The 2014 Flames Fifteen – #3: Sven Baertschi

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Via the NHL

Did something happen to Sven Baertschi?

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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.

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  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. 

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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. 

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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.


  • piscera.infada

    Sven’s situation wss one of the few dark clouds hanging over last season.

    From my standpoint a causal factor in Sven’s “lost year” was the negative statements publicly made about him by Burke last summer.

    As an amateur coach, I believe a lot of my job is to support the growth and development of players so they reach and attain their highest potential. A variety of tactics need to be employed at different times, with each individual responding differently to each method employed.

    Most players respond best to positive, supportive, and constructive coaching. A select few respond to negative punitive tactics…IMO Sven is part of the former group, not one of the latter.

    I am not aware any behind-the-scenes issues which precipitated Burke’s comments, but I could almost feel Sven wilting away after his public flogging in the media. Burke violated the axiom of “praise in public, punish in private” for a young impressionable 20 year kid.

    Afterwards Sven didn’t come out swinging, or even defensively. He made a couple limited “try harder” statements and then faded from the limelight as fast as he could while his confidence level cratered. Once the GM trashed him he became a whipping boy for the coaching staff, eventually resulting in his demotion.

    I’m strongly supportive of Burke and Hartley. However I do not believe Sven’s situation was handled correctly starting last summer, which then triggered his eventual demise.

    Like you Justin I am very hopeful Sven rebounds and become the top line winger he should be. With Sven and Johnny G as 1LW / 2LW the Flames are in great shape for many years ahead.

    • beloch

      So when the positive,constructive,and supportive coaching methods doesn’t work,you implement the negative approach.What other choice would you have?

      Baertchi is a very talented hockey player that might just have a little growing up to do .Not a big deal.

      • beloch

        There are benefits to both carrot and stick, but the stick should always be used privately. How would you respond if your company’s quarterly report included a section titled, “How Alt is destroying profitibility”.

        • Craig

          Yes ,the stick should be used privately,and if that doesn’t work than your supportive approach won’t work either.

          I don’t see how you could compare this situation with my work.(adult)) Baertchi (teenager).

          Adults learn to take responsibility for there actions. That simple concept sometimes appears to be difficult for young people to grasp.

          I have no expertise in this area Beloch’ but I have resorted to openly scolding young men when the conventional supportive method has failed.

          Anyway I know we would all like to see Sven crack the lineup his fall.

    • beloch

      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 crap 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.

  • The difference between Monahan and Baertschi was:

    1.) Monahan came into the league and had a 20% SH% for the first couple of months, which made him look like superman. Baertschi didn’t score on every 4th shot to start the year, causing a big perception gulf between the two.

    2.) Monahan couldn’t be sent down to the AHL, even when he was struggling horribly (see: December-February). Which is one of the reasons that keeping CHL teens in the league is a risk.

  • 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

    He needed to work on the defensive side of his game so they sent him down. I don’t see that as a problem, if anything some time in the AHL will allow him to become a more complete player, its not like we needed him with the big club last year anyway. I expect bigger things from him this year

  • mk

    I’m hoping that the Flames brass agree with at least some of this. I’d hate to see him tossed in a trade for some magic beans and then to see him haunt the Flames on every trip to [insert NHL city].

    • piscera.infada

      I may be overly optimistic, but I don’t see management giving up on Sven, especially Burke. How long were trade rumours abound with Kadri? Burke consistently sent him down when he appeared ready .I also wouldn’t be surprised if this also factored into his handling of Feaster, he probably pushed for Monahan to be sent back to junior but ultimately acquiesced to the will of the GM (I personally don’t see Monahan in the NHL as a big issue, but I’d rather have seen him in the AHL – although I know that wasn’t possible).

  • jeremywilhelm

    This: “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.”

    Well stated. Being shiny and new still has an affect on team’s decision making.

  • smith

    I could never understand why he was sent down. Burke seems to have a love for big, gritty players and can not recognize players who are bad defensively. (McGratton). I thought it was rather obvious that he was generating a lot of the action when paired with Monahan.

  • smith

    Sven actually has 24 points in 51 games, not 34. That’s still fine, but nowhere near 2/3 points per game.

    I suspect if Baertschi was scoring at .66ppg he wouldn’t have been sent down. He still shouldn’t have. I’d rather watch him than David Jones any day.

  • Derzie

    The tolerance for jerking Sven around has ended. Play him or trade him. He is an NHL player. The farm is not helping him. The Hudler, Sven, Sean line was gold and can be again. Now please.

    • Parallex

      Come now, it’s not so clear cut. “Play him or trade him” is far to absolutist a statement for a young player.

      Like I’ve said in the past I believe there are going to be very limited spaces for promotions this season (after taking into account all the asset management issues like waiver eligibility & cap floor requirements). Someone who people think ought to be in the NHL to start the year won’t be.

  • Derzie

    Sven is still my favorite prospect and I still think he will be a good top-6 winger sooner rather than later.

    As much as it annoyed me that he got send down last year I could see he was struggling.

    He still put up .5pts/game while struggling so I still have high hopes.

    He needed to go down, you could just see it in the way he carried himself, there was something off.

    I hope he comes into camp and earns a spot and never looks back.

    Good luck Sven!

    • Bikeit

      Totally agree. Going to the games I watched him & yes he definitely struggled at times. The only thing is why I say he needs to step up this year is that the Flames are starting to acquire a lot of high end prospects who will develop quicker than Sven. I think & hope he comes to camp on a mission & we will be the benefactors of watching his game get raised to the NHL level.