Sven Baertschi needs to replace Curtis Glencross

The trade deadline is one of the biggest signifiers of just how close the regular NHL season is to ending. It’s teams’ final chance to load up for a playoff run before the real action gets underway. It’s also one of teams’ final chances to determine just where they’re at with some of their players.

The Calgary Flames have been at a crossroads with Sven Baertschi for quite some time now, but we’re fast approaching the point an actual decision must be made.

Here are the facts we’re aware of right now, at this very moment:

  1. Curtis Glencross, a natural left winger, is very, very likely to be traded.
  2. Sven Baertschi, a natural left winger nearly a decade Glencross’ junior, is about to require waivers.

The solution seems obvious, but this is a team that has willingly dressed Brandon Bollig – another left winger – for 48 NHL games (and counting!) this season, so maybe it’s not that obvious.

(It is, though.)

Time is running out

Baertschi’s contract kicked in at the start of his 20-year-old season. When that happens, a skater has three seasons – the length of a standard entry-level contract – before he requires waivers to be sent back down. This is year three of Baertschi’s entry-level contract. He’s an upcoming restricted free agent.

So the Flames have three choices about what to do with their 2011 first round pick:

  1. Re-sign him.
  2. Trade him.
  3. Let him walk.

Let’s just toss the third option out right away, because that would be asset management so horrifically bad not even the Edmonton Oilers would be capable of it. … In theory. I mean, the Oilers are pretty bad at just about everything.

But first-year general manager Brad Treliving seems to have a pretty level head on his shoulders, so there’s no chance of letting an asset that young and with that much potential just walk.

This means the Flames will either have to trade his rights, re-sign him, or some sort of combination or alternative thereof (i.e. sign-and-trade, or hope another team offer sheets him). If they do extend and keep him, though, the Flames will need to keep him in the NHL, because it wouldn’t be smart to risk exposing him to waivers. That could very, very easily result in losing him for absolutely nothing, which we’ve already established would be horrible asset management.

Since Calgary has done next to nothing to showcase him, he’s more valuable to the organization as he currently is than as trade bait. Unless that changes.

It’s time to give him another shot

This is probably the Flames’ last chance to showcase him. Glencross’ departure means there will be an opening for a top-nine left winger (in theory, it would be top six, but as we all know, Lance Bouma occupies one of those slots and probably isn’t going anywhere, no matter how shrilly logic screeches), and that spot should go to Baertschi.

Not even just due to his contract status. On a point per game basis, he’s Adirondack’s highest scoring left winger. And the Flames are still a team in the playoff chase. Baertschi could legitimately help. If the Flames don’t get another forward back in return for Glencross, he may very well be the team’s best option.

The thing is, he can’t be left to kill time in the pressbox or waste away sharing ice with Bollig. Whether the choice is going to be to keep him or trade him, these 20-odd games left in the season may very well be the Flames’ final chance to showcase him, either for themselves or for any potential trading partners. 

A showcasing means playing Baertschi alongside competent NHLers, just like how he spent most of the Feb. 2 game, a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, skating alongside Mason Raymond. He was actually given top six minutes for the first two periods before he took a penalty and was banished for most of the third.

That can’t happen again, though. It’s time to play Baertschi on a consistent basis.

He needs to be put in a position to succeed

Baertschi was a pretty hyped prospect when he was first drafted, and his three goals over a five-game emergency call up only added to that. But ultimately, he hasn’t shown a ton at the NHL level. And maybe he never will. (Although it’s pretty hard to show much of anything when your coach won’t even play you for 10 minutes in a game.)

But if Baertschi does show something and it’s not with the Flames, that’s going to look pretty bad. And feel pretty bad. And be bad in general.

Maybe Baertschi does work out, maybe he doesn’t; no matter what happens, though, a decision has to be made soon. Placing him in Glencross’ spot in the lineup is going to be the best opportunity for the Flames to figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to hurt the Flames by getting minutes, anyway; he’s not exactly the worst forward available to them.

If the Flames don’t give him this chance over the final quarter of the season, they may very well have just ruined an asset and lost him for no discernible reason. While guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Emile Poirier, and Sam Bennett are new and shiny, the Flames really can’t afford to squander any assets they still have available to them. And even though Baertschi has been around longer, he’s definitely an asset.

You can’t just throw prospects away; not when they’re in just their early 20s and still have plenty of potential to be useful NHLers. Calgary’s in the position where it has to give Baertschi one last chance to succeed, both for his sake, and its own.

  • everton fc

    Another well written article, Arii!

    Package GlenX and Bollig to Chicago for a young prospect or draft picks…and let us see if Sven can earn another contract. Ferland and Baertschi would be good replacements.

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        Bolig and england have been here because bb and bt screwed up and sven is the fall guy. Mngt needs to admit they blew it. Still think feaster should be in the organization. Its still his team imho

    • everton fc

      I may get blasted for this, but I think Ferland’s a better replacement on the 3rd line/left wing, than Sven.

      Ferland/Jooris/Raymond, Ferland/Granlund/Raymond,

      These options will produce offence, me thinks.

  • herringchoker

    Hopefully I’m the first guy to post. I remember Marc Savard back when he was a flame and you could hear a pin drop in the saddledome. Marc Savard showed all the skill in the world but, he was young, and had lots to learn. They traded him for a nobody russian and Savard went on to be a elite player. I see Sven as our next Savard. The flames need to give Sven a full season in the NHL in a top 6 role and allow him to succeed. We need Sven to become what Sven can be. I would love to see a Sven, Backlund, Pourier 2nd line. Eventually moving Backs to the third line and adding Bennett in as the 2C. Although I think Bennett will eventually be a 1C and Monahan will be a 2C.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I totally agree. What could seriously hamper this excellent plan is that if the Flames trade GlenX, they may need to bring back a player of note and salary. GlenX might well go to a team that thinks it is a legitimate Cup contender and those teams are mostly near the cap. If they can send off GlenX for a D-man, then Sven should be good to go, but if they trade him for a forward, then Sven could be screwed.

    Here’s hoping we get a D-man.

  • Burnward

    I’m not crying tears for a 22 year old who hasn’t proven he has earned top-six minutes.

    If he makes it, he makes it.

    I’d still want Bollig over him for a game seven against the Kings this year.

  • BurningSensation

    This is what happens when you insist on developing prospects the right way. On the Oilers Baertschi would be a 100 game veteran with horrible stats, no confidence, and fans screaming for him to be traded.

    He’s going in to his RFA year, and the Flames will still have complete control of him.

    Treat him fairly, let him earn the recall. If he succeeds, awesome, if he doesn’t, back for more marinating. Wash, rinse, repeat, Red Wings.

  • Burnward

    Agree 100% Ari. Numbers back it up too. Baertschi’s 3 most frequent line mates in Calgary this year? According to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, its Byron, Bollig, and Setoguchi. With all due respect to Byron, those are all fourth line guys. He’s also only played 121:29 in 14 games at even strength, an average of a little over 8.5 minutes/game.

    If guys like Baertschi, Ferland, and Poirier are going to play on this team consistently, the team needs to start making some room for them. Brandon Bollig is not good at playing hockey compared to these younger guys, and GlenX needs to go soon to give one of these guys some considerable playing time. It shouldn’t take a fluky run of goals by a young kid before the team realizes which players actually help the team win.

  • KiLLKiND

    Sven’s a small guy, but with all the mass he put on last year he’s not “weak”. He’s got a good strong base.

    I feel like the biggest dilemma for this team is created by Hudler. As a smaller guy himself, he forces the Flames to get bigger. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of a 22 year old skilled player. But Jiri’s also our best forward and veteran.

    My hope is that next year, the Gaudreau-Monahan line can operate well without Hudler so that size isn’t a downfall for the top line. Best case scenario is if Jooris can be the RW there as he is just a beast going after the puck.

    Then Sven, Bennett, and Hudler can all work together as the secondline. A ton of skill there, but also the benefit of not facing top competition… with Poirier ready in Stockton.

    Leave the Backlund line as-is. Jones does expire next year though so he might be on the way out, but I’m in no rush.

    That still leaves Byron, Colborne, Shore, Raymond, Stajan, Wolf, Ferland, Granlund to earn the final bunch of spots. I see Byron as a lock with the way he drives offense.

    Bollig… He needs to be gone. ASAP

    • everton fc

      Poirier might be a good replacement for Hudler on that line if he learns to be more responsible in his own end.

      You have Sven/Bennett/Hudler; I still prefer Ferland/Bennett/Hudler, but I do see where you’re going, in order to “try” Sven and see if he can play up to the same level as his linemates.

      Byron’s not a bad 4th line centre if Stajan moves on. People forget he can play pivot. Ditto Jooris. If we role a 4th line that can give us 10 solid minutes a night – is that dreaming??

    • Burnward

      Not really, but he’s got decent sv% numbers over three years, and they improved each year rather than fluctuating wildly like Doug Carr’s.

      Most likely nothing to be excited about, but well… getting decent goaltending talent into the system for free beats drafting Zach Fucale.

  • RKD

    I would have no problem seeing Sven replace Curtis Glencross. Sven scoring 3 goals in his first 5 games turned out to be a curse because the bar got raised way too high. His development will be more along the lines of Backlund, slow and steady. A lot of time Sven was playing on the third line. If he gets to play with some more skilled players on a more consistent basis I can’t see why he would not succeed. Treliving doesn’t really want to part with young players/assets. Let see Sven do his thing.

  • RKD

    Personally, I think we sit GlenX till he’s traded, heard on the Fan Flames have requested him to add Washington to his list. Bring up Sven & play him in the top 9. These last few games we have seen the intensity ramped up by contending teams, time to see how Sven can play in these tension games. For the mere fact we have a new contract to negotiate this summer, the sooner we get him on the big club, the better we can do the performance review.

  • amaninvan

    Great article arii. I couldn’t agree more. Sven has the highest offensive ceiling out of any of our prospects (except for possibly Bennett or Poirier). I’ve said it before: to trade him away without properly evaluating him would be a mistake. The only correct way to evaluate him is to give him quality minutes with quality line mates in quality situations, consistently and regularly. See if the kid sinks or swims. then act accordingly. He deserves a real chance to show what he is all about.

  • PrairieStew

    On one hand I absolutely agree with gist of the article. If Glencross goes, Sven needs a real shot at the top 6. Fact is, he’s not the type of guy who’s ever going to impact the 3rd line unless it’s on a really deep team that can just roll 4 lines.

    On the other hand, I still think packaging Sven and Glencross together is the Flames’ best shot at brining back a top young D prospect.

  • KiLLKiND

    Sven hasn’t earned anything I’m so fine to trade him for even a 2nd he isn’t nearly has good as Gaudreau and having 2 lightweight high skill left wingers isn’t going to work especially when one isn’t nearly consistent enough. I know I’m going to get downvoted but this is my opinion if he makes the team that is even worse asset management. Granlund, Ferland, Jooris, Shore, Poirier, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Bouma, Arnold,and Byronhave all passed him in the past 3 years and he hasn’t done anything to work his way back up. He looks like he needs at least 2 more years in the AHL to develop. Whatever team takes him I wish them luck but unless his attitude and work ethic has a major change he will not make it as a Calgary Flame.

  • KiLLKiND

    Sven hasn’t earned anything I’m so fine to trade him for even a 2nd he isn’t nearly has good as Gaudreau and having 2 lightweight high skill left wingers isn’t going to work especially when one isn’t nearly consistent enough. I know I’m going to get downvoted but this is my opinion if he makes the team that is even worse asset management. Granlund, Ferland, Jooris, Shore, Poirier, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Bouma, Arnold,and Byronhave all passed him in the past 3 years and he hasn’t done anything to work his way back up. He looks like he needs at least 2 more years in the AHL to develop. Whatever team takes him I wish them luck but unless his attitude and work ethic has a major change he will not make it as a Calgary Flame.