With the Boston Bruins trading David Backes to the Anaheim Ducks, it marked the end of his tumultuous tenure in Boston. The 35-year-old returns to the Western Conference, where he spent 14 years as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
What Went Wrong for David Backes?
After signing a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins in 2016, Backes had high expectations upon his arrival. His contract proved to be too costly for the Bruins as time went on and they needed to get most of it off the books. Between injuries, his performance and the skill of the Bruins team, there were too many obstacles to overcome for Backes in Boston.
Injuries and Age
At age 32, Backes played 74 games in his first season in Boston. Totalling 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points. However, he did suffer a concussion in December 2016 causing him to miss time. His numbers were down compared to his days in St. Louis but proved to be a solid contributor in his debut season for the Bruins.
During the 2017-18 season, Backes suffered diverticulitis and needed surgery to remove part of his colon. He suffered a leg injury in the second half of the season after being cut by a skate that caused him to miss games. During the playoffs, Backes suffered a head injury that ended his injury-filled season. He only appeared in 57 games.
In his third season with the Bruins, Backes suffered another concussion and took a skate blade to the face that caused him to miss 12 games.
In what would be his final season as a Bruin, Backes again missed time due to a concussion he suffered in December. He was already struggling to stay in Boston’s lineup after being a healthy scratch at times.
At 35-years-old and suffering yet another concussion, Backes faced an uphill battle in trying to keep himself in the Bruins lineup when healthy. Backes appeared in just 16 of 61 possible games for the Bruins this season.
His best season in Boston came during the 2016-17 season when he scored 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points in 70 games. Each following season saw a decrease in production for the aging Backes. He had one goal and three assists in 16 games this season before being waived then traded.
In 217 games with the Bruins, Backes scored 39 goals and 55 assists for 94 points. His 94 points were the worst four-year stretch of his career and the worst since his first four seasons where he had 142 points.
Not a Good Fit
Backes’ campaigns were sidelined by his injuries and his increasing age. His game was getting slower on a team that was getting faster. He struggled to stay in the lineup — one that was already loaded with talent at his position. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were better options at centre for the top lines, leaving Backes a spot as a third or fourth-line center.
The Bruins needed to find suitable replacements when Backes was out. The emergence of Sean Kuraly solidified the fourth-line centre position. Last season, general manager Don Sweeney made a trade for Charlie Coyle to fill the third-line centre role.
With all the centre positions filled, Backes was the odd man out. When healthy, he would only find himself in the lineup if someone went down with an injury. He had a career-low 8:33 minutes average time on ice this season. As valuable replacements took his spot, Backes was phased out of the lineup and out of Boston’s plans.
Looking Back at David Backes Time in Boston
While the Backes experiment didn’t go as planned, his time in Boston should be remembered fondly. On the ice, everything that could go wrong went wrong for Backes. Despite the constant struggles, he worked to adapt his game to whatever role he was given. Whether it be a second-line winger, a third-line centre or adapting to the role of enforcer at 35-years-old, Backes did it without a single complaint.
Off the ice, Backes contributed to the team and community. He was a veteran leader in the Bruins locker room and beloved by teammates. Bergeron praised his former teammate after he was waived earlier this month.
Backes had his hands in the Boston community and did constant charity work, including in his “Athletes for Animals Foundation” that he began as a member of the Blues. He visited local hospitals and put in his time to become a member of the Boston community.
In a hockey sense, the Backes experiment was a failure. But sometimes it’s about more than just hockey. Backes was dealt a bad hand yet he never complained. He showed up and did his job under any circumstance. David Backes is a consummate professional and a valued member of the hockey community.