The 2013 Flames were certainly disappointing for various reasons and at times, mind-numbingly boring, tear-your-hair-out frustrating, and occasionally both at the same time. But there were some bright spots, and we'll start with those, because it's less depressing.
So without further ado, I present the best of the 2013 Calgary Flames, Part I:
Watching Brodie's progression throughout the season was by far my favourite part of the train wreck that was the 2013 Flames. His smooth skating, ease and patience with and without the puck made him a treat to watch, and his moves in the offensive zone weren't bad either despite the fact that he only had two goals and 14 points in 47 games.
Considering the skill he demonstrated on both of his goals this season and the fact that he only shot 4.5% through 48 games, Brodie definitely should have had a few more goals than he did. As his responsibility grew later in the season, especially following the Bouwmeester trade, Brodie started less than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone and finished there just over 50% of the time. He was nowhere near the top of the heap in terms of Quality of Competition, but his Corsi On was still the best of all Flames defenders at +0.97 at even strength, which is saying something considering Derek Smith, who faced the easiest competition of all Flames defenders, was well in the red by that measure and played less than half as many games.
Brodie should be in line for a slight bump-up in offensive production next year over the course of a full 82-game season, I think.
Oh, and the 22-year-old rearguard has played around 12:00 per game in two World Championship contests so far, in which Canada is 1-1-0.
Backlund was on from game one this season, but especially after he returned from that bone bruise after blocking a shot against the Predators, he was like a man possessed. In the 20 games since then, there was only one in which he did not have a single shot on goal. Four times he had five or more as his ice time crept closer to 20 minutes per game following the Iginla trade. One of the only natural centres in the Flames lineup down the stretch, he wasn't bad in the faceoff circle either, winning at least 50% of his draws in 10 of those 20 contests.
Backlund's pace of 0.5 PPG or 16 points in 32 games means that if he had played the full 48 he would have finished with 24 points, which would have been his best totals since 2010-11 when he had 25 for the Flames in 73 games.
His increased confidence and strength were evident especially in the latter half of the season, when he took matters into his own hands in the offensive zone with far more frequency and was able to skillfully evade opponents while using his strength to protect the puck and create space, if I may use a hockey cliche.
The fact that Backlund continued to face the toughest competition and had the best possession numbers of all Flames forwards who played 30 or more games this season makes his offensive progression even more encouraging. He also scored 75% of his points at even strength, which bodes well for the 24-year-old heading into next season, assuming he remains a Flame; the Flames have tons of cap space heading into the summer, but he could be vulnerable to an offer-sheet from a team that demonstrates an awareness of what he brings to the table.
Backlund was not cleared to play for Sweden at the World Championships because of a small hairline fracture in his foot that had not fully healed after his adventure at the top of the grit chart blocking shots.