike three.. and now the true idiocy of your post comes through. Dude in case you missed it, your team is in 29th after back to back 62 pt 30th place finishes. The oil have built and re-built through the draft and it moved you up a whopping ONE space in league standings. How does that taste? Man, go sell stupid somewhere else, because no one here is buying, especially me. You come in here and run your mouth, getting little chuckles from your pals, thinking you’re all that hey? You don’t think I browse Oilers Nation and see the comments that are made there. Spirits aren’t exactly rosy over there bud.

      Despite whether or not you like or hate the Flames, if you can’t recognize the talent of a player like Sven Baertschi, then you’re simply not a very smart hockey fan. Do I think Sven is the answer to ALL the Flames problems.. No, and neither does anyone that frequents Flames Nation. What we see is a promising young player with exciting potential. Sound familiar?

      I’m not going to tell you to beat it either Shredder.. I like that you and people like you come here. if everyone agreed with what I said, it would be pretty boring. Do I get under your skin? Obviously.. and well that’s what I’m trying to do. This article wasn’t even a shot at Oilers fans, or Hall really, yet here you are whining, once again defending your team’s ‘virtue'[Hey kinda like Peckham and Hall ;)]

      All I ask is if you want to come in here and rip my article just read it first dude.. Peace homey!

    • loudogYYC

      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??

  • RexLibris

    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.

    • Vintage Flame

      Nice goad, er, I mean article, VF. 😉

      Wasn’t intended to be Rex.. You might be reading more into than that 😉

      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.

      Completely disagree. There is absolutely no motive for Weisbrod to speak of Gaudreau in an anecdotal manner. 36 pts in 39 games and just named MVP is not exactly a punchline in a joke.

      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.

      Dude, I never said he did bring it on himself. I stated that it was an unfortunate event that that was caused by Hall himself. It was him that slipped; it’s not like Sarich tripped or caught an edge and landed into Hall by accident. It was Hall that slipped on his edge, but it can still be an accident. I’m not blaming the victim, I’m stating an unfortunate fact.

      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.

      Sarich shouldn’t have to fight for delivering a clean hit. As for comments in an interview, man that’s a different issue. Chalk it up to frustration or being pissed off, or “they started it”.. whatever.. but the root of both issues, the commenting and the non-fighting come from the same circumstance and I think the Edmonton media were plain out to lunch.

  • Vintage Flame

    Wow! Five games of Sven and VF is in a homoerotic frenzy, gushing about Svenboy feeling all warm and gooey about hearing the fans chant his name. He starts fantasizing about Taylor Hall in a dress, and seeing the gurlygirl Hall in the pillow he is kissing after his mommy tucks him in. Let me remind you that against the mighty Oil he played all of 7 minutes, and put up exactly zero points. Extrapolate that into a Hall of Fame career. You’re welcome.

  • Vintage Flame

    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.

    • loudogYYC

      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.

  • loudogYYC

    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.

    • loudogYYC

      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.

    • loudogYYC

      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.