Every so often someone writes an article or post that is so completely terrible, awful, and thoroughly bad that it deserves complete and utter derision. Andrew Walker, the Fan 960s morning sports update anchor, has written such a thing.
"Mikael Backlund - So long? Or long term?" takes the ol' college try at evaluating Mikael Backlund and comes up with the conclusion that he's nearly a bust. Yup, the best defensive forward (EDIT: originally said player by accident, clearly didn't mean to) on the Calgary Flames is clearly a bust. But let's break this down in old fashioned FJM style after the jump.
In the Darryl Sutter era - young players and prospects were generally dealt with in the exact same, unfortunate manner. You were valued, if not overvalued - to a point.
Step 1) A player was drafted, and then instantly overvalued by the organization.
Step 2) Said player, regardless of projection, was not given a decent chance at the NHL level because of the "win-now" veteran mentalty.
Step 3) Said prospect turns into a bust - but because of the initial pride, arrogance, and over-valuation, that same player was re-signed or extended, and left to rot on the farm. What a disaster.
Everyone from Boyd to Chucko to Pelech to Prust were either shipped out, not developed properly, or just didn't have it in the first place.
The Darryl Sutter style of prospect development is well documented at this point. Still, for making a semi-valid point, Walker picks some terrible examples. Boyd? Third rounder. Pelech? Late first who was slowed by injuries. Kris Chucko? Terrible pick to begin with, but you can't criticize the Flames for wanting to hold on to him after the mistakes made with St. Louis and Savard just a few years before. Also his career ended not due to "rotting on the farm" but due to a nasty concussion that ruined his ability to play.
The good news Flames fans - is this: Times are changing.
Not really sure why this long ass lede is here- either talk about Backlund or don't- but it's worth noting that Walker apparently has no idea what dashes are for in writing. I'll of course excuse the use of a hyphen over the proper em dash, since that's a huge pain in the ass online, and instead point out that it's completely unnecessary. You use a dash to form separate thoughts or independent clauses, much like I did above. Instead Walker uses it to...I have no idea. The "is this" is part of the same damn statement and thought.
Okay, back to hockey.
It's a long road ahead, but the team is drafting better, giving youngsters more of a chance to play with the big club - and that's something that resonates, especially with undrafted free agents.
A challenge for this team, and with a number of teams in the NHL - is managing the 50-contract limit. When Darryl Sutter handed out useless extensions to already-failed projects in the past, it meant the ability to infuse new blood, or scour non-traditional venues for talent was almost nil.
Walker still hasn't really made an ass of himself yet, but you know it's coming. He's building this three paragraph lede to have a Prestige-like reveal.
Point is: if you're going to be proactive from a prospect and player development angle, you have to be quicker off the draw to evaluate and make decisions on players. For example - under the old regime, John Negrin would have been extended, because he was a third-round draft pick, and god-forbid Darryl Sutter would ever admit a mistake.
In this case, under the new regime, Negrin was deemed to not be a prt of the future, and was sent on his way. A new player, a new challenge, and a new project comes in.
Blah blah Negrin blah blah still no actual points about Backlund. To quote Roxette, "Don't bore us, get to the chorus". Or something. Seriously, we're three hundred and ten words in and nothing about Mickis.
When the evaluation period is expediated - it brings to the forefront the name MIKAEL BACKLUND
Holy wow the meat of the article finally showed up! But first let's talk about MIKAEL BACKLUND. The way Walker wrote that statement tells us everything about how he views himself. "I've built up this big mystery about how EVERYTHING ties into Backlund and now my dozens of readers are on the edges of their seats. How can I create a reveal that just WOWS them? Wait- that's just it! ALL CAPS AND ITALICS! WOWZERS!"
And I haven't even touched his usage of "expediated" (which is barely a word).
Any flames fan would admit – there hasn’t been a long list of prospects-turned NHL’ers to get excited about in a long, long time. And maybe that’s why there were such high expectations and pressure on Backlund – who like it or not, was heralded as a future STAR on this team. You always want to show a certain element of patience with youngsters, especially first-rounders, but not to a fault.
Oh hey look it's an actual lede. Christ. I've buried the lede a time or two in my writing days, but this is casting the lede in the movie The Core and using a real life drill machine or something to film it.
Ignoring the repeated abuse of MLA Style, it looks like Walker is about to go on a completely sane tangent about how expecting Backlund to be "Future Savior of the Flames" was always a bit too much and we should be happy he's developing where he is.
The truth is – Mikael Backlund’s career rope is officially getting shorter. He’s not at the end of it yet, but at this rate, if he hasn’t progressed 365 days from now? It’s over.
God dammit. So close to being on a completely legitimate point and he swung the entire other direction. The very direction he nearly criticized. Oh, and he gives Backlund one year. Hear that Mickis? Walker's watching you and your development, and that career rope might yet turn out to be a noose!
Backlund, despite loads of ice time and opportunity, has 4 goals, 11 points and is a -14. Backlund is at a point in his career and skill-set where he NEEDS to contribute for his team to be succesful. At the present time, the Flames are riding the quartet of Iginla – Cammalleri – Tanguay- Jokinen. There is no reason, ABSOLUTELY NONE, that Backlund shouldn’t be this team’s fifth best forward. Right now, the tag is bestowed upon Blair Jones. Backlund can’t let that happen, but he has.
Oh yeah, look at Backlund's opportunities! Starts in the offensive zone a whole 37% of the time! What opportunities! So yeah, let's go ahead and ignore the fact that Backlund has more responsibilities than almost any other forward on the team. Seems like an effective way of evaluating his play.
There have been arguments from the "advanced stats" crowd, pursuing the notion that Backlund has been "better than his numbers indicate". He’s simply "unlucky". That’s all well and good, but I’m prone to side with Flames management, namely Craig Conroy, who said in studio with us Tuesday that Backlund quite simply needs to produce – because right now, he looks like a career third liner.
I'm going to ignore the condescending tone in "'advanced stats' crowd" and repeated "quotes" and out of hand dismissal of every perfectly legitimate point Kent Wilson et al. have made and focus on the next statement. And by "ignore" I mean condescendingly mock his condescension.
Admittedly, this comes off as very harsh on Mikael Backlund, but up until now, he’s had a lot of rope in my eyes. Under the new "order" a line has to be drawn in the sand. The free ride has to end sometime. Decisions on players need to be made quicker, and as Conroy puts it "with more conviction".
Is it just me or is Walker taking the "rope" thing a bit too far? The fact is, Walker has presented zero actual facts other than Backlund hasn't scored as many points as Walker would like. He's moving the puck in the right direction better than any other Calgary Flame and has clearly established himself as an NHL quality player. He might not be a superstar like Walker apparently thinks all first round picks should be, but he's still quality.
If Backlund's development and learning continues on the current path, he could easily end up as a Malhotra or Nielsen. That talent allows players with finishing ability to be sheltered and look good.
I'm going to skip a particularly inane bit where Walker points out that Backlund is not Kane, Gagner, JVR, or a number of other notable players and completely ignores draft position because Walker is a moron and focus on this last bit.
- Every player is different, and just because guys like Couture and Sutter are impact players, doesn’t mean Backlund is – but my point is…enough time has passed. Most of all the full-time NHL guys are in roles of respnsibility, while the ones who aren’t good enough, have already been shuttled off.
Backlund, like it or not – is closer to the Hickey’s of the world than he is to the Perron’s, and continues to be entrenched in a middling situation. People beleive in his "potential" but he doesn’t produce. This is a dangerous spot to be in for any team – and the quicker a decision is made on backlund, the better off everyone will be.
It’s not over for him yet, but the clock is ticking.
The mere fact that Walker says Backlund isn't an impact player and doesn't have a role of responsibility shows how unaware Walker is of what Backlund is doing for the Flames. Yes, Backlund might not be scoring, but he's doing so much on the other end of the ice that the minimal amount of points is a complete non-issue.
If the Flames are to follow Walker's advice and consider a clock to be ticking on Backlund, they will show worse personnel management than such enlightened clubs as the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.