Murphy’s Mailbag: What to do about Sven Baertschi?

Darren Langdon is one of just 28 Newfoundlanders to have played in the NHL, and now that his career is over he is still busy on and off the ice.

Darren Langdon wasn’t a member of the Canucks for very long, but he made a big impression with his teammates. The undrafted tough guy from Newfoundland rarely had anything but a smile on his face and was a lot of fun to be around. I did a story for Sportsnet about the busy Langdon household when he and wife Jillian’s triplets were one-year-old (the couple has four children).

When the shoot was done I can remember the pleading look in Langdon’s eyes when he asked me to stay for a beer or two. I obliged and we had a few while the kids crawled all over us. It was fun catching up with Langdon from his home in Deer Lake, Nfld.

In your first year pro, you racked up 429 penalty minutes in just 54 games for Dayton of the ECHL. How is that even possible?

Did you mention I had 50 points? I hate when people don’t mention that!

I’ll mention it! (Langdon actually scored 23 goals and recorded 45 points)

Claude Noel was the coach then. Good guy and really funny. He sat me out the first game because he obviously thought I wasn’t good enough. We had a tough guy and he got hurt so I got put in the next game and fought the toughest guy on their team and got a goal and an assist and the rest was history. Every team had their own tough guy and I was doing pretty well so they all wanted to give me a go. At the end of every game it was pretty much a guarantee that I had at least one fight.

What was it like, as an undrafted kid from Newfoundland, to get the news that you were going to the NHL (with the Rangers in 1994-95)?

I got told I was flying to Montreal to join the team. Mark Messier was the captain and when I arrived he told me “I don’t care if you have a beer, I don’t care what you do, but we’re having a meeting at Chez Paris. They had been slumping. And I’m like, “oh my God, am I in heaven or what?”

Darren Langdon’s rookie photo with the Rangers.

OK, you scored in your first NHL game. Who was it on?

Against Patrick Roy, but, it wasn’t really my goal. I went up to Paul Stewart and said that’s not my goal it didn’t touch me. And he told me, “it went off your bum, so it’s your goal kid.”

Sean Pronger wrote in his book ‘Journeyman’ that you, Manny Malhotra and him dressed as the fourth line for a game and did not get a single shift. Do you remember that?

Yes. I believe in Gretzky’s final year I played five or six games without touching the friggin’ ice. John Muckler was a coach that didn’t like to play his fourth line.

You were traded from Carolina to Vancouver and played just 45 games before you were plucked off waivers by Montreal. I know Bertuzzi and Naslund were not happy with your departure.

When I got there they threw me in a room with Bertuzzi because I don’t think anyone wanted to do it (be Bertuzzi’s roommate). Because you know how he is, he’s grouchy — but grouchy in a good way. We got along perfect. He was grouchy, but I told him to F-off a couple of times and it’s my remote because I’m older than you so beat it. I think the Canucks traded for me just to room with him. We had fun.

I know you liked to have the odd beer — was there ever a time you overdid it the night before a game?

It probably did happen. I do remember a practice in Minnesota where I went into the bathroom right before we were going to go on the ice because I thought I was going to puke. And I heard a coach come in. I was sitting on the toilet thinking, ‘God if you get me through this day I will never do this to myself again.’ Anyhow I got through practice and me, Bert, Nazzy and Clouts (Dan Cloutier) went right back to the same bar. I didn’t learn my lesson. On game nights I never really overdid or was bad. But if there was no curfew, then yes I got stupid.

Was Bob Probert the toughest dude you fought?

Yes, probably. And Tony Twist. I only fought him once. He was throwing bombs but he wasn’t hitting he. And my left was free and I said I could nail him right now and it’s going to look good. But thinking to myself as it’s going on, if I miss with the left he was going to KO me with the right and we have things to do after the game. So do I want to try and kill him or do I want to get knocked out, or do I want to say I fought Twist and everything went pretty good. Anyway, I thought about it and I didn’t throw the left. I’m not stupid.

Now, on to the mailbag!

This is a really tough spot for a really good guy. It’s clear Baertschi is not an AHL player. Dude is averaging more than 1.4 PPG with the Utica Comets, which was the second-best total in the entire league the last time I checked. And yet Baertschi cleared waivers Monday for a second time this season.

Here’s the thing. Baertschi’s salary is $3.37 million per and he’s signed for one more year after this one. Not a lot of teams have the cap space to pluck him off the waiver wire. Also, teams now know that Baertschi wants a trade and a fresh start, so why not try to work out a deal with the Canucks where Vancouver retains some salary? And to be honest, that’s probably a better situation for Jim Benning than buying out Baertschi this summer.

One thing is clear, it’s not a great situation for anyone right now. If I’m Benning, I wouldn’t be that keen on just moving away from this player. Benning recently called Baertschi “soft skill” and said the Canucks had evolved to more of a hard skill team. But if that hard skill isn’t producing then Baertschi absolutely should be an option. He’s got a pretty darn good history alongside Bo Horvat, and it’s no secret the captain hasn’t exactly been lighting it up at even strength. You just have to wonder if the horse is out of the barn at this point.

Perhaps we can get into this with more detail at a later date. I don’t think it’s a systems-based problem. I do believe the roster composition is a little funky. The forward group is still too bottom heavy with far too much money being allocated to bottom-six players (not to mention Loui Eriksson, who is in the press box more often than not). And defensively the team has been running around and chasing far more than the first month of the season. Losing Alex Edler to injury has definitely thrown the defence into a bit of a loop and if they can’t recover by the New Year somehow, then this season might end up looking a lot like the last two.

I know some Canucks fans took notice when the Kings did this with Ilya Kovalchuk earlier this week. Unfortunately I just don’t see it happening with Eriksson. First off, his contract is pretty much buyout proof with the way it was structured. Secondly, and more importantly, Eriksson isn’t just going to walk away from a whack of dough. He is due a $3 million signing bonus on July 1 of next year, so I suppose the subject could be broached after that is paid. But is Eriksson really going to leave $5 million on the table and just walk away next summer? I doubt it.

I know, right? And it was my hometown for goodness sakes. We all know that if there is any chance that Oake can interview Ryan Reeves for the 134th time, he’s going to take it. And yes, it’s entertaining. Also, I don’t get paid by the game so getting bumped by Oake didn’t hurt the pocketbook. What did I do? Watched the Seahawks game, the Niners game and the Canucks game all while enjoying adult beverages. Pretty solid day to be sure.

Well it’s not Paterson, I can tell you that. But in all seriousness Thomas Drance is usually pretty upbeat. I still think the winner is John Garrett. It’s been mentioned before, but I’ve only seen Cheech in a bad mood once my entire life.

As you can see in this video, Peach should not be put in charge of trying to execute anything.

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