Mikael Backlund (Centre) - Midseason Grade: A
Our Individual Grades
There really wasn't much Mikael Backlund didn't do this season. He scored, he moved the puck, he led the PP and PK, he played a physical game when it was required and he dropped the gloves when it was needed. Backlund is without a doubt one of the Calgary Flames top 3 leaders and it could be argued he should be in the conversation if the Flames ever needed a new "C." Backlund took a while to get to his current level of play, but it was well worth the wait. The Flames have one of the league's best kept secrets in Mikael Backlund.
For the first time in quite some time, the didn’t partner Backlund with any dead weight. The end result (beyond getting players like Lance Bouma or Joe Colborne paid an excess of two million dollars) was his best season to date. Backlund always seemed like a poor man’s Patrice Bergeron, but this year he took a step beyond that and proved that he could one day be his peer - standing alone at the top of the N.H.L. as one of the best two-way forwards in the league.
What can’t Mikael Backlund do? He fit into every role he was given this season and did so expertly. He set career highs in both goals and points for the second straight season and in my mind was undoubtedly the team’s MVP all season long. If I’m the Flames, I’m signing Backlund to a new contract as soon as possible this offseason, but regardless of when it happens, he’s going to get paid handsomely. Backlund is proof that development doesn’t always happen quickly, and now that he’s here, his best years are yet to come.
Mikael Selke. Straight up. I have always been a huge Backlund fan, he was the first Flames draft pick I watched from draft day to World Juniors to the AHL to the NHL. This year, Backlund finally had a coach that fully appreciated what he could do and gave him free reign to be the elite 2-way player he is. Amazing 5-on-5 player, terrific penalty-killer, strong performer on the powerplay, all while taking on the toughest match ups. He was the key cog to one of the very best lines in the NHL this season. It is a shame he did not get a well deserved Selke nomination. Seriously, people actually think Ryan Kesler was better than him this year? Regardless, people have woken up to his brilliance as Flames fans no longer rip on him and he is receiving recognition throughout the hockey world. It is long overdue.
Our Final Grade: A+
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