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. 

  • Vintage Flame

    I fail to see what he’s done wrong, and what the Blake Comeau’s and Steve Begin’s have done right to earn his spot.

    Is he defensively dependable yet? Probably not.

    However, he’s drawn two penalties with his skill, had some dazzling scoring chances, and been effective and hard on the puck on the powerplay.

    Fact is, he is currently better equipped to play in the top 9 than a few of the players who have.

    • Vintage Flame

      I just don’t see that he’s been ‘dazzling’ yet. I want to, but I think the ‘fact is’ he’s just not quite ready yet. I don’t think playing in the AHL could hurt him, but I do think playing in the NHL could. He is too important to this club’s future to take any chances with.

      • Vintage Flame

        I agree he hasnt been ‘great’ or ‘super rookie’ like some had him pegged, but I struggle to see how he has been bad.

        You notice him on the ice for good reasons, and he provides energy to the team.

        Will playing in the AHL hurt him? Likely not, depending on confidence. A third line role is probably better suited.

        • schevvy

          For the record, I never said he’s been bad.

          All fair points. I would just guard against wanting so bad for a first rounder to actually play for this organization that we rush him. I love the guy and want to see him around here for a lot of years.

          • I dont really disagree with you either. Maybe call me a purist, but I am being selfish in that I want to watch the best player play if I am buying a ticket.

            I would rather play someone out of position to have Sven in the top 9, then watch Stajan go through the motions.

            I have a tough life of entertaining clients at the Saddledome. However I am a die hard fan first. It hasnt been that fun at the rink the past few years. I’d rather watch at home.

  • Willi P

    Kent, can’t argue with your logic. Same situation with Horak. Both maybe better served in the AHL but still not happy about it given some of the veteran underachievers in this lineup.

  • supra steve

    Difficult to swallow when you have Cammellari and Comeau playing awful… he’s finding his stride out there and I’m sure they can use his skill in the shootout for example..

  • loudogYYC

    I hadn’t even considered this a possibility. The way Feaster has always talked, he was going to be on the team this year. I think it would be a great move to send him down.

    Was there ever any resolution to the previous discussion as to whether it would burn a year of his ELC? Most people seem to think it’s gone already, but I’ve never been able to figure out why it wouldn’t slide another year, based on the wording of the old CBA anyway. He signed his first pro contract when he was 18, if he doesn’t play more than 5 (rule for this year instead of 10) NHL games this year, his contract should slide a second year.

    Either way, I’d be happy to see him back in Abbotsford. With the likelihood of injuries, we’d probably see him back up for quite a few games yet this season.

    • Good question. That was hopelessly complicated the last time I looked at and who knows it he new CBA has different rules regarding that.

      Im guessing he plays more than 5 games this year one way or the other. If he goes down he’ll always be the first recall when someone gets injured.

  • loudogYYC

    I believe you’re right about the Flames’ reasons for likely doing this, and I agree he’s better off playing quality minutes in Abby vs. Begin time in Calgary. For long term reasons, though, I’d really rather they drop literally any of those wingers to figure out a way to protect him Tarasenko-style, and get him used to NHL-quality opposition faster.

  • loudogYYC

    I think he’s NHL ready, but the Coaches don’t have a great fit for him right now.. having that said, I don’t mind a third or fourth line role for him this season..