Flames notes: Baertschi struggling to find his stride so far in camp
Calgary’s talented 2011 first rounder didn’t stand out among the rookies like he should have
Many players excelled, impressed, and made their names known.
But last week at the Young Stars Classic prospects tournament in Penticton, Sven Baertschi flew under the radar.
Which isn’t like the 20-year-old Calgary Flames rookie. With 25 games of National Hockey League experience, including 20 last season which saw him finish the year on a seven-game point streak, he was the most seasoned of the bunch and should have been dominating (you’d think) at the prospects’ level.
Not the case. Underwhelming, at times, he started slow against the fresh-faced Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks but started picking things up Sunday against the San Jose Sharks then again on Monday, scoring in an exhibition game against the University of Calgary Dinos.
For as bright of a star he is, Baertschi is still learning to hone his competitiveness, compete for the puck, and earn his ice time.
“There’s no question, when Sven has the puck or he’s in support of the puck and has someone that can support it with him, Sven’s a really good player,” said Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward who was directing the Flames’ rookies through those four games. “One of the things he has to continue to learn as a young man is continue to play hard and go get it back. That’s his development right now.
“That’s something that (Flames head coach) Bob (Hartley) and his staff will work on with Sven. That’s where he’s at. He’s a dynamic player, a good player, we just have to work on aspects of his game . . . we have to be patient with that.”
Baertschi, not thrilled with his performance either, said he struggled with adjusting from the NHL level back to a pace similar to junior.
“It’s a different game,” said the former Portland Winterhawks left winger, Calgary’s first-round pick from 2011. “I felt like I was too far ahead, almost. I was making decisions I usually make or made in those 20 games with the Flames. And it doesn’t work because sometimes guys don’t keep up or you see the play too early. It just doesn’t happen. The little touches you miss so there’s a lot of up and downs without even touching the puck.
“Overall, it could have been much better. But, it is what it is. And it’s over now and onto main camp.”
Which, if you’re counting, will be Baertschi’s third with the Flames.
As a dynamic forward in Penticton back in 2011, he wowed the organization through rookie camp, main camp, and then was cut in late September. He reappeared later in a five-game debut, saving the day and scoring three goals as an emergency recall in 2011-12.
Following the 2012-13 lockout, he was around when the puck dropped in January but suffered from a hip-flexor issue and was eventually sent to the Abbotsford Heat on March 9. A little over a month later, however, he was back with the big club and finished the season with three goals and 10 points in 20 games.
But as of Thursday, the start of main camp on-ice sessions, it’s a clean slate.
And Baertschi knows it’s time to really make an impression.
“The whole time, with the prospects again, we’re a great group so I enjoyed the whole process,” said the Swiss native, already sporting a war wound from Monday’s action against U of C, a thick cut on the bridge of his nose from an errant stick. “But now, you’ve gotta separate yourself from the rest of the group to make the team. I’m going to try and do that.
“I’m going to try and work as hard as I can to get back into NHL hockey mode.”
LEGEND OF KIPRUSOFF
For the past few days, Miikka Kiprusoff has been on the minds of many.
Mike Cammalleri was asked about the practical aspect of losing the newly retired Finnish netminder whom the Flames faced every day at practice.
“Miikka, we all know the obvious stuff about him as a goaltender,” he said. “But his ability to read the play . . . In today’s game, when you see so many of those blocking-type goaltenders who it’s almost a science for them — they take as much angle, they get as big as they can, and take away the bottom of the net — and if a shooter makes a good shot, they kind of shrug their shoulders and, ‘Hey, it was a good shot and went in.’
“He was the opposite,” Cammalleri said. “He was the old school, read the play, read the stick. To the point where he could, literally in practice, if he wanted to, sit in the net and stop pucks just with the shaft of his stick because he was so good at reading a player’s stick and anticipating where the puck was coming.
“As a shooter, a lot of times, it made you feel silly because you’d come in and bear down and try really hard and shoot one to one side of the net or the other and he’d already be sitting there waiting for it by the time it came off your stick.
“To me, I’ve never seen anyone read the puck like Miikka did.”
LOUBARDIAS JOINS FLAMES' RADIO BROADCAST
Peter Loubardias is set to join longtime Calgary Flames radio play-by-play announcer Peter Maher on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, replacing former colour commentary man Mike Rogers who retired this summer after sitting in the chair for the last 12 years.
Loubardias called play-by-play for Sportsnet’s Flames television broadcasts from 2008-11 and served as a commentator on broadcasts of Western Hockey League games.
Sportsnet 960 The Fan (the exclusive broadcast rights holder for the Calgary Flames) also announced the launch of an hour long Flames-centric television show on Hockey Central@calgaryherald.com
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Sven Baertschi of the Calgary Flames Rookies waits for an opening during exhibition play against the University of Calgary Dinos on Monday night. He’s had a lacklustre camp so far, but is looking to crank things up during main camp this week.
Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald