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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • smith

    I’m totally open to a trade involving sven as long as the return is equal to his potential. But I’m just as open to keeping him. I think he’ll be a good player.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • aloudoun

    We shall see how he does in camp. If he comes into camp and makes sure as hell they can’t rationally send him back to the AHL… great. If he comes into camp and has a similar camp to last year, bye bye Sven.
    Although he may not make it to camp in a Flames uniform.

  • TheRealPoc

    I really do believe Sven becomes a very solid NHLer. I’m just not convinced it’ll be here.

    Right or wrong, Treliving probably has but one request from Burke when targeting impact players to fill up the Top 6 – make sure they’re big. As it stands, the org’s already investing a ton of stock into Gaudreau; I’m not sure they’ll be comfortable with two sub-six footers occupying the top of the LW depth chart moving forward.

    Again, I’m not saying I agree with this line of thinking, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flames only keep one of the li’l guys and flip the other. And it’s a pretty safe bet right now who’d be on the outside looking in.