News from Switzerland: Why Bärtschi scores and Niederreiter doesn't

At first, I wanted to go the easy way: a link in the comments section. The Google translation is, however, almost incomprehensible and the article provides enough fuel for discussion to warrant a FanPost. So, after some procrastination (ahem... one week), here it is.

By Jürg Federer, 3.16.2012, 20 Minuten Online (German)

Four NHL games, three goals, it's like Sven Baertschi has never been anywhere else than in the NHL. The games in which the 19-year-old from Aarwangen drew attention weren't meaningless either. It's crunch time. The Calgary Flames are in the midst of the playoff race, playing against teams that are battling for points as desperately as Bärtschi's team.

At this point, the intensity is as high as in the playoffs, the spaces are narrow, time is short. The value of Bärtschi's goals is therefore higher. In four games, Bärtschi has now scored more than Niederreiter in 55. Is Bärtschi the better player despite his lower draft position?

10 minutes on the ice, 20 minutes stationary bike

It's difficult to compare Bärtschi with Niederreiter. Niederreiter is 10 cm [3.9 inch] taller and 10 kg [22 lb.] heavier. From a physical standpoint, Bärtschi is an athlete from whom you can expect nothing more than offense.
With Niederreiter, however, one is tempted to think that he could also be a good addition to the defensive fourth line. A fatal mistake, which the Islanders are doing since the beginning of the season. "It's not easy", says Niederreiter, while struggling for words. The 19-year-old is known for his impeccable manners, he would never express criticism towards his employer. He only stated that he ate stale bread [had to bite the bullet?] when AHL players were preferred to him. "And it's difficult to play well with less than ten minutes ice time".

At last, Niederreiter was allowed to play with Josh Bailey on the third line. "With Bailey, the games went better than previously on the fourth line", says Niederreiter. "However, if we have games with a lot of penalties, I still have to sit on the bench." It's not easy repeats Niederreiter. After every game, he rides on the stationary bike for 20 minutes, squeezing out the last energy reserves he wasn't allowed to use. "The less I play, the more I train", he says. At a basic wage of $900.000, which the Islanders spend for 10 minutes ice time and 20 minutes bike riding, the Islanders could as well buy Niederreiter a private gym.

Anonymous blasphemy against the Islanders

The Islanders find fault with Nino Niederreiter's slow skating. However, that was already so when they drafted him 5th overall. To criticize him now for this is like buying a toaster and complaining afterwards that you can't boil water with it.

An NHL insider, not a rumor brewing journalist, a professional who deals everyday with NHL teams and the development of prospects says to 20 Minuten online: "Islanders head coach Jack Capuano is simply not informed enough to coach the Islanders, he knows too little about the qualities of his players to put together a successful team." And then he adds: "Capuano is barely adequate enough to coach an AHL team."
Within the small framework of the New York Islanders organization, this equals to blasphemy. The organization has already withdrawn press credentials in the past for the publication of such opinions. Even the last remaining Islanders beat writer exercises self-restraint. The NHL insider, who made his statements while attending the Islanders-Rangers game, therefore repeated unequivocally for three times that he doesn't want to see his name in any newspaper, not even in Switzerland. His wish is my command.

Just two days later, the New York Islanders provided evidence for these shocking statements in the home game against the Washington Capitals. Once again the Islanders were leading, even by three goals in the second third, and yet again they handed over the game. Frans Nielsen, Matt Moulson and John Tavares took on the shootout responsibility and it was 1-1 after three shooters per side. Washington's next designed shooter was Matt Hendricks. Do you know him? It's no big deal if you hear his name for the first time. Matt Hendricks is 30 years old, plays in the NHL only since four years and this for peanuts. Facing him is Mark Streit, team captain and millionaire - a clear case.
In his whole career Hendricks converted six of nine shootout attempts, Streit none of six. You don't have to be an expert to know that Streit is not suited for shootouts; actually, you only need a computer, an internet connection and five minutes time. Hendricks scored, Streit didn't - exactly, a clear case. With the selection of the game determining penalty shooter, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has once again given away a point to the opponent. The NHL insider's statements are thus confirmed.

Niederreiter lives in the moment, not in the future

Capuano could have picked Nino Niederreiter, who has already proved countless times in his young career, that he plays at his best when it really counts - in a shootout for example. In Niederreiter, the Islanders have a forward with smooth hands and nerves like steel, but they put him only sporadically on the third offensive line. If you own a ten million dollar house, fly with a private jet and have six Ferraris in the garage, you understandably use the convertible only on summer days. The Islanders have neither a house, a private jet or a fleet. They have only the convertible, and yet, they go to work on foot.

Nino Niederreiter says that he has no idea what he has to do to get more ice time. "The coach never talks with me, but I stay on the ice after practice until the Zamboni comes out and I try to keep my error rate as low as possible." His agent Andy Rufener and Mark Streit are the only reference persons from whom he receives feedback, confirms Niederreiter. "Streit always tells me I have to look at the bigger picture, I must consider that I'm only 19 years old and that I have my whole career still in front of me." "But I'm simply a person who lives in the moment and not in the future", says Niederreiter, repeating once again: "It's not easy."

The World Championships are not yet on his mind

Niederreiter is neither better nor worse than his compatriot Sven Bärtschi - he is different. Both players are at different stages in their careers. Bärtschi is riding on the wave of success, while Niederreiter is weighed down by failure. The different performances have a mental origin. Bärtschi is also in a better coached and managed team than Niederreiter. Niederreiter grants Bärtschi his success, he is always among the first to learn about each of Bärtschi's goals."The first NHL goal" he says, "is the most special. That's a moment you will never forget. I still remember how I scored my first goal more than a year ago, it is as if it were yesterday." He says that despite minimal playoff chances he hasn't yet thought about the World Championships.

Niederreiter lives in the moment and not in the future. And the present is a failed season. Nino Niederreiter would never say it in this manner, but at request of 20 Minuten he didn't deny the assertion.

You can quote me on this: "I am now where I always wanted to be - in the NHL."

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