CALGARY, AB – Calgary Flames forward Sven Baertschi can be a handful to contain on the ice.
Turns out he’s just as slippery off the ice as well.
Friday Baertschi looked blue when insinuating he hoped not to be scratched for Saturday’s tilt against the Edmonton Oilers with family members arriving from Zurich, that he hoped to change the mind of Flames coach Bob Hartley and get into the lineup.
A day later, the 20-year-old was all smiles.
“Did I? Are you sure? You heard that?” questioned Baertschi, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Yesterday I said, which was a fact, that we were four guys on the fourth line,” he said. “It could’ve been anybody. I didn’t think I was in or I was out. I was just in between. If yesterday if I was thinking ‘yeah, I’m in 100 per cent’, today coach tells me ‘you’re not in’ you’d be a little upset. I was just thinking it could be both.”
Turns out Baertschi slept easy Friday night.
“There was never any decision on Sven,” coach Bob Hartley said. “Many people cut way too many trees in this area for nothing.”
The speculation proved to be all for naught and Baertschi, Calgary’s standout youngster, will go head-to-head against the league’s best young forward core that features the likes of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.
That measuring stick was already brought out once this season. Baertschi – with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat – went up against the trio then playing for the Oklahoma City Barons.
“It’s a good opportunity to see where you’re at and kind of compare yourself with the other guys,” said the five-foot-10 forward, who will also match up against first overall pick Nail Yakupov. “It’s a good chance for me tonight to see where I’m at. It’s the same for them. You always try to compare to each other and see where he is at.”
Many people cut way too many trees in this area for nothing - Bob Hartley
Like younger players before him, Baertschi will need to evaluate well against the Oilers to stay in Hartley’s lineup.
“We’re going to groom him the way that we took care of all the other young players that played under us and if he plays good, he plays,” Hartley said. “He doesn’t play good, well, his ice time is going to be cut like everybody else, so there’s one rule for everyone.”
It was a situation that Baertschi didn’t have to concern himself with a year ago.
Capturing the imagination of the Flames – both organization and fans alike – with an impressive five game stint as an emergency call-up from the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks last year, Baertschi scored three goals and raised expectations this season.
Pointless through three outings in his rookie campaign this year, Hartley understands the ups and downs of his player.
“Last year he came in for three games and he was like an amusement park,” Hartley said. “He knew there was zero pressure. He was not fighting for a job. He could not stay in Calgary.
“This year it’s a different story. This year is a full-time learning experience. It’s not a one-shot deal so there’s going to be ups and downs like there was with Guy Lafleur, with Joe Sakic, with many, many great young players.”
“We’re going to groom him the right way. We’re going to groom him the way that we took care of all the other young players that played under us.”
Baertschi, who has been dropped to the fourth line after starting the season with Mikael Backlund and Michael Cammalleri, is more than aware of how quickly things can change.
“Everybody has to fight for spots,” he said. “Something could happen (Saturday) and it changes right away so I think after first period it might change but maybe not. Maybe the game goes well and nothing changes and you just keep playing. That’s something that’s not really in your control so don’t waste too much time on that. All I can do tonight is go out there, take what I get and I’m just going to try my best out there.”
And if he’s successful in doing just that, potential scratches need not bother the slick Swiss kid.