When the Calgary Flames re-signed Mikael Backlund, they got more than a 34-year-old centre. They got confirmation from a player who could have easily chosen to go elsewhere that the Flames are on the right track.
Mikael Backlund‘s C is for Confidence
Backlund signed his last deal – the one that expires after this season – six years ago. In the 365 games he’s played since then he’s scored 77 goals and 219 points. He’s also provided exemplary all-around play, being the go-to for any situation, any time in the game.
All that while wearing a freshly given “A” making him a leader for the team. He’s taken that role seriously, meaning Calgary’s lack of success has hit him hard. Like everyone else, the surprise losses of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were a blow.
But they were nothing compared to the absolute circus that was 2022-23. A team that was supposedly on the rise, finishing with 50 wins and first in the Pacific the previous year, fell out of the playoffs entirely.
Last year’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner even suggested he’d not sign anything until he saw “where the team was heading”. The firing of Darryl Sutter and the hiring of Craig Conroy and Ryan Huska opened a dialogue. That culminated in yesterday’s signing.
Backlund has a new deal and a new letter, being named the captain of the team the same day the contract was signed.
HE’S BACKS AND WEARING THE C!
We’re proud to announce Mikael Backlund has been signed to a two-year contract extension and has been named the 21st captain in franchise history!
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 27, 2023
Backlund’s Back, All Right!
At 34 years old, it is difficult to say that Mikael Backlund’s best years are ahead of him. Despite his excellent 2022-23, the year before was not a productive one – at least, in his boxcars. He managed just 12 goals and 39 points in 82 games, though his playoffs were strong.
Even better, the Flames made the playoffs, hitting the second round with reasons for optimism. When they faltered the next year, Backlund responded with his strongest season in years, scoring 19 goals and a career-high 56 points. He couldn’t drag the discordant team into the playoffs, leading to his rough assessment.
Now, however, there is a new optimism in town. Even though the city is waiting to hear that the Flames have re-signed Elias Lindholm, there is hope that the off-ice distractions are mostly gone.
With a year under Jonathan Huberdeau‘s belt and the return of Oliver Kylington, the talent level isn’t far off their 111-point team of two seasons ago. We fully expect the Calgary Flames to be one of the Pacific Division’s three guaranteed playoff teams this year.
Cal Man Can, Man
Here’s the thing about Backlund. As long as he can bend over enough to lace his skates, he’s going to help the team. From entering the league with slightly questionable defence to being an exemplar of it, Backlund has made a study of the game.
He’s never really been relied on to lead the team in scoring, which is just as well. He’s a decent skater still, and with the work he puts in that shouldn’t suddenly fade in the next three seasons. Even if his offence doesn’t keep up it’s not like he’ll suddenly forget how to play.
A two-year, $4.5 million/annum deal seems oddly modest, considering he’ll be 37 years old when it expires. That’s a heck of a lot to pay for a player who may be in the bottom six by then. But he will still be contributing, so maybe not.
In 92 games, Mikael Backlund will join Jarome Iginla as the only Flames player to play 1,000 with the team. He has three seasons to reach that mark. More importantly, to him, is reaching 16 wins in a playoff run in one of those three years.
Main Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports