It seems every big NHL star has a second-fiddle. Sidney Crosby has Evgeni Malkin, Corey Perry has Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews has Patrick Kane, and Alex Ovechkin has Nicklas Backstrom. But unlike those other second-fiddles, Backstrom hardly gets recognition for the elite talent that he is. And already in his ninth NHL campaign, it’s about time Backstrom is acknowledged.
Backstrom was drafted fourth overall by the Capitals in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and joined the team permanently in the 2007-08 season, recording 69 points (14 goals, 55 assists), and finished second to Patrick Kane in Calder Trophy voting; though many Caps fans would argue that Backstrom deserved it after helping the Capitals go from worst to first. Over his eight seasons already played in the NHL, Backstrom has averaged 18 goals, and 74 points every year. This includes the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
In a recent NHL Player’s poll, Backstrom was voted the most underrated player in the league; and it’s easy to see why. Backstrom plays an excellent two-way game, and his ability to play on the power play and penalty kill make him extremely valuable to the Caps. Head coach Barry Trotz vouched for Backstrom to be a participant in the NHL All-Star game last season, which brings us to the next shocking fact: in his career, Backstrom has NEVER been selected to play in an ASG. It is something many Caps fans, and even some analysts outside the organization have expressed their opinions about and to say Backstrom is underrated would be an understatement.
The 27-year old Swede (28 on November 23) is one of the NHL’s most-under appreciated players. Despite all his accomplishments, the franchise leader in assists still has not been identified by others. One reason may be that Backstrom simply doesn’t score enough goals. In his career season in 2009-10 (33 goals, 68 assists, 101 points), Backstrom shot the puck 222 times. In the following seasons since, Backstrom has put the pick on net 202, 95, 82, 196, and 153 times respectively. While Backstrom is never a selfish player, it may not hurt to shoot the puck more often and increase his goal totals.
Backstrom is just in the beginning of his prime and his best seasons could still be ahead. No matter what outside media and analysts think, the fact is that Capitals fans, his coaches, teammates, and fellow NHLers recognize his truly elite play. If he scored more goals, he could easily be the very best in the NHL
By Michael Fleetwood