Setting the Baer High
On an aging team where the changing of the guard seems as inevitable as the changing of gonch, talk has seemed centred not around captain Jarome, but around the young Swiss right-winger, Sven Baertschi.
It seems that young Sven can’t go to the bathroom without some “analyst” critiquing him. Was it the right bathroom? Is that the bathroom that is best for him? Is it too early for him to go to THAT bathroom?
Hard to blame the analysts, really. Sven is being viewed as a major piece to the puzzle that is Calgary’s future.
Now, I should state my bias before you keep reading. I have never been a fan of bringing young “stars” into a line-up unless they are put into a “star” role (known as the Cody Hodgson affect). But after a lights-out year last season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, even I got giddy over Baertschi’s potential.
Well, Baertshi hasn’t exactly exploded onto the scene now in his first NHL games. Playing on the second line earned him zero points, a minus one rating, and only three shots through four games.
With the Flames’ all-too-familiar dreary start to the season, “Svensational” will have to be the team’s saviour when he returns from a hip-flexor injury - if he returns. Should he return?
Although early, the argument could be made for the youngster to not return to the “bigs”, but instead slap the puck around with Abbotsford in the AHL. A 20-year-old spending another year in the AHL is hardly a waste, and may actually serve as a way to preserve his confidence – protecting him from the frustrating headache that occurs when not contributing in the NHL. His last game before the injury was a role on the fourth line (no, he’s not a grinder). But playing in the AHL, he’ll get loads of ice time and more opportunity to further his skills.
The Leafs kept Nazem Kadri in the minors last year, and we’re seeing the upside this year. Free from the scrutinizing press and pressure that accompanies the NHL, Kadri was able to hone his game. Mikael Backlund is an example of struggling under pressure. Some might argue that Backlund, 23, should’ve been sent down last year for his poor play. He couldn’t find his game at all last season. Now we’re supposed to believe that the younger, smaller Baertschi is going to turn it around under more pressure? Hmmm. I have my doubts.
But then again, maybe the Flames don’t NEED him to turn up the heat right away. I’ll explain…
You can’t make a cake without the right ingredients, and I don’t believe the Flames have the right ingredients going into this season. With a new coach, some aging stars, some plugs, and top prospects still playing in the minors, they don’t appear poised for a cup run. With this in mind, maybe it makes sense to keep Baertschi in the line-up. With low expectations comes low pressure, and what better experience for a future star than playing in the NHL under no pressure.
I guess the question is whether Hartley and Feaster believe in the team they’ve assembled. If they think the product on the ice is worthy of a cup run, then they should be slapped, and also should allow Baertschi to develop properly. Don’t force it. If they don’t believe in their team, they should keep Baertschi in the line-up, but allow him top minutes – no more of this fourth line garbage. Chalk this up to rebuilding and don’t bust his blades over a lack of points as long as he’s playing hard.
Are we, as Flames fans, finally apathetic enough to allow for a rebuilding year? It is a short year…
Such a year could prove integral to protecting, what could be, Cowtown’s next big gunslinger.