Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom described his off-season in one word: Normal. A word that he has not been able to use in years. His future was very uncertain after he underwent hip resurfacing surgery. He miraculously returned to Washington’s lineup in early January and played out the rest of the season, racking up 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 39 games.
“Coming back midseason is tougher than you think. You’re trying to play catch up with yourself so it’s tougher than you think,” Backstrom said on the Elliot in the Morning Podcast on Thursday. “I’m really excited to be there from the start and be a part of it.”
Outside of being fully healthy, the Swedish center spoke about his excitement to work with new Caps head coach Spencer Carbery.
“He was in the organization. He would have always, always participated in the camps before when he was in Hershey. I knew what kind of personality and stuff he was,” Backstrom said. “The first thing I noticed when I talked to him was, he was really pumped to be here. He’s a very positive, energetic guy which I think is great.”
The new coaching staff is young. Carbery is the youngest coach in the NHL at 41 and assistant coach Mitch Love is 39, which is why president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan brought in 57-year-old Kirk Muller, who brings 17 years of coaching experience to Washington’s bench.
“He’s been there for many years in the league. He’s been around a couple of teams that are well respected around the league. So that’s obviously something positive,” Backstrom said. “He’s been playing in this league before, so he knows what it’s all about.”
The 35-year-old also touched on Carl Hagelin’s sudden retirement in late August. No. 19 was very close with the fellow Swede and was in the locker room when the incident happened.
“It was very unfortunate that the blade just hit a really bad spot in his eye. I think Carl can speak for himself about the details, but I saw him come into the locker room and it was not a nice view,” Backstrom said.
With training camp just seven days away, Backstrom believes the Caps have enough talent once again to compete for a playoff spot and go on a deep run.
“Even if we haven’t added guys from the outside, we still have a lot of talent from underneath,” Backstrom said. “I think we had a good team last year too. I think everyone is looking for a bounce back season.”
By Jacob Cheris