Baertschi’s Role and Expectations


– pic via Halifaxdrunk


I noted in my random thoughts piece yesterday that one of the key questions for the Flames this year is whether Sven Baertschi is a capable NHLer or not. On that note, Christian Roatis recently went over a long list of comparable youngsters to try to determine just what a reasonable expectation would be for the 20 year old this season. A follow-up showed most FN readers expect him to settle between 40-50 points.

Of course, besides his own talent and effort level, the one thing that will determine whether Baertschi fulfills those expectations is his role on the club. Scorers obviously need ice time to put up points. With that mind, I investigated a list of kids who scored at around the expected rate (40-50 points over 82 games) around their 20-21 year old season since 2003-04. That yielded a list of 29 names:

 The Data & Discussion

Rk Player Age GP G A PTS GC PTS S Total ICE
1 Kyle Okposo 20 65 18 21 39 15 0.6 2.54 18:01:00
2 Mike Richards 21 59 10 22 32 11 0.54 2.2 17:50:00
3 James Neal 21 77 24 13 37 16 0.48 2.22 17:40:00
4 Alex Steen 21 75 18 27 45 17 0.6 2.35 17:37:00
5 Michael Frolik 21 82 21 22 43 17 0.52 2.67 17:29:00
6 Marcus Johansson 21 80 14 32 46 16 0.58 1.13 16:48:00
7 Martin Hanzal 20 72 8 27 35 12 0.49 1.54 16:45:00
8 Brandon Sutter 20 72 21 19 40 16 0.56 2.33 16:33:00
9 Derek Stepan 20 82 21 24 45 18 0.55 2.02 16:27:00
10 Tuomo Ruutu 20 82 23 21 44 18 0.54 2.12 16:24:00
11 TJ Galiardi 21 70 15 24 39 14 0.56 1.71 16:21:00
12 Peter Mueller 20 72 13 23 36 13 0.5 1.92 16:05:00
13 Travis Zajac 21 80 17 25 42 15 0.53 1.68 16:03:00
14 Tyler Ennis 21 82 20 29 49 19 0.6 2.56 15:40:00
15 Milan Lucic 20 72 17 25 42 16 0.58 1.35 14:57:00
16 David Krejci 21 56 6 21 27 9 0.48 1.3 14:55:00
17 Michael Frolik 20 79 21 24 45 18 0.57 2 14:48:00
18 Jamie Benn 20 82 22 19 41 17 0.5 2.22 14:42:00
19 James van Riemsdyk 21 75 21 19 40 17 0.53 2.31 14:32:00
20 Brandon Dubinsky 21 82 14 26 40 14 0.49 1.91 14:30:00
21 Wayne Simmonds 21 78 16 24 40 15 0.51 1.63 14:29:00
22 Sergei Kostitsyn 20 52 9 18 27 10 0.52 0.94 14:21:00
23 Cody Hodgson 21 83 19 22 41 16 0.49 1.86 13:49:00
24 Andrew Cogliano 20 82 18 27 45 17 0.55 1.2 13:40:00
25 Steve Bernier 21 62 15 16 31 12 0.5 1.68 13:35:00
26 Patrick Eaves 21 58 20 9 29 13 0.5 1.72 12:29:00
27 Corey Perry 21 82 17 27 44 16 0.54 2.37 12:28:00
28 Jeff Carter 21 81 23 19 42 18 0.52 2.33 12:04:00
29 Alexander Radulov 20 64 18 19 37 15 0.58 1.5 11:38:00
                  Mean ice 15:15:52

I excluded guys who played less than 50 games for sample size reasons. The list is ranked by total ice time. I also included shot rate per game for added context.

It’s a decent list of players, featuring a number of stars and mostly capable NHLers overall (Steve Bernier and Patrick Eaves being the lone exceptions). Overall, this group scored at an average rate of 0.53 PPG, or 43 points over an 82 game schedule.

The mean total ice time for these 29 guys was about 15:16 per game, while the median ice time was just under 15 minutes. That makes for a nice line in the sand of Sven – 15 minutes per night. We’ll assume a couple of miniutes of PP time, meaning he needs about 12-13 minutes at even strength per game (assuming next to no PK time).

Last year, eight Flames forwards averaged 15+ minutes per night. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay are gone, whittling things down to Curtis Glencross (18:14), Mike Cammalleri (18:03), Lee Stempniak (17:54), Matt Stajan (17:09), Jiri Hudler (17:09), and Mikael Backlund (15:07). Stajan and Backlund are centers, leaving Baertschi competing with Hudler, Glencross, Stempniak and Cammalleri for ice time (at least, prior to the trade deadline). 

That’s a bit of tall order. Cammalleri, Stempniak and Glencross are more or less guaranteed to be fixed in the top-6 absent injury or a sudden drop-off in play, so Jiri Hudler is the guy Baertschi will have to bump in order to get top-6 ice time. Hudler isn’t a great two-way player, but neither is Baertschi at this point in his career and Hudler is definitely a more proven scorer, albeit with a fixed ceiling at about 40-50 points. Either Sven will have to come out and fundamentally outplay Hudler or the coaching staff will have to commit to developing the kid at the top of the rotation in order for him to get the requisite ice time to hit 40+ points.


Glancing at the player list again, it’s certainly possible to break the 0.48 point-per-game plateau with less than 15 minutes of ice, but the player usually needs something extraordinary going for him to do so (a high shooting percentage, great line mates or a lot of PP time).

That said, it’s more likely Sven will need more ice time than less in order to break 40 points in his rookie season. Fifteen minutes per game or more seems to be the rule of thumb. It’s going to be challenging for him to hit that level because the Flames still have more than a few established NHLers on the roster, despite the fact it’s an underwhelming group overall. Even if Hartley and Feaster are determined to give Baertschi as many reps at the top of the rotation as possible, he will have to at least keep his head above water to maintain that position on the team. That is, until the club sells a few bodies at the deadline.

PS – I looked at a list of guys who scored at a 60+ point pace around 20-21 years old just in case Baertschi blows up this year (fingers crossed), and the 19 guys who hockey reference spit out  are pretty much all NHL stars with the lone exception of Nikolai Zherdev (who was run out of the league for personality reasons more than anything). A lot of stars didn’t quite clear that hurdle so it doesn’t mean Baertschi won’t develop into something if he doesn’t…but if he does manage 60 points or more this season then we probably have an elite player on our hands.

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  • Parallex

    Don’t forget about David Jones (Average TOI/G 16:49 with the Aves). Although when you think about it after you reinclude Iggy back into the equation (Because Tangs spent a bunch of the year playing Center) you end up with the third line wingers playing 15ish+ minutes a night so he might not even need a top six spot to hit the minute mark (but then you need to run a qual-linemate quarry).

  • mattyc

    Realistically I think Baertschi is playing 3rd line minutes, which could still be close to 15 minutes, but i doubt much more. Whether he hits 40-50 or not will depend a lot of linemates; lots of the guys listed there had great complementary players to play with. Baertschi probably ends up playing with some combination of Hudler, Jones, Monahan or Knight and Galiardi. He’ll be *lucky* if he gets time with Backlund or Stajan.

  • Parallex

    Not saying Baertshi shouldnt have to earn it but but Hartley should try to develop some chemistry between hBaertshi and Backlund. Time to start thinking about this team a couple years down the road. If the vets dont like it then you know you have the wrong guys for the rebuild.

    Obviously Backs is top 6 if not first line on this team.

  • RedMan

    if the flames want to give some vets a chance fo shine in order to increase their trade value Bart’s minutes will be down until the trade deadline…

    but the kid is hungry to be the guy… I have high hopes. if he does hit 50 hhe joins some pretty lofty company. If he does 35-40, thats nothing to sneeze at.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      This ^ Flames will be trying to pump the vets value; however I get the feeling that Cammi could get dealt before the trade deadline if Calgary retains some of the $$.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I don’t see it happening. If the Flames ever had an opportunity to take money back on a trade, it was for Bouwmeester. In JBo’s case, I’m convinced they would have got a lot more had they offered to eat some dollars, or at least found more teams to trade to, and bid up his value.

        It would appear that GM’s find the idea of paying for some other team’s player distasteful. Ironic, since there are few GM’s who are unwilling to overpay, provide too much term, or give too many concessions (NTC/NMC) when singing their own players. In the end, it’s the same pot of money and cap space.

  • Craig

    I find it interesting that we can only think in first and second line jargon. In a year of transition I hope the Flames can embrace a player development model. As we have no elite forwards on this team but many good sound players (I count 6 forwards who have scored more than 20 in their careers at least twice and are not postapex yet)it is time to do things somewhat differently. The organization thinks/hopes that Sven may be an elite forward so he needs to be given a chance to play with skilled guys, on the powerplay and in every situation. I have commented before that in this year of rebuild and transition that I would roll four lines of roughly equal skill level and play them in all situations. For me I would have Sven with Backs and Glencross. Other lines would be something like this Stajin, Cammi, Jones; Monahan, Horak and Stemp, and Knight Hudler and TJG. I hope they really use a development model rather than the traditional model which stresses winning. This is not a year for that. Develop and compete every night and every shift.

    • SydScout

      My thoughts exactly.

      If the top three lines get similar TOI, then by definition they will come up against a mix of easier and tougher opponents each night (assuming the opposing team has the standard top line plays mid 20’s, second plays around 20, third 15 mins etc).

      This could give the likes of Cammi a chance to get the high points he needs to be tradable but also develop the youngsters against tough competition while keeping confidence when playing against lower lines. Each night.

      May also develop that elusive team spirit where everyone is getting in on the action and there is less of the stars v others attitude of recent years

    • beloch

      That guy has the Canucks falling 5 slots to #13 (possible, but unlikely), the Wings jumping 8 slots up to #5 (very unlikely, even with Alfredsson), and the Oilers leaping a full THIRTEEN slots up to #11 because… wait for it…

      “Justin Schultz will be much-improved, and the addition of Ference was terrific”.

      Hey buddy, wanna place some wagers? Have I got great odds for you!

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Thanks for the link. It provided another great quote:

      Funny quote of the offseason: “And lastly, I’ll say that there’s one other guy in hockey today that is still working in the game that has won more Stanley Cups than me. So I think I know a little bit about winning, if there’s ever a concern.” – Kevin Lowe

  • please cancel acct

    Not sure that trading our vet, before the deadline would benefit the team in the long run. We need that mix of journeyman/apprentice ratio too succeed.

    I can’t see management pulling off a high draft pick for any of our vet’s anyway.

    I can hardly wait to see how Hartley handles the mix of player’s at his disposal and how he utilizes them.

    I will be fine with losing, as long as I can see growth with the young guys, and they’re getting the opportunity to play a high speed game.

    Cammy will go anyway, but keeping the rest of our vet’s should be a priority IMO.

    • RexLibris

      We have I believe three veteran forwards who will UFA’s at the end of the year, Cammi, Staj and Stemp and another couple of significant vets who might want out Hudler and Glencross. With TJG and Jones wanting to prove themselves there is plenty of veteran leadership to help the kids. Jackman as well. We should as the trade deadline approaches know how the vets fit in, what their attitude is towards the rebuild and whether or not they want to stay. If the UFA’s have no intention to resign at a reasonable rate then you have to move them. Any reasonable return of prospects would help the rebuild. I look at the Iggie trade, although he was the teams all time leading scorer and an Icon in this city he was and is no longer an elite player; it was extremely unlikely he was going to resign here so anything we got for him was a bonus(I honestly only thought we would get a second rounder) so a first round pick (Klimchuk if he pans out is a win) the other two Hanko and Ago if they play in the NHL is a real bonus. We won that trade the minute Iggie did not resign in Pitsburg. They have already helped rebuild the prospect pool that was very thin. The trade for Jaybo was a bit different as I think both teams seemed to have been winners, we got to prospects that will at least play in Abby and a first rounder who seems to have some upside. St L lost when they were knocked out in the 1st round but rebounded by resigning Jay at a lower more reasonable salary. So for me if any or all of the UFA’s don’t want to be here and we got a first or second rounder for any of them I would be fine. The remaining vets will be role models the following year and by then some of the kids will much better NHlers.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I think most NHL teams are moving away from the “top-6 and bottom-6” method of deploying players, and instead using a “top-3, middle-6, and scrubs” paradigm.

    I think this is generally a more accurate description of the talent distribution of most teams, and it seems to suit the Flames well too.

    As such, I think Baertschi has earned a middle-6 role, and think its also the best roster spot for him to develop as well.

    • RexLibris


      The Flames need to shelter Baertschi. I understand fans wanting him to make that 50 pt plateau, but this isn’t the season to prioritize that.

      The organization needs to take a long-term approach with him. Make certain he is healthy, getting favourable matchups with a decent level of challenge and learning some good habits from people like Cammalleri, Hudler, and other veterans.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I agree. It doesn’t really matter how many points he get or doesn’t get this year. I’m more interested in what kind of a player he develops into. Rex, you think he is comparable to Hemsky? hopefully a more durable version…

        • RexLibris

          That is exactly the kind of player I was thinking of, I just didn’t want to be the one to bring it up here.

          Baertschi may yet become a 1st line winger in his prime, and ideally a 2nd line winger over the long term. Someone who can capitalize on chances and create.

          With luck he’ll be a more predictable player so that linemates aren’t always left guessing if he’ll zig or zag. Hemsky has been famously difficult to pair because he is so creative and spur-of-the-moment going into the offensive zone.

          As for durability, Hemsky lost time to two shoulder injuries, aside from those issues which all came up over the past three seasons he has been remarkably durable. Think of all the Regehr hits, did he ever stay down? It started with a Hanzal hit behind the net in 2009-2010 and spiraled down from there.

          Baertschi has had some concussion issues in the past but perhaps he can put those behind him as well, like another Oiler in Perron.

          If he can develop into a .8 ppg player over the course of his career I’d consider that a great success.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’m not certain but I don’t think 15 mins. Indicates top 6. Meaning Sven could play third line and still get those minutes. Does he have to bump anyone then?

    I find it a little dubious that all those 20-21 year olds all played in their team’s top 2 lines (if that is implied in your premise). However I could be wrong.

    In any event, Sven will be given every chance to feature offensively given what Calgary has and what kind of player everyone envisions Sven to be. It’s up to him, if he plays consistently the results should follow.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Cammy, Glen X, Hudler & Stemps (like I know ’em) got those minutes competing with Iggy & Tangs (gone but not forgotten) so I don’t see where the ice time problem is. Also, if you do the math on how many minutes Cammy & Tangs (old pals) played at centre the numbers further skew.
    I’m certain that he’ll be given every chance to log ice and If he earns it he’ll be maxing out around 18:00. Who else is gonna is more of a guess although it’s fair to suggest that the vets will be pushing for time & points to punch their ticket outta here.

  • Craig

    Baertschi has been seeing some serious community time as well, I think they’re grooming him to be a big time player with the Flames. with that in mind I think they’ll take extra opportunities to let him shine, as long as they’re selling hope then they’ve got to sell the Svensation.