What the Bruins got with David Backes
David Backes is not your normal, everyday NHL star player. Through his 10-year career in the league, all as a member of the St. Louis Blues, Backes played nearly every game. He registered his fair share of goals and assists, but his greater achievements were in categories usually reserved for someone who never sniffs a 30-goal season.
Backes has topped 90 penalty minutes in a season seven times already; he is just shy of 1,000 for his career. He has topped 200 hits every season except the strike-shortened 2012-13 year. He has been a steady shot-blocker as well. These are not impacts that many star players deliver to their teams. These, along with the offense, are what Backes will be bringing to his new home with the Boston Bruins.
Boston signed the unrestricted free agent to a five-year, $30 million contract. According to ESPN, the deal was agreed to between the sides within the first 30 minutes of free agency opening. The love was apparently mutual between the Bruins and Backes, the latter of which is a former captain and two-time Olympian.
He brings that experience of having previously been Captain to Boston, a team that is coming off of an infamous regular-season collapse the previous year. Boston was squarely in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoff picture … until they weren’t. Backes’ old team, the Blues, made a nice run through said playoffs, but fell short of their ultimate goal when they were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the San Jose Sharks.
It was the longest postseason run of Backes’ career in blue. He registered 14 points and 36 shots on goal in 20 games. He now joins fellow centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, two men who have long histories of wildly successful postseasons. Boston hopes the joining of the trio leads to more of that in the immediate future.
Backes said in his conference call after the deal that Boston was, “a blue-collar, hard-nosed, don’t-take-crap-from anybody kind of team.” Perhaps more than reflecting how the Bruins played in 2015-16, the quote reflected how Backes hoped to play with the team in 2016-17. He certainly brings that resume with him as a two-way beast. Some followers of the Bs think Backes should enter with an “A” on his sweater right from the get-go, being worthy of an assistant captain title because of his track record alone. That speaks to the will of character he has built up in this league. It certainly wasn’t for lack of respect or leadership that the Blues wouldn’t bring him back for another go.
Entering this coming season at age 32, age was one of the main factors that St. Louis pointed to in its reasoning for not wanting to offer Backes a deal as long as the five years he got from the Bruins. But there is no clear sign that the big man is slowing down. He played in 79 games this past season, getting a bit banged up near the end and into the postseason, but who doesn’t? Combined with the 20 playoff games, it was the largest allotment of games Backes had ever played in one season. Yet he still averaged 19:14 minutes of ice time per game, nearly a full minute over his career average. As Backes said upon joining the Bruins and hearing he was past his prime, “I’m 32. I’m not 52.”