Weegar Says Backlund, Sutter Battled Behind Scenes With Flames
The Mikael Backlund for Calgary Flames captain article was more polarizing than expected.
Contract situation aside, some readers questioned whether the 34-year-old Swedish centre had it in him to be the conduit to coaches, or command the respect of a locker-room.
A fair question when you consider former head coach Darryl Sutter chose not to name a captain at all the past two seasons, although he often referred to Backlund and defenceman Chris Tanev as co-captains, or when talking generally about the locker-room’s leadership group.
I can tell you with certainty that Backlund has earned the respect of his teammates for his on and off-ice habits, and the way he carries himself behind closed doors. He’s been an alternate captain since 2018 for a reason, under four different coaches.
And an interview defenceman MacKenzie Weegar gave the Missin Curfew podcast this week offered some insight into Backlund’s outspoken nature behind the scenes, too.
The Calgary Flames newcomer took notice of some of the explosive exchanges between Backlund and Sutter during Backlund’s career season, noting that Sutter drafted Backlund and has been his general manager and coach for a number of years.
“Backlund, he would get it pretty good, but … he would fight back for sure. He would have a couple of ‘f@#k you’ matches,” Weegar said, adding that the players would talk and laugh about the blowups after the game. “They have a different relationship that nobody can speak about. Sometimes that gave us a spark.
“I think everybody has gotten into a little altercation with Darryl, once in their lifetime.”
Backlund’s Flames future uncertain
Backlund was non-committal about re-signing with the only NHL franchise he’s ever played for, and has indicated in previous off-seasons he wanted to win a Stanley Cup above all else and would rather be traded than part of a rebuild.
Sutter’s departure, a contract extension and maybe the captaincy could lead to a return, but his value on the open market may also play a big role in whether he retires with the Calgary Flames or moves on to chase his Cup dream elsewhere in the NHL.
The latter would be a huge loss to the Calgary Flames, who benefit from Backlund’s stabilizing presence down the middle. It would be an even bigger loss to the Calgary community, which has benefitted from more than a decade of the player’s tireless effort to make a positive impact in this city. Tuesday’s announcement that Backlund is the Flames’ nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy is a good reminder of the person Calgary could lose.
The King Clancy is given to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” All of that perfectly defines Backlund.
He’s a staunch supporter of so many causes around Calgary, seeking to make a difference for individuals and families dealing with ALS, members of the Special Olympics and childhood cancer communities, and Parachutes for Pets — a local charity that keeps children in transition in possession of the pets they love and depend on.
Backlund is the real deal on and off the ice. It’s not really up for debate. It doesn’t guarantee things will work out. Hockey’s a business and players are more aware of that than ever. But if there’s one player the franchise should want to be a Flame for life, it’s Backlund.