Flames attempt to temper expectations for Baertschi
Optimism sky-high for club’s top prospect, but Feaster reminds that he’s not Superman
With all due respect to the Calgary-based love affair known as Svenmania, Jay Feaster would like to remind people of a couple of pertinent facts regarding Sven Baertschi.
First off, he’s a human being. He can’t leap tall buildings or capture criminals with spider webs. He’s not Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby.
And, perhaps most important of all, he’s not even 20 years old.
“For me, it’s about not creating overblown expectations for him,” the Calgary Flames general manager said on the opening weekend of Abbotsford Heat training camp. “He’s a young man.”
A young man trying to find his way in his first year as a professional hockey player.
Yes, he averaged two points a game last season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. And yes, he scored three goals in five games last year as an emergency recall for the Flames.
But speed bumps are a given for any rookie — whether that be in Abbotsford or, if the lockout is ever solved, in Calgary.
“He’s going to find out this is a really good league,” Feaster said of the AHL. “It’s a good league even before you have all these guys who have been assigned.”
He’s talking about guys like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma City, Jeff Skinner in Charlotte and Adam Henrique in Albany.
“I think this is going to be an opportunity for Sven to get his feet wet in the pro game,” Feaster said. “He’ll have a good structure and foundation because of this coaching staff.”
Troy Ward and his crew have carved out a reputation as superb teachers of the professional game — both on and off the ice.
Dallas Eakins made headlines last week in Toronto by calling out top prospect Nazem Kadri for his poor showing in camp fitness tests.
Eakins was responding to a direct question from the media when he complained about Kadri’s body-fat percentage and his weak showing in skating tests.
Across the country in Abbotsford, Ward tread carefully when asked about the conditioning of prospects Michael Ferland and Ryan Howse .
“They weren’t as good as everyone wanted,” Ward said. “But we’re OK with that. Hey, we’re teachers, and they need some teaching. They need some guidance, and they need some help.”
Both players have been publicly warned about the subject in the past. Both players skated in four practice sessions a day over the weekend when the other players only had to take part in two.
“It isn’t the fact they’re not good players or players that we believe in,” Ward said. “They just need a lot of little extra time. We’re very confident in the team environment on a daily basis that they’ll be fine.
“Part of this level of hockey is growing up as a person. And when they’re away from the rest of the group, sometimes that’s a little bit more difficult.”
For his part, Feaster declined to talk about specific players, but he did make a point of underlining the importance of the fitness evaluations
With 45 players in camp — and only 22 or 23 jobs up for grabs — the so-called little things count.
“Every time you’re doing stuff — whether it’s fitness testing or an on-ice test or whatever it is — you’re being evaluated,” he said. “I always use the example that I get dozens of letters a week from people who want to break into the industry and be in the front office. The one that comes in with my name spelled wrong and typos — it’s easy to check that one off your list.
“It’s the same thing here. Everything you do, you’re being evaluated. So the guys who didn’t take the summer training seriously, they put themselves behind the eight ball.”
While the results of the fitness testing are not made public, Akim Aliu clearly showed up in excellent shape after working out this summer in Toronto with the likes of Jason Spezza and Patrick O’Sullivan.
Also drawing praise from the coaching staff on the opening weekend: LW Carter Bancks and C Dustin Sylvester.
C Paul Byron (upper body) and C Greg Nemisz (lower body) did not take part in the first two days of camp.
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