Out of all the players on the Calgary Flames, only Mark Giordano has played in Calgary longer than Mikael Backlund. He falls into the same category of players like Matt Stajan and TJ Brodie that were part of the organization before the rebuild truly began. Apart from his game, Backlund brings tons of experience to the team through all of the different players he's played with over the course of his career. In fact, for a short period of time he even played on the top line with a winger you may remember from a few years ago named Jarome Iginla.
For a bit of throwback, take a look at this goal by Backlund. Keep in mind that it was back when Luongo was with the Canucks, Craig Conroy was freshly retired, and CBC had the scoreboard that stretched across your entire screen.
Last season Backlund got held back after finally succumbing to an off-season injury in late October, but he picked up right where he left off when he came back in January. He got 27 points in 52 games, which isn't bad considering his linemates for the most part were David Jones, Joe Colborne, and Lance Bouma.
Role with the team
Similar to last season we can expect to see Backlund back on the second line, only with newer and better wingers around him. He'll play more minutes on the powerplay and likely still be the go-to guy for the penalty kill and taking faceoffs; although, with new forwards coming in and others getting better, Backlund may not be as relied upon as he was. With Michael Frolik we should expect to see more out of Backlund, and him being one of the more experienced players on the team means that he could be a mentor to someone like Sam Bennett.
Overall, not much will change in terms of his role on the team from last year. In the unlikely scenario that Bennett outplays Backlund, Hartley could either move him to the third line or play him as a left wing. However that probably will not happen for at least another year or two.
I would hope we can see Backlund take on a more offensive role if anything, and it would be great if he could stay healthy for the duration of the year, since he's a valuable asset to the team.
With everything being said about Backlund's experience and his overall game, we still haven't seen Backlund playing to his full potential yet. Sam Bennett coming in to help him on the left wing will surely help him get more points, something that is literally the only thing holding him back right now. Not saying that his point production is a huge problem, but it wouldn't hurt to see him get on the score sheet.
Last season Backlund showed that he can generate loads of chances, but he just wasn't able to finish that often. Bennett being on the second line could also entice Hartley to give Backlund more offensive zone starts, as well as to help increase the team's offense. Lance Bouma is also a possibility in case of an injury, or if Sam Bennett doesn't play well on the second line.
Michael Frolik coming into the lineup is going to be a great right wing compliment to Backlund on the second line. They both play a similar two-way game and if they play on the same line together, it could be a match made in heaven in an extremely underrated shutdown line.
Frolik is also known for his skill, which is sure to give Backlund more offensive opportunities as well. He will help Backlund finish off the chances that are created, not to mentio feed the puck to Backlund as well. If you compare the wingers playing with Backlund this season with the ones he played with last season, you can tell it is going to make a huge impact, since last season his wingers were perennial third liners.
2014-2015 Statistics: GP 52 G 10 A 17 P 27 +/- +4 PPG 0 PPA 1
Predicted 2015-2016 Statistics: GP 82 G 19 A 31 P 50 PPG 5 PPA 13
In the past two seasons, Backlund has shown time and time again that he can be an effective player by generating chances, winning faceoffs and playing well defensively. Even though he's great at making things happen and getting shots on net, Backlund's point production unfortunately did not show that. This upcoming season, he will be getting better teammates both in his lineup and on the blue line, which will hopefully lead to some more offense out of him.
Backlund always has and still will be a playmaker, and that could be his greatest skill to help him produce, especially on the powerplay when he can set up guys like Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Wideman. If everything goes as planned with Sam Bennett with Backlund, the duo could become a great one-two punch on the second line, and provide some relief for the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler.
The 50 points that I predicted may be a bit too generous considering we haven't seen Backlund's line play together, but the way that Frolik and Bennett play and the way the powerplay looks means that Backlund could break out, just like he did back in the 2013-14 season.
That completes the second WTE this year, this time, about Mikael Backlund. Make sure to leave a comment and vote in the poll for who you want to see next.