Baertschi settling in and learning the ropes with the big club
Calgary’s biggest hope for the future is ready to contribute now
Sven Baertschi was struck by something the other night.
Watching a telecast of the Edmonton Oilers’ home-opener, he noticed the power play — specifically, the age of its participants.
“I looked one time and there was no one over 25 — kind of cool to see,” Baertschi is saying in the Calgary Flames dressing room. “You know what? It’s exciting for a club when they have that many young guys. Because they didn’t do that well, they were able to get really high picks. You can tell they’re rebuilding the whole thing. They’re fun to watch.
“Their whole lineup is pretty special.”
Which makes for a striking contrast in the Battle of Alberta (which, by the way, is renewed Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome).
The Oilers’ high-profile plums are getting better together, growing up together. One big, happy family.
Baertschi, meanwhile, is an only child of sorts.
The lone freshman in the Flames’ lineup, his seasoning is being provided in a cauldron of old pros. In his eyes, though, that’s a good thing — plenty of experience to rub off, plenty of know-how to absorb.
“You’re around guys that have played in this league for a long time — guys that won Olympics, world championships,” says Baertschi, 20. “It’s awesome to have these guys around. They’ve been through what I am (going through) right now. It’s great to have them around to help you out with everything. It makes it a little easier.
“I really try to watch what the guys do, try to figure out what they actually want to do . . . so I’m trying to figure out my own way to do it. Hockey-wise out on the ice, there’s certain things that they do a lot different than me. So I’m trying to learn from everyone in the locker-room.”
In particular, from his next-stall neighbour Jarome Iginla.
“I look at him and his best things,” says Baertschi. “With his shot, his one-timer, all that stuff. I try to take these things out and watch what he does, bring it into my own game. And there’s (Michael Cammalleri) and his wrist shot — I can learn from these things. Everyone in here — you’ve got to watch and take out the best things.”
What, wondered one interrogator, could the team’s old-timers learn from him?
A gabby delight, Baertschi is nevertheless stumped. He stalls by taking a big slug of blue Gatorade.
“Maybe you’ve got to ask somebody,” he then chuckles.
He decides to canvass the dressing room for suggestions. Nearest happens to be Alex Tanguay.
“Tangs, what is something you can learn from me?”
Walking away, Tanguay chirps over his shoulder: “German.”
Baertschi gets a kick out of the quip.
Nevertheless, eager to please, the Swiss kid is determined to provide his own response. Finally, he comes up with something he brings to the table — skill. Not necessarily teaching the grown-ups how to play with finesse, more like setting an example with his devotion to the finer points.
“I’ve been working on it for 10 years, every single day,” Baertschi says, “to make my hands smoother. Go with the sandpaper and make them sharp, make them smooth.”
It’s worth noting that this explanation comes with a demonstration.
While chatting, Baertschi actually pretends to sand his mitts.
“I think because it’s my strongest skill,” he continues. “You want to make your strongest skill even better. So I’ve been working on that every day. There’s certain guys that sometimes maybe ask for something — or look at it — and try to do the same things.”
“But I don’t think there’s too much they can take from me.”
One thing that’s undeniable, Baertschi is enjoying his first elongated taste of the NHL.
It is the royal treatment. Even more glamorous than expected.
“You’ve got a red carpet in front of you,” Baertschi says. “The food, the plane, all that stuff. Like, there’s food at the rink all day. There’s somebody cooking food all day for us. That’s something I didn’t think of. You don’t have to worry about being hungry. It makes your life much easier.
“But you’ve got to be careful, because the food’s really good. It’s delicious.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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