Sven Baertschi knows that having the coach’s attention is a positive thing.
And whether it’s a pat on the back or an on-ice ripping during practice after a drill, it doesn’t matter to the 20-year-old Calgary Flames rookie.
“It’s the best thing you can have when you have a coach that always helps you and tells you,” Baertschi was saying, following another day at the office on Friday. “It’s not bad or anything. He sees things and tries to help you. If you do (drills) and he doesn’t come over and say anything, maybe you get away with things. You get in that mindset, ‘Oh, maybe I did it right.’
“I’d rather have him come over and yell at me and tell me what was wrong than him not say anything.”
With the Colorado Avalanche, Flames first-year boss Bob Hartley was part responsible for helping to mould the National Hockey League careers of a young Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, and current Calgary Flames forward Alex Tanguay.
As such, he understands the adjustment period and the struggles that young players face early on.
Too much pressure, too soon can be overwhelming. Not enough positive reinforcement can damage, leaving a player to second-guess themselves and their abilities.
So, when Hartley broke the news that Baertschi had cracked Calgary’s 2013 opening day roster, he also encouraged him to relax — and be himself.
“This morning, I told him, ‘Go out and make mistakes. Show passion. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes,’” Hartley said. “If you’re going to play a kid, he’s got lots to learn about the NHL. About the game, the pressure, the preparation — it’s a totally different game.
“You need to fast forward his progression . . . he has the talent, now it’s the understanding of the game.”
All week, Baertschi has skated on a line with Mike Cammalleri on right wing and Mikael Backlund at centre. Hartley has kept a close watch on him, frequently stopping and taking the time to explain drills to the Swiss sensation who was Calgary’s 13th overall pick in 2011.
Perfection isn’t expected, of course. However, it’s a part of the teaching process to properly develop Baertschi’s game.
He knows it — and prefers it that way.
“Because I’m young, he maybe looks at me with both of his eyes,” said Baertschi, who scored three times on an emergency five-game loan to the Flames last season. “He sees what I’m doing out there and wants to have it perfect out there. I think that’s good. Some of the guys have played in the league for over 10 years.
“They understand the systems and stuff. For me, I’m new. I’ve gotta adjust to it.”
Expectations, too, have been laid out by the Flames’ coaching staff. Although he scored 33 goals and 61 assists in his final regular season in junior with the Portland Winterhawks — plus another 14 goals and 34 post-season points in 22 playoff games — no one is expecting those type of numbers in his first (condensed) NHL campaign.
“I just told Sven, ‘Be Sven.’ I’m not asking him to carry the team,” Hartley said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of young players in the NHL. Especially with the tough 48 game schedule. There’s going to be lots of games.
“I told Sven, ‘Give us what you can.’ And I think at his young age, he can give us a lot. I will not judge Sven’s game only by his offensive numbers.”
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