The Short Term Future of Sven Baertschi



Word from practice today is that Sven Baertschi is likely to play on the 4th on Satruday, if he makes the active roster at all. The insertion of Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka into the mix has meant a logjam of sorts in the top-nine and right now the rookie seems the most natural choice to move down.

This move won’t make most Flames fans happy no doubt, but I can see where the coaching staff is coming from. Baertschi and Backlund had a really nice debut period in the first game against the Sharks, but there have been a lot of bumps along the road for the kid since that point. He certainly isn’t timid about trying to make highlight reel moves, but his overall 200-foot game remains very raw. Keep in mind Sven turned 20 years old in September and doesn’t even have 30 por games under his belt. He also spent his entire last season in junior having his way with WHL on one of the best club’s in the CHL, so it’s going to take some time to develop the requisite discipline in Baertschi for him to be a more complete player at the NHL level.

Some NHL teams would be willing to let Sven play through his issues, but not the Flames for a couple of reasons:

1.) They have a fully packed roster when everybody is healthy. The current top-9 wingers are: Iginla, Glencross, Tanguay/Cervenka, Hudler, Stempniak and Cammalleri. Depending on how Cervenka assimilates to NA hockey, Baertschi isn’t good enough to usurp any of those guys based purely on his abilities right now.

2.) The Flames are still trying to win now. With one point in the opening three games, the urgency to starting winning is already rising thanks to the shortened season.

On top of all that, the club doesn’t boast an obviously ideal line for Baertschi currently. Because there is no obvious group of "heavy hitters" amongst the forwards who can soak up the tough minutes, it makes it harder for the coaching staff to appropriately shelter Sven given the set up of the roster.

For example:

Vladimir Tarasenko is currently leading NHL rookies in scoring. In part because he’s a high level talent, but it also helps that through 4 games he has an 85.2% zone start ratio – that is, he has started 25 shifts in the offensive zone and just 4(!!) in the d-zone. The Blues have quality depth all over the roster and the Selke caliber play of David Backes to take on the tough stuff, so they can afford to give the kid the cherry circumstances.

Finally, Baertschi hasn’t quite made a case for himself so far. We’re only three games in and there’s a few vets that I think have struggled as well (*cough*Cammalleri*cough*) but established guys always get the benefit of the doubt. right now, the kid has the worst possession rate outside of Steve Begin and Blake Comeau amongst Flames forwards. That’s not a grave indictment of any player thanks to the small sample size, and certianly not of a 20-year old rookie, but because the roster is stuffed to bursting with veterans and the team’s short term goals are to make the playoffs, Baertschi more or less has to outplay one of the incumbents to stay in the top-9.

As a result, I suspect be will be headed down to the farm within the week, assuming everyone stays healthy and Cervenka is as good as everyone thinks/hopes. Playing 8 minutes a night on the 4th line with Comeau/Jackman/Jones/Begin won’t do much for Sven’s development and since he doesn’t have to pass through waivers to be demoted, it’s a simple decision to move him back to first line minutes in Abbotsford. 

  • @Kent

    Yes, I did read that article at the time, but interesting to give it a re-read. Really makes me wonder about the team’s so-called “intellectual honesty.”

    That run truly rejuvenated and simultaneously cursed the club.

    Thanks again for digging it up.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      @ Kent

      I just re-read the Article as well. The 3 games we have seen so far are a small sample, but what’s intriguing is that Iginla’s playing quite well, and the Flames play has been encouraging (results not withstanding). The team could easily be 2 -1 this season, instead of 0-2-1 and I point to outchancing both San Jose, as well as getting decent results in the dot so far.

      I guess what I’m saying is that I’m very curious about how Iginla’s WOWY stats look at the end of theseason, if in fact the team can continue to show these kinds of results.

    • RexLibris

      I think this is the definition you might want to apply to the franchise right now:

      Contrast the fortunes of the three Canadian teams to have gone to the Cup Final in the last decade. The Flames kept on with the core group, trying to make adjustments that weren’t in keeping with the evolving nature of the game. The Senators built a team around one line, and once it fell apart all hell broke loose. The Oilers thought they could live forever in their delusion of being “just a player or two away” and even believed that one year of high draft picks (2007) was enough to rebuild the roster.

      Two of those three teams subsequently hit the ditch hard, and have attempted to respond to that crisis.

  • Willi P

    While I agree this scenario us likely and I agree that AHL minutes is better tan the press box or playing with plugs, could the Flames not keep Baertschi, help the team win and aid his development. For example, playing Baertschi in offensive zone and soft competition situations ( with other good players) plus 2nd PP minutes for 10 minutes a game would fit this bill.

    I don’t see the Flames being creative enough to do this, but there has to be more options than what Kent points out.

  • Willi P

    What if the Flames packaged Stempy and… erm I don’t know, Cammalleri to the Blues in exchange for Alex Steen? I know I keep pushing for Steen, but man, is that guy underrated. Small chance it happens, but it would ease that weird logjam on the wings.

          • DangleSnipeCelly

            It’s true he hasn’t played center since he left Toronto, but he can also play on both wings, and he’s consistently among St. Louis’s best forwards at even strength. Remember, this is a team that also has David Backes, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Andy MacDonald, Jamie Langenbrunner, and T.J. Oshie.

            Think Backlund with an effective game on the wing and a more consistent/proven scoring touch. Plus, he’s a year younger than Stempniak.

            It doesn’t surprise me that you consider him a “complimentary player at best”, even though that’s completely untrue. I did say he was underrated, after all, and for a player to be underrated, popular opinion would have to be that he’s worse than he actually is.

          • jeremywilhelm

            So he doesn’t play tough minutes and he isnt a centre. What are we trading for him for then, what need does he possibly fill with his 3.6 mill contract??!

  • DangleSnipeCelly

    In other news, Gaudreau and Arnold both shut out and -2 as BC loses…. and Jankowski 0 points in a Providence loss with Gillies allowing 3 goals on 22 shots…

    Seems like a grey day for Flames related news. Oh wait, Heat win on the road in Charlotte!!

  • RexLibris

    Baertschi going to the Heat is the best thing for him.

    IF the Flames send him to the AHL, and IF they communicate to him the reasons for this is not punishment, then this is perhaps one of the wisest decisions the Flames have made in my memory.

  • What you say makes sense, but it is a real shame. Sven Baertschi is a genuinely exciting player on a roster that doesn’t excite me so much (swear to God I’m not slagging, just I’d rather talk about whether the hot new rookie can save the team than whether the old crusty veterans can save the team… tomayto, tomahto, perhaps). I’m very glad they kept him in the lineup for the BOA on Saturday. Taking him out of that game would have really sent the wrong message to him IMO.