Mikael Backlund: Centre
Regular Season Stats:
70 GP, 16 G, 29 A, 45 Pts, 26 PIM, +3
Mark: (B) Mikael Backlund’s final numbers look very respectable based on the shortened season, but they’re actually fairly remarkable considering how his season played out. Backlund finished with 45 total points, two off his pace from last season and the third best of his career. So why only a “B”? Well, the Flames centre struggled mightily for a good chunk of the season, with only 23 points coming into game #55 of the season. Now I’m no math major, but that means he needed 22 points to finish with his 45 for the season. That means in that short amount of time, Backlund caught fire and scored 22 points in only 15 games. His assist against Nashville on February 6th started a hot streak where he scored in 13 of his final 15 games, including back to back three point efforts against the Bruins and Predators. No one was more disappointed to see the season come to a crashing halt more than Backlund and that 15 game outburst clearly salvaged what was a down season for the veteran to that point.
Flash: (A-) Fancy stat wise Micki’s was our best centre. He sported a 51.11 CF% (@ 5v5) and was above 50% in Scoring Chance % and expected goals for %. He turned the damn jets on in the second half of the season and was definitely our 3rd quarter mvp. I originally had him at B+, but I bumped his grade after I remembered his surge kept the Flames from falling back into the same old 9th place finishes the late 2000 Flames were so accustomed to. His contract is very good right now, could hinder us later on, but with a cap freeze and compliance buyouts possibly coming, cap space shouldn’t be an issue.
Renu: (B+) Backlund deserves all the hardware. Liked on and off the ice, I’ve told him how underrated he is. He’s top 2 for shorthanded goals this season at 3. He knows when to step up as alternate captain, and provides to be a clutch player when he’s on fire.
He went on a point streak in the last bit of February. His last couple of games vs. Bruins stand out, where he had two-goal games with the goals being under minutes apart. He has the most unassisted goals out of the team, and he’s important on the face-off for the Flames.
Michael: (B) Backlund was so good down the stretch that it made the shutdown especially disappointing as he was rounding into form. Backlund has always been a steady shutdown centre on the team and his point totals this year were actually on pace to be the best of his career, especially if he kept up the late season hot streak. He was on a 52.7 point pace over 82 games, and like I said, he could’ve easily eclipsed that with a few more strong games. Backlund will be a very interesting player to watch as hockey returns as games will likely be offensive slug-fests as teams try to re-calibrate their defensive structures. He and his linemates will be tasked with shutting down some of the Jets elite firepower. If they can do that, I really like Calgary’s chances.
Reader Grade: B
by Mark Parkinson