Reasonable Expectations: Sven Baertschi

It can be easy to forget something – Sven Baertschi turns 22 in the first week of the season. He’s lived in North America for just four years, arriving in the summer of 2010 to join the Portland Winterhawks.

In a bit of a contrast from Max Reinhart, Baertschi’s a flashy player. He’s got immense offensive talent. He’s got, as the kids say, swagger. He’s hit a few stumbling blocks over the past few years, yo-yoing between Calgary and Abbotsford, and at times struggling to stay healthy.

But even though the Calgary Flames have added Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier (among others) since Baertschi was drafted in the 2011 Draft, he remains one of the team’s most entertaining and exciting offensive talents.

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Is this the season he puts it all together?

Season       Points
2010-11 (WHL) 85 31.68
2011-12 (WHL) 94 49.20
2011-12 (NHL) 3 49.20
2012-13 (AHL) 26 29.32
2012-13 (NHL) 10 40.00
2013-14 (AHL) 29 25.52
2013-14 (NHL) 11 34.69


A native of Langenthal, Switzerland, Baertschi tore up the Swiss junior leagues and was brought over to the WHL by the Portland Winterhawks as an import. He tore up the WHL with the Winterhawks, alongside countryman Nino Neiderreiter, going to the league finals twice but not winning. (They won the WHL Championship the year Sven left for the pros.)

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Baertschi’s pro career has been bizarre. He was brought in for five games on an emergency recall in 2011-12 when Calgary had barely any forwards left on pro deals. He scored three goals in those games and everyone got really, really excited about him – perhaps overwhelmingly so. And, SPECULATION, but because perhaps then-GM Jay Feaster wanted to make his mark on the roster, Baertschi started in the NHL in both of his first two pro seasons and while he posted decent offensive numbers, his play away from the puck left something to be desired by the coaching staff. And after yo-yoing in and out of the line-up due to injury and/or healthy scratches, he was sent down to the American League in both years.

Let’s review that – despite not playing a complete three-zone game, Baertschi still produced well offensively. He’s just that good inside the other team’s zone.


Let’s review, shall we?

  • October: Baertschi has 5 points in 11 games in Calgary; he was scratched once.
  • November: Baertschi has 4 points in 11 games in Calgary; he was scratched three times.
  • December: Baertschi has 2 points in 4 games in Calgary; when Jay Feaster is fired he’s almost immediately demoted to Abbotsford. He had just 1 point in 5 AHL games.
  • January: Baertschi has 4 points in 11 AHL games.
  • February: Baertschi has 8 points in 11 AHL games.
  • March: Baertschi has 9 points in 9 AHL games. He also missed four games due to injury.
  • April/May: Baertschi had 7 points in 5 AHL games (granted, 5 of those points came in one game), and then just 1 point in 4 playoff games against Grand Rapids. He was held out of the last two regular season games for precautionary reasons, so potentially his lackluster playoffs could’ve been health-related.

Baertschi was “fine” in the NHL, but played poorly enough that coach Bob Hartley scratched him a bunch. He played mostly third line minutes, both in terms of deployments and sheltering. His dispatching back to the AHL was believed to be primarily to shore up his defensive game. He played primarily with Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan and displayed some good chemistry with them. His possession stats in the NHL were a mixed bag.

In the AHL, he gradually improved, but didn’t click with any linemates until Troy Ward put him with AHL journeyman Corey Locke and rookie Josh Jooris. In the half-season that Baertschi spent in Abbotsford, though, he never really established himself as “the guy” for the Heat the way it was probably hoped he would.


Baertschi is arguably still a work in progress. He’s a dynamite offensive player and arguably the most creative guy with the puck in the organization. He’s played two up-and-down years of pro and was (up until this year) burdened with the expectations of being the future face of the franchise, the saviour of whatever team he’s on, and expected to drive the bus.

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Well, guess what. You can probably put Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau and maybe even Emile Poirier ahead of him in the “best player” sweepstakes. Heck, Gaudreau and Poirier will probably be his teammates in the AHL this season. How does he react to that? Does he relax a bit and just play the game once the pressure’s off? Does he tighten up, thinking these guys are gonna steal his spot?

At some point for young hockey players, a switch goes off. I think it goes off for Baertschi this season, at least to a certain respect. He’s still super-young, but I’d wager that he’s starting to figure out the away-from-the-puck stuff and now that he’s not the Flames’ shiny new toy, the pressure to perform (and the resultant stick-squeezing) may be gone.

I’d guess he splits time between Calgary and Adirondack; he probably gets the NHL equivalent of 40 points.

  • piscera.infada

    To me this has to be the season where Baertschi proves that he belongs on this team as an everyday NHL player. I’m not saying the Flames should cut bait with him, but he needs to have a season like Backlund did. He’s got to prove that not only he’s a top 6 forward but that he can play in all three zones. He did have a lot of good chemistry with Monahan, those two clicked together. I don’t have unrealistic expectations for him, but he’s got to start being a more consistent player. If the focus is on guys like Monahan, Bennett and Gaudreau that might work in Barts favour. Just focus on being the best player.

  • Derzie

    Watching Sven play (as a fan, not a hockey professional) I saw no good reason to scratch him or punish him. His work with Hudler & Monahan was stellar. Their job was to score and they did. I can only conclude that Sven is being tossed around for what we don’t see as fans. The behind the scenes attitude and comments perhaps? A Mr Burns / Don Mattingly Sideburns relationship between coach and player? I don’t know. What I do know is that the punishment has not yet produced on-ice results. Sven was very lackluster production-wise in Abbotsford. My hope is that no matter what happens to Sven, that it make sense to the fans. If he gets fair deployments & stinks it up on the ice and gets traded, we’ll understand. If the coach makes it hard for him when he doesn’t have to, all bets are off. If he succeeds and produces I for one will be happy for him (and us).

    • SavardianSpinorama

      Why should Sven spend more time in the AHL when so many are ready to anoint an NHL spot to Gaudreau? Sven has earned a shot at the NHL and deserves a fair chance or to be moved to a team that will give him one.

    • PrairieStew

      Agree. Being 22 and not in the show yet is not the end of days. The idea that veterans are stealing NHL development time from the young guys fails to recognize that very few of the prospects (Sven included) have shown that they can be dominant in the AHL yet. Reinhart may be the exception. Gaudreau may not have to prove it – but it wouldn’t kill him either.

  • McRib

    Mikael Backlund had an NHLE of 26.36 his +2 Season in the WHL, Sven Baertschi had an NHLE of 49.2 his +1 Season in the WHL (Sven’s late Birthday makes them both 19 in those years).

    Mikael Backlund had 0.34 PPG in his +4 NHL Draft Season, Sven Baertschi had 0.42 PPG in his +3 NHL Draft Season at the NHL level.

    Sven is so naturally talented offensively he could put up 40+ points a season in his sleep the next couple of years, however the Flames recognize he has the offensive talents to put up 75+ points in the future if he shows he can earn 18 minutes a night in all situations. So lets just relax and let him work on his defensive game for another year, because after watching him tear apart the WHL a few years ago I have no doubt in my mind that he is worse case a 55+ point guy in his prime and using Backlund as a comparison only confirms that as Sven has put up much better numbers at every age level these young guys (outside of a few exceptions) just take time.

    • piscera.infada

      Very, very true. In order to effectively play top or second-line minutes night-in, night-out in the NHL you have to be responsible every time you’re on the ice. Sven will get it, there is no rush. In my opinion, he’s not expendable either. You can always find spots for 2, 3, 4 skilled wingers, you can’t put 1 skilled winger into 4 spots. Make no mistake, this is a huge year for Sven, but I think with what happened last year and a full off-season to reflect on that, he’s going to surprise some people – Burke especially. Say what you want about BB, he’s not a guy who gives up on skill. His comments about Baertschi were eerily similar to his comments on Kadri a few years ago. What did everyone say about Nazem? “He’s as good as gone.” Did that happen? No.

    • Skuehler

      Just comparing stats with Backs vs Sven does not tell the whole story. I don’t recall the same hype and expectations for Backs as with Sven, Backs had only been in NA a short period while Sven at least had a full season. Backs has become a solid 2 way player who may(we hope start to show more offence) A comparison to Kadri statistically is interesting: Kadri 119 games in the AHL with 43/64 for 107 points (parts of 3 seasons) before he finally made it as an NHL player, Sven so far 73 games over parts of 2 seasons for 23/32 for 55 points. Kadri’s big year in the AHL was his third. If Sven follows the same path he will be all right, it is a big year for him but not make or break If he plays 30-50 NHl games and 50-30 AHL games he is on the right track. This is more reasonable than we had him for last year.

      • SavardianSpinorama

        You obviously don’t know about or remember Backlund’s playoff performance with the Kelowna Rockets. If we were in a rebuild back then, you would’ve been just as hyped about him as we were about Baertschi.

    • Jeremy

      All rather smallish or benign. Preference would be for some size or grit depending on their team and line match-ups.

      Adding a Glencross, Jones, or Colborne (or possibly a Ferland, Bollig or Wolf down the road) could provide better balance…?

    • SmellOfVictory

      I think he’d be a good fit, but if that’s the case then Stajan has to be the sacrifical centre who gets buried. At least one of the two is going to have to get the lowest ground available, and whoever it is should probably not have any kids on his line.

  • SavardianSpinorama

    The problem for Sven was when he was called up was so good that fans, Media and I even think staff annointed him the next big thing for the Flames and he still has lots of growing to do as a person and as a player. If the Flames start the season with no prospects on the big club it will upset me but it may be the best thing for them all and especially for Sven. If the likes of Sven, Johnny, Granlund, Poirier, Rhino, Knight, Ferland etc all play for Addy then they will I hope be able to feed of one another and develop their complete games without the pressure of being the next one as all of them can contribute and no team will be able to focus on stopping one of them, and then they all can produce.

    Using some of the chemistry from last year and the potential of the prospects these could be the lines:




    Agostino/Jooris/Bambam(vanB) or Hanowski

    Which of the 3 top lines do you put your checkers against. How do you push the skilled guys around? Think about the two powerplay units you could have.

    THink of the prospects games when you get to add Bennett, Klimchuk and Hunter.

    It might be more fun watching addy than the big club.

    • Jeremy

      CP those are 4 pretty good looking Addy lines which would look good up with the big club, especially when adding in Monahan, Bennett…and McDavid or Eichel(?)

      The folks in Glen Falls will indeed have an exciting team to watch this year..!

      • Gaudfather

        The thing with Glen Falls is what will the back end look like. Ortio and the old AHL pro should provide them with enough goaltending. The problem is with only 6 NHL defenders on the big club, it means that one of Sponn, Sena, or Cundari makes the big team and losing any of these guys will hurt the baby flames. Currently they will likely have 2 of the 3 I previously listed and Kulak, Culkin, Sieloff and Ramage plus whichever professional AHL players they sign. I have yet to see a list of one way AHL players that the flames under contact. they will need in my mind at least 2 centers, 1 RW, and at least 2 defenders. Plus they need to help stock their ECHL team.

      • RexLibris

        Not to interrupt, but I had suggested this as well.

        Not in a “gotta get rid of this kid because he’s a bum” kind of way.

        Rather, the Flames are flush with wingers and desperately need to address shortcomings in other developmental areas – defense.

        Baertschi is nearly NHL-ready and may thrive on a team with veteran shelter and a roster spot for an ELC winger.

        He is the closest thing the Flames have to an expendable blue-chip prospect that they have and I don’t believe that management is beholden to him.

        It is a possibility and not necessarily a poor use of asset management – deal from a position of surplus to address need.

        • RexLibris

          All of this. I’ve never understood why so many people refuse to understand the difference between prudent asset management and “giving up” on a prospect.

          When many people (such as myself) suggest trading Baertschi, it isn’t because we don’t like him or because we don’t think he’ll pan out. It is, in fact, quite the opposite.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            I agree… but the Flames have been burned on these kind of moves before.. (HULL, SAVARD, Phaneuf.. just to name a few)

            My only hesitation is, if your going to do it, you better be damn sure your getting Value in return.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            Who said anything about “going for it”? I’m talking about trading for a defense prospect who stands a good chance of being a first pair guy by the time Giordano is no longer capable of that level of play.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            Agreed & I get trashed every time I go this route about trading Sven. I think he will be a top 6 offensive winger. He’s on an ELC which is a huge + to Cap strapped teams like Boston. Boston knows how good this kid could be, no one is going to steal him from us, we’ll give up on him before he gets stolen from us. That is why I would love to take a run at Krug & I think Sven is that blue chip that gets the conversation going. Gotta give to get. Imagine getting a Krug without having to part with Bennett, Money, Porrier, Johnny. We have lots of forward talent. Now we would have Krug & Brodie already established in our top 2 pairings immediately. To me it makes sense to both teams. Adding a playoff experienced, winning pedigree of Krug would have me stoked.
            Take Kelly & an additional 3.0 mill for this year & next off the Bruins hands & we have a decent hockey trade brewing. So no, I don’t want to run Sven out of town, just the opposite, I think him & our cap space could help accelerate our rebuild on the blueline.

          • Rockmorton65

            I can get behind the thinking, but not for Krug. Dude is tiny. That would give us Krug, Brodie, Russell, Wideman who are all under 6 ft. I’d personally prefer we go after a “Bogosian” type. Big, mobile two way Dman with offensive upside

          • Rockmorton65

            Okay, I was off by a couple of inches. But I think my comment still stands. You can’t have a defense where are your top pairing is 6’1/5’9. They will get absolutely owned by the bigger forwards in this league. I don’t care how good his stick is, if a guy like Kopitar or Getzlaf decides to go to the net, there’s nothing lil Torey Krug could do about it.

          • Rockmorton65

            Krug wouldn’t be my choice either.

            However, defensemen don’t need to be big. Giordano/Brodie was one of the best pairs in the league last season, and Giordano is only 6’0″.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            You did. You suggested trading Baertchi for a defense prospect. Gotcha.

            I said “I agree”… But if you trade him at this stage of his career, it could be risky. Just sayin’.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            1. I mis-read… so sorry.

            2. None of the trades you mentioned had anything whatsoever to do with what I’m suggesting… so I’m still confused as to what you mean.

          • Rockmorton65

            The trades I mentioned were just to highlight a few times the Flames traded elite talent for horrible return. Not an exact scenario as what you mentioned, granted.

            At this point, I don’t think the Flames would get the type of return (top 2 D) prospect that you’re thinking about. IMO.

            I would rather the Flames wait until his value goes up a bit (hopefully) to increase the return.

        • SavardianSpinorama

          I have no issues trading replacement players or stars from the perspective of prudent asset management.

          However at the current time trading Baertschi would likely yield much less than what he is truly worth as he is still more a prospect with potential rather than a proven bona fide up-and-coming star.

          Sven’s biggest credentials are still his draft selection as a 1st round 11th overall pick along with some reasonable supporting evidence that he is NHL ready but unproven, along with some questions that have arisen as to his drive or character.

          Seguin was traded after three (including strike-shortened) full seasons of NHL play. Turris, Ryan were as well. Kadri was rumoured on the block, also after successfully proving himself at the NHL level.

          IMO talk of trading Baertschi is premature as the Flames would likely be selling a prime asset short if they traded Sven without giving him at least two full NHL seasons so he could attract the highest market value.

      • Jeremy

        Simply put he’s not big or strong enough. There are too many bigger or talented players in the organization at left wing like Klimchuck and Gaudreau to warrant keeping Sven. He has no truculence to his game. Move him for an asset at a position of need, like a young defensman or a right winger.

  • Gaudfather

    Whether he sticks with the big club will depend mostly on Sven. If he brings a strong work ethic each shift and plays a 200 ft, 3 zone game – he should have a shot. This is the year he needs to show he belongs.

  • SavardianSpinorama

    I, personally, was really hoping the Flames’ roster would open up a little this year so the team could cycle in the Gaudreau’s, Baertschi’s, Poirier’s, Granlund’s et al into and out of the lineup.

    If Calgary can only carry 23 players at a time, two goalies and (assuming) seven D, with fourteen forwards (all of whom must either pass through waivers except Gaudreau or be sent back to the CHL, as in Monahan), what will the Flames do to give players like Sven or Granlund a legitimate opportunity to prove themselves?

    So, as it stands, there is only one spot for roster cycling, and that’s the one most of us have penciled in for Gaudreau, who I would like to see up with the big team for the entire year, if possible.

    I looked forward to watching some kids this year, but it may be management has made the right decision to shelter the prospects under the tutelage of Ryan Huska. The NHL experience would be great but if we’re rushing young players into a losing environment, they’re probably better off developing some chemistry and camaraderie, while kicking some ass in the AHL.

    Damn rebuilds, anyway.

  • RexLibris

    For interests’ sake, I went back and looked at some of the past articles on Baertschi.

    Christian did an interesting historical ppg look at Baertschi about a year ago:

    A tonne of work there, and an interesting read.

    His prediction was, based on a decent season, about 50+ pts.

    Kent had a look at Baertschi back in December of 2011 a few months after he had been selected by the Flames.

    He correctly predicts a terrific WHL season for Baertschi (partially sidelined by concussion issues, if I recall correctly) but remains cautions against looking too far into the future.

    And then a few months later Kent had another look at Baertschi’s extraordinary season and his ppg pace (which drew comparisons by Corey Pronman to Jordan Eberle).

    The comparables suggested Claude Giroux as a close fit.

    Looking back at my own RE on Baertschi I’ve got him playing half an NHL season and netting 17 pts.

    Seems to me like Baertschi has been all over the map in terms of initial estimations to current predictions, and my own predictions on his season are as likely as any to be off the mark.

    Baertschi’s talent appears to be there, but what I’ve noticed in re-reading all this is that nowhere can anyone seem to identify what is stopping him from more fully realizing that talent on the NHL level.

    I’ve always argued that 5 years should be the marker for making the call on drafted prospects, so this is year four for Baertschi and I think after this season he shifts from prospect into suspect territory. Perhaps he delivers the way Backlund did in years five and six.

    But the gap between my estimation of under 20 pts on a half season, at a pace that would put him at 34 pts on a full season, and Ryan’s of 40 for the full year isn’t significant. It only seems to reinforce the idea that Baertschi will most likely develop into a decent complementary winger in the NHL and that this season is likely to be a turning point, for better or worse, in his career.

  • Derzie

    No trades. Sven has value as a lottery ticket. The value in return would be for a lottery ticket and probably another lottery ticket. Use him as a case study in how (or how not to) develop players. We won’t win until we know how to do that. Trades supplement winning, they don’t create it. Drafting and growing prospects is how you win.

  • T&A4Flames

    The problem with trading Sven in my estimation is that he is the only LW prospect with any NHL experience and the only one that has shown that he can play at this level. None of Gaudreau, Klimchuk, Poirier, Ferland or any other have shown they are any where as close to ready as Sven is. So, unless there is a clear cut unbelievable clear CGY win deal out there, i think you keep him until some other prospect has shown they have indeed passed Sven.