The trade deadline has come and gone, featuring relatively minor moves but a maximum of drama nonetheless. The Glencross swap was expected and straightforward, but there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to moving Sven for a second rounder.
– I’ll admit, in absence of the knowledge that Baertschi had demanded a trade, I was disappointed in the return for the 22 year old winger. Whatever the circumstances, converting a 13th overall draft choice into a second round pick less than four years after his draft day is significant asset degradation.
– The tendency in the wake of the deal is to point fingers and determine blame. There are roughly two camps to this debate currently: one side who says Baertschi sewered his opportunity with Calgary due a combination of poor attitude and poor performance. The other side says the Flames completely mishandled the player, scuttling his development.
Boringly I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
– There’s no question Baertschi’s play fell short of the lofty expectations that were set for him after his explosive debut as a 19 year old. His 21 year old training camp in particular was poor. It may have been this ill-timed dip in perceived effort that sealed his fate in the organization, given it was also the first summer for Brian Burke (and, ultimately, the genesis of a complete regime change). One wonders what would have happened had Baertschi had a better camp that year.
With that negative first impression burned into the memory banks of his new bosses combined with the ouster of the decision makers who drafted him, Sven was left with a single alternative: play so well that he would be impossible to overlook. And while he had “good” performances at both the NHL and AHL levels given his age, he didn’t knock the cover off the ball. It was clear the organization’s ambivalence grew into disinterest in him as a prospect over time as he ran in place.
– That Hartley’s (and Burke’s) dislike of the player were fairly obvious is why the club can be accused of mishandling Baertschi’s development.
Sven might be the first prospect I’ve ever seen openly derided in the press by a senior level manager in Calgary. And while Burke’s comments at the time were certainly defensible, they also seemed to taint the perception of the player internally as well as Baertschi’s own perception of the organization.
The relationship seemed to become adversarial in the final 12 months or so as a result, with the team’s bench bosses obviously dubious of Sven’s worth, leaving him the difficult task of having to prove his superiors wrong. Anyone in that position can tell you it’s a difficult task and often a self fulfilling prophecy, particularly when your boss is in a position to dictate the circumstances of your performance.
While tough love might be a successful development tact with some young players, it clearly went counter to Baertschi’s proclivities. Unfortunately, the relationship soured to the degree that neither party was either willing or able to make it work in the end.
– Let’s circle back to Baertschi’s performance in the Flames organization. Because the expectations for Sven were so wildly skewed when he arrived, we should try to place them in better context in order to properly judge what the club (and have since given up).
Baertschi scored 80 points in 109 games AHL (0.73 PPG). Over his three seasons in the AHL, Baertschi ranked first (0.81), fifth (0.71) and third (0.69) in PPG pace on each iteration of the Flames minor league team. If we narrow our look at other Flames prospects on those teams (read below 24 years old), only Markus Granlund (0.88 PPG) scored at a cumulative higher rate than Baertschi (0.73) over that period.
Those results aren’t amazing and the downward trend isn’t terribly encouraging, but they certainly aren’t bad either. Tyler Dellow looked at young AHLers years ago and found that the rule of thumb for forwards is a 0.70 PPG pace for you to reasonably expect a guy to make the NHL as anything but a role player. Baertschi, despite his tumultuous tenure here, cleared that bar.
In the NHL, his results are comparable to many of the younger players who have appeared over the last couple of seasons. This year, for example, he had the best possession rate of Granlund, Ferland, Poirier and Colborne and second best ESP/60 rate (1.7). For further context, last year Monahan and Baertschi had almost the exact same possession rate in similar circumstances. Monahan scored 1.5 points per sixty minutes of ice time at 5on5, Baertschi scored 1.3. Of course, Monahan stuck around because he couldn’t be demoted to the AHL and the decision makers have far more faith in him.
So while Baertschi didn’t live up to his blue chip expectations, his results were at least good enough to say he is still a noteworthy prospect.
– As for the rest of the deadline, Brad Treliving was wisely prudent. The injury to Mark Giordano and the Flames position as playoff hopefuls set up a situation where moving picks and prospects for rentals would have been at least defensible. Instead, the Flames GM was more seller than buyer, a decision that is much more likely to benefit the team in the long run.
– That said, I was mildly disappointed the club wasn’t in on some of the defensive help that was available. Jeff Petry was had for a relative song (though the price may have been higher for the Flames) and a guy like Simon Despres was had for cheap (Ben Lovejoy). Patrick Wiercioch, one of my favoured deadline targets, didn’t move, which means the Sens decided to hang on to him for a stretch drive or nobody offered them anything of note.
That said, the deadline wasn’t the last time the Flames will have an opportunity to bolster their blueline. With a bunch of picks in the upcoming draft and plenty of cap space in the off-season, they could come away with some improved defensive depth by the end of the summer.