COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: David Backes
COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: David Backes
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2017-18 Bruins. Today: David Backes.
While it wasn’t quite the overwhelming first impression that 33-year-old David Backes was hoping for in his first season with the Bruins, the veteran forward brought much of what was advertised in his first season in Boston. Backes finished with 17 goals and 38 points in 74 games, and certainly provided a big-bodied physicality and willingness to pay the price in the danger areas. Backes stood up for his teammates, set the tone physically at times and provided some leadership within a group that already has a very established hierarchy. Clearly the Bruins will be looking for more offense and more consistency from Backes in his second year, and that’s exactly what the proud veteran is hoping to bring as he’s all settled into his new NHL home.
What Happened Last Year
Looking back in hindsight, it was a challenging transition for the veteran Backes to a new home in Boston after spending his entire career with the St. Louis Blues. The 33-year-old also battled minor elbow and concussion issues during the season, but still gutted his way to 74 games while coming close to the 20 goals and 40 points that the B’s probably look at as a bare minimum of production from a big money player. Backes didn’t always have his legs in back-to-back situations and when the Bruins were playing their third game in four days, and the physicality wasn’t as constant a presence as the B’s probably hoped for coming from the intense player. Backes finished with some strong games in the playoffs when paired with Sean Kuraly and did all of the above while playing off-position at the wing all season. So it all amounted to be a bit of an odd year for Backes and the B’s, but with enough included to feel like he’s going to be a good fit in Boston this season and beyond.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
The biggest question with Backes is whether last season is as good as he can be in his mid-thirties, or if a more comfortable, healthy Backes can step things up in his second season with the Black and Gold. Certainly he should be consistently better through the season with full knowledge of his teammates and without the World Cup experience pushing the fatigue factor, but there were also signs of age creeping into his game last season. If Backes goes out and posts 20 plus goals and 45-ish points along with the hitting and the leadership qualities, the Bruins will gladly take that in the second year of a five year contract that could be looking a little tough in the last couple of seasons. Still, a season like that would give the Bruins some good feeling that they’re at least getting the best of Backes in the front end of the contract before a steep decline perhaps awaits later on down the line.
In Their Words
“That’s an awesome feeling to know all of that [off-ice stuff] is checked off the list, and I can just go out and play the game. I can really be more concentrated on what’s going on here, and being a bigger factor in us winning more games. That’s what it’s all about. My whole summer was totally different. I’d be training more like a football player with heavy weights in previous summers, but this year it was a lot more functional, speed-training with a lot more work done on the ice than previously. It’s partly because I’m getting older, and partly because the game itself is evolving into a faster, quicker, less chipping it in and grinding it out kind of game. While I still love that part of the game and hopefully it can still be incorporated, you also need to be able to get up and down the ice, win races to the puck and be able to make plays.” –David Backes, on the adjustments he’s made going into his second season with the Bruins.
Backes still strikes most observers as an odd free agent choice for a hockey club that was really loading up on the draft and development side with a talented crop of young players. Then again the Bruins really took a hit in the last few years when it comes to size, toughness and frontline production on the wing, and Backes represents all of those things while also bringing the kind of leadership and personality that Boston covets within the dressing room. Last season was just okay for Backes in his first go-around with the Bruins, and really opened the door for those with big concerns about how the 33-year-old is going to age over the course of a five year deal. Backes has a chance to shut down those concerns and stifle the critics if he can rebound with a strong, productive and healthy second season with the Bruins. It may not be exactly the way Backes envisioned things starting with the Bruins, but he’ll have the chance this season to build on a pretty strong ending to last year in the playoffs. He’s exactly the kind of player that Bruins fans can get behind, and there’s a strong chance he’ll really win them over with a solid second effort in Boston that’s equal parts brawn and good, old-fashioned grinding offense.