David Backes plays a simplish style of hockey. David Backes as a whole to evaluate is complicated.
A lot of people like David Backes. David Backes is a popular player for a litany of good reasons: being a prominent Team USA player for the last few olympics and international tournaments, has been lauded for his vocal style of leadership, power forward style of play, and generally pretty good play on well supported lines that’s earned him Selke nominations. He’s a player designed to play in Boston, if you will. The perfect guy to sell “Boston Hockey” on.
Keep in mind, all those accolades he got while he was in St. Louis.
But he’s not in St. Louis anymore. He’s in Boston. In his 30’s.
And are the circumstances that got him there and the realities he now faces:
- Backes came to Boston on an exorbitant deal that put him on the team until he is on the wrong side of 35 playing a style of hockey that ages the person performing it considerably faster than most due to the demands put on his body.
- Backes, was ostensibly signed to replace Loui Eriksson, who currently has one less point than he does on an impressively bad Canucks team.
- Almost all of his comparables in terms of money paid out per year in division alone have more points than he does with similar top six minutes. Some with half the games played.
- The supposed vocal leadership he has been hired for appears to have gone conspicuously absent over the past couple of weeks, because it hasn’t seemed like Boston has been very fired up lately.
And yet on the other hand, two very important things are counteracting these criticisms:
- Backes is tied with David Krejci for 5th among forwards in goals and tied with Patrice Bergeron for 5th among forwards in points.
- Backes’ Possession metrics have been pretty decent so far.
- All that fiery leadership seems to have came back at once during last night’s Pittsburgh game.
It’s a midseason report card, and so from what we can see, he’s been playing to his contract...more or less, and he’s been productive enough as a winger that one can maybe put the somewhat un-stellar performances he’s had while playing on having to play wing full-time for the first time in a good long while.
On the other hand, a number of more distressing traits, such as being an absolutely awful player in front of the opponent’s net 90% of the time, having “controller disconnected” moments whenever the puck hits his skates, and sometimes being part of a puck-watching circle have surfaced. One can only hope THAT is also been a symptom of being on the wing for the first time in a good while.
Time will tell in the long term, but so far he seems to be doing alright.
Backes has a lot of expectations on him. He’s making 6 million until he’s 36. That’s money that has to be justified in a big way that he might not be able to in the long run, combined with worrysome trends in his play that makes the weight of that figure all the more difficult to bear. On the other hand, it’s halfway through year one, he’s produced to the level of a 2nd line player in the NHL on a downswung shooting-%, and anything can happen in the NHL. So long as he keeps pace and shows a little more of what he’s capable of like he did in the last game against Pittsburgh? He’ll keep this grade.
Games Played: 42
Season CF% as of 1/26/17: 54.52%