The 2014 Flames Fifteen – #3: Sven Baertschi

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Via the NHL

Did something happen to Sven Baertschi?

The 21-year-old prospect – once the crown jewel of Calgary’s stable – has seen his stock drop considerably in the eyes of many since he was drafted 13th overall less than three full years ago. On the surface, it looks pretty cut and dry. Is there more underneath?

SVEN comes in at #3 on our 2014 Flames Fifteen.

Baertschi has now been ranked 1, 2 and 3 in successive years in the Flames Fifteen. A little bit of that is due to who’s been drafted, a little is due to the players around him developing “quicker”: but the majority is probably a result of Baertschi spending so much time in Abbotsford.

  Justin Kent Ryan BoL Byron Taylor Christian 2013 2012
Sven Baertschi 2 3 4 2 4 3 3 2 1

(Editorial Note: Pike and Bader are insane.)

Baertschi is obviously not the player who scored 3 in 5 the first time we saw him. No one shoots 30%, after all. But, in my opinion, Baertschi might have the biggest offensive upside of everyone on this list – so him shooting 10% shouldn’t be out of the question. He did that over his 20 or so games in 2012-2013. 

Baertschi has scored at a very good rate in the show, as well. Over 51 games, Baertschi has amassed 24 points – which means he’s getting half a point-per-game. He’s done that with an on-ice scoring percentage that’s about average (8.6%), a PDO that’s about average (1004) while remaining within 1% of the team’s relative corsi. During that time, his most-played-with players were Monahan, Kostopolous, Cammalleri, Russell, Brodie and Smith. With the exception of Cammalleri, (Brodie was still “just” a top-4 defenseman at that time), there wasn’t a lot of shot attempts being produced. 

To be fair, though, Baertschi has struggled (relatively) at the AHL level. I’m not totally sure why he was sent down this season, even now – sure, his underlying stats are bad. We know that. But, the amount of 20 or 21 year old guys who can play opponents to a draw is few – a top draft pick (Hall) or a lucky dart (O’Reilly) are really the only ones who can. The thing that gets me about it is that he’s better than Monahan defensively and offensively right now and the Flames thought it would be a good idea to waste a year of Monahan’s contract while failing to apply the same logic they did to Baertschi.

But back to the AHL – Baertschi hasn’t torn up the league, posting NHLEs of 33 (.55 trans) and 26 in his two seasons there. That’s a little lower than what we’d want from a supposedly high-end prospect. When added to his NHL totals, though, they get a little better – 35 and 28. He also scored at a 2 PPG rate in the WHL in his +1 year (NHLE of 49) and an NHLE of 32 in his draft year.

Last year in the AHL was a little worse than the year before in terms of total results, but he produced more than two shots a game and still scored 29 in 41 – even though it took him 16 games to get his 5th point, something he had accomplished by game 10 at the NHL level. That’s why I’m mostly going to chalk up his issues this year to luck – I was called insane when last summer I predicted less than ~38 points from Baertschi. It is hard to score at the NHL level, guys. When we looked at his comparables at the start of 2014, he still looked good. 

Also, as we know – correlation does not equal causation, but Sean Monahan had 19 points in 51 games (.37 PPG, 252nd among forwards) after Baertschi was sent down. That rate makes him a 4th liner on 20 teams in the league. Shockingly – they’re probably both better players when they’re together and being sheltered.

  Power Play Points Secondary Assists Team Scoring
Sven Baertschi 17% (5/29) 56% (9/16) 24% (29/123)

Two of Baertschi’s point splits are pretty good – he obviously didn’t get a lot of chances on the PP, as only one of his 16 assists and 4 of his 13 goals were on the PP. I bet if he had 5 or 6 bonus PP assists, no one would be worried at all. His TS% is also pretty healthy, especially when so much of his damage was at EV. His secondary assists might look more worrying, but like we’ve said before – they’re less of a concern than the other two and can be more affected by sample size. Before this season, though, his SA% had been good (as have his PPP% and TS%), so that why I’m willing to chalk that up to bad luck.

I’m also not worried about his injuries – the issue with labelling guys as injury prone is that they really aren’t – look at a guy like Justin Williams. Lots of injuries that weren’t his fault (head, shoulder, knee… sound familiar?) and now he’s played in more than 220 straight games. Anyone can get hurt at any time. It isn’t unique to some players.

Conclusion

My thinking is this: Baertschi has been Flames property for three seasons. In two of those seasons, he posted an NHLE that was elite and in his last WHL season he basically just used the league. The only season in which he had poor results was this one, and even then “poor” is relative – this is a guy who has scored proficiently at every level so far and is still only 21 years old. He’s scored at the NHL level without a lot of luck and playing with players who are commonly skilled, he’s dominated the WHL and he’s shown good results in the AHL. 

I’m on record as saying he needed a full year in the AHL even after he scored 3 in 5 – but almost every guy does. He’s now spent that year in the AHL, and my view is this: I’m not going to worry about a player who has amassed an average NHLE of 36 since he’s been in North America. Aside from John Gaudreau, he’s been the prospect with the best production since he’s been drafted. He will be a fixture on the first line in Calgary for the next decade – I’m sure of it.

  • beloch

    @ Stubblejumper

    Burke’s tough words for Baertschi started before last season.

    “Flashes of brilliance are fine if you’re working in the university, but they’re not much good to people in an NHL building.

    “He’s got to learn to play. There’s three zones on the ice surface in this League. I don’t see that he’s learned to play and compete in two of them. He’s got to learn there’s a clock in this League and that there’s so many minutes in the game, and you’ve got to compete through all of them. I see this is a guy right now that is focusing on one area, and even then sporadically.

    “I don’t know what we have. I’m not ready to quit on a young kid and I’m not ready to throw him under the bus here today and rip him, but I think you can tell from my comments that I see big holes and a lack of commitment that is not going to get him anywhere in my books. I’ve seen kids that age with those holes that turn into players.”

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=684934

    If you’re a 20 year old rookie with barely a handful of NHL games under your belt and your GM says this kind of stuff about you, you’re going to be second guessing your every move. Either Burke is horrendously careless about the impact of his words or he wanted to sabotage the crown jewel in Feaster’s solo draft record. I like some of the things Burke has done, but this kind of garbage needs to stop. The “I’m not ready to throw him under the bus” comment is almost hilariously hypocritical to boot!

    Despite Burke’s attempts to psych him out, Baertschi was on pace for 35 points in the NHL when he was sent down. After he was sent down, his performance absolutely cratered for about 6 weeks, during which he played 15 games and earned just 4 points! Over his next 26 games he put up 25 points. Interestingly enough, if we discard those first 15 games back in the AHL, Baertschi’s regular season AHL-based NHLE goes back up to 34.7.

    Baertschi certainly had a tough season, thanks to Burke, but he fought through it. This season, Baertschi faces a small reprieve in that Treliving is now between him and Burke. Hopefully Treliving will treat Baertschi with a little more respect and we’ll see what the kid can do when his confidence hasn’t been ground into the dirt.

  • Brownblazer

    I saw Sven at the prospect mini-tourney in Penticton last Sept.. 2 things that got him off on the foot to start the season.

    1. He came in entitled – i.e. felt he shouldn’t be at the tourney, considering himself no longer a prospect. (that arrogance came out on the ice – ie. didn’t work hard)

    2. How he plays as a smallish player – he has to do a better job protecting himself and playing elusive (i.e. see Johnny Hockey). This was very evident the minute the puck dropped in Pen. The Oil goon squad (Oilers kept back their prime prospects) immediately hammered Sven – they had their marching orders and he was target no.1. Sven wasn’t ready for it.

    I saw this trend continue into the NHL season. He played much more tentative, no longer confident (knowing he might get smashed in the tight areas).

    IMO when he first came to the NHL (3 in 5) he played naively, with reckless abandon and went hard.

    I saw the last game he played in Abbey, he wasn’t quite as tentative, but still a little too shy of the tough areas.

    I believe he can figure this out, but it does need to develop in him, or he will get injured often (and not get points etc).

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Obviously we can’t read minds and judging actions is rife with perception bias.

    But to me Sven showed up at dev camp thinking he shouldn’t be there. He wasn’t a prospect but a legit member of the Flames. It went downhill from there.

    This entitlement thinking absolutely has to be expunged. Not just from Sven but anyone. People will disagree and that’s fine but I’m convinced this is the way to go.

    People are fascinated with talent and potential. Of course such things are primary but those things only flourish with hard work.

    People here forget this. They think he’s talented (look at his NHLE) so that talent will translate-> just give him opportunity.

    I think Hartley decided, you get opportunity once you show commitment to work. Not commitment to show people how talented you are.

    Narcissists can’t understand this. Ego tells them they are a unique snowflake that everyone loves because you’re special. Why are they so mean to Sven, he’s special?

    Crosby is the greatest not because of his talent but because of how he works (offseason, during games etc). His work ethic unleashes his talent but make no mistake the work comes first.

    Ovechkin isn’t the greatest because he thinks he can get away on talent alone.

    If Sven comes to camp and shows through his effort that he won’t be denied then he won’t. If he comes and thinks he’s got nothing to prove or work he won’t last long.

    Talent gets you a look, an invite. Work makes you a pro (work also humbles you – a great thing!). Sven needs to learn to be a pro.

    • piscera.infada

      That was harsh, but I agree. Troy Ward mentioned as much whenever he was asked about Sven. His comments on Sven’s maturity echo this to a ‘T’. The thing is, 21 year old’s are often very immature and they easily fall into the trap of not working hard, it tends to go with the territory. That’s why a little tough love is necessary, but it’s also why there’s no need to give up on him.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        I prefer brutally honest. And I mean that not just with these posts but in terms of life in general.

        There are too many crybabies and not enough people who just get down to work. It’s not hard but people want to avoid that work has anything to do with it. Much better to think it’s all natural ability -> so if you have it you’re special and if you don’t have it then it means don’t bother working at it.

        BS.

        You won’t know how good you are unless you work your tail off. You might not be world class but the only thing limiting you is how much you’re willing to work or give. Pretty simple.

        Jagr- one of the most naturally talented players of all time. Why did he do some insane amount of squats while growing up then? Because he had to. Talent is not enough.

        • & this is basically it in a nutshell. The ball is in Sven’s court. I really hope the Flames don’t trade him, I would love to see this kid respond & put it to all his critics with a screw you guys statement on the ice. I’m sure BB will take it with smiles. I coasted through grades 11 & 12 & still had marks of 75-80, used to have 90’s in junior high, but high school was party time. God bless the 70’s. Went to University right from high school & tried the same work ethic. It didn’t work & I was a space cadet & missed a math final & met with the Dean to appeal to get a chance to write the final or it was “F” time. He looked at my marks & said, some people just don’t have what it takes to be in University. That pissed me off & I grew up real quick & finished that one in 5 years & have a 2nd one as well. Moral of that story is it’s about working hard at what you do best, in Sven’s case, that’s playing hockey. Read stuff about his Commitment in Portland after the Flames drafted him. Was totally impressed, he can do this. But now, it’s scary. It’s a huge risk for the Flames. If he falters again next year, we have a 1st rounder that will have a very depreciated value. Right now, there is still value that some GM will pay a decent price to get him to where he should be, where the Flames failed. Case in point Turris.

          I think he can do it, but with the glut of LW’s & especially with JG in the fold, I can totally understand why Flames might just decide to sell as high as they are going to get on him while the return can be decent or significant enough to the organization. I hope they don’t but understand if they do.

  • Craig

    What’s crazy to me about all this entitlement talk is that when we drafted Sven, one of his biggest assets was his work ethic. After his first prospect camp he’d spend another hour out on the ice with Granlund.

    I think that being said maybe he was a little overconfident, but I think if his head goes in the right place he’ll be able to put that work ethic towards improving.

    I haven’t given up on him yet, but Gaudreau definitely leaped him in my book, hopefully gaudy can come into camp without the overconfidence and play well if begets sent down to the AHL.

  • Craig

    Just wanted to add this view, I’m a big fan of Sven but like many here at FN maybe our expectations were to high last year. I hope and believe he can be a solid NHL forward however with the number of small skilled guys we have the competition is fierce(Johnny, Sven Granlund, Klimchuk, Agostino). while I would prefer to see him here it would not surprise me see him or one of the others moved the draft. BT will have to do a good job asset management/

  • I think the thing that has always hung over Sven’s head was the emergency recall games. He arrived as the star prospect on a team that had not had one since Dion Phaneuf, and immediately started producing. Once he actually gets to calgary as a projected NHLer, he starts “struggling” (as if .5 ppg is struggling for a rookie on a bad team). I vaguely remember a Calgary media article (I think it was Herald, but may have been the Sun) ragging on Baertschi, claiming that he was underperforming and needed work. I’m not his therapist, but I think that going from “next best thing” to “needs work” to “struggles in 2/3 zones” is absolutely demolishing to any young player.

    Sven hasn’t gotten any worse, but I don’t think he’s become considerably better. I think we can all agree that sticking him on the 4th line, making him a healthy scratch, and demoting him is not the way to make him better. I would like to see Sven play at least 40 games next year. If he’s still struggling, then put him in Adirondack, but 20 games per season is not a good enough sample size to judge a young player.

    • beloch

      With Johnny Hockey debuting this season, Baertschi should be able to fly under the radar. Whether that means fewer ego problems or fewer unreasonable expectations, it should give him a chance to concentrate on the job. Namely, he is going to have to fight for minutes on left-wing. The Flames have a lot of rookies who will be vying against him for that ice time. On top of it all, this is a contract year for Baertschi. He’s an RFA after next season. If Baertschi is at all cut out for pro hockey, the circumstances are perfect for him to take a step forward this season.

      • But then the pessimist could say that if Johnny is favoured over Sven, Sven could become frustrated and demand a trade, or just refuse to sign, making him a wasted asset.

        I agree with your view. With the likely departure of Cammy, Johnny Hockey and Sven will have to fight for ice time, driving their competition levels up. Pretty scary to think of both of these guys always trying to prove themselves every game, and Hartley is definitely a coach that promotes those values.

  • beloch

    Sven is 21 and not a star in the league yet!? Must have a terrible attitude and not want to play here. Definitely must be immature and he better show up to training camp confident, but not arrogant, expecting to make the team, but not so much that he doesn’t try like last year, definitely must be a bad kid, we should trade him, man Johnny looked good in IIHF’s, yeah Johnny is my new favourite player, man Johnny is going to scored 50 pts next season, Johnny is going to be a star, Johnny is the best. Johnny.

    Did I about sum that one up? I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and surely not you, the person reading this, but this is how I am interpreting about 50% of the fan-base’s feelings towards Sven (again sorry lots of my rage towards this topic stems from reading threads at CalgaryPuck).

    We have no idea if he has an ego problem, we have no idea about his personal life or why he struggled in the NHL (which I would also like to say I don’t think he was that bad). I feel like our discussions are worse than Star Magazine gossip over a celebrity marriage or something. Also success != hard work. Meaning, he can work hard and still struggle, so please don’t insinuate that he doesn’t care that’s why he isn’t a full-time NHLer.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Regarding Sven’s secondary assists: I recall when he was playing with Moneyhands and Hudler that Sven often started the play in the offensive zone (and would potentially end up with no points out of scoring play in which he played a central role). I think those secondary assists are legit, but, if it makes sense, I think his secondary assists are valuable ones as opposed to just incidental.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I really like Sven. I want him to have it click for him.

    I remember watching Marc Savard when he first got here. Fiesty and an amazing playmaker, many saw top 10 scoring potential especially with Iggy.

    They got rid of Savard because he wouldn’t get in line for a bag of pucks and iirc fitness was also an issue.

    I remember him saying after he broke out in Atlanta that he learned to train seriously and become a pro after leaving Calgary. His coach in Atlanta was Bob Hartley.

    Sven will get it and it will be awesome to watch him succeed.

    • Byron Bader

      Good point about Savard. Savard played all four years of junior and toyed around in the AHL for a little while too. He was about 25-26 when he finally “grew up”. Savard had greater signs of strong offensive talent (dominated junior , dominated ahl, 50 point season, 65 point season) but giving up on Sven too early could be a big mistake. The vision is there.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I watched Dale Tallon on the TSN mock draft, and Duthie asked him what he wanted for the 1st overall pick, and Tallon said (I’m paraphrasing)We got great young centremen and great young D, but if we could get a young winger who could step in and help us right away and maybe a pick…

    I like Sven. But I would trade Sven and a 2nd rounder for the 1st overall.

    • Burnward

      Don’t think that would even come close. I would have no problem giving up Sven, one of Byron, Arnold, Knight, Reinhart, Agostino, + both 2nds to score that 1st & I still think there would be better offers out there.