What Happens When Backlund's Back?

Ryan Pike
December 30 2014 10:59AM

Lost in all the hubbub about the Calgary Flames winning games in dramatic fashion is the news that center Mikael Backlund - a favourite around these parts as a possession-driving young forward - is recovering from his abdominal injury.

He's recovered so much, that in fact he joined the main group for full practice on Monday prior to the Flames game versus the Los Angeles Kings. He was wearing a non-contact jersey, but this is huge progress, as he'd be a massive, massive addition to a team that's arguably still playing over its head.

But what happens when Backlund does make his return?

Well, first of all, the team will probably get better possession-wise. Backlund was a 51.9% Corsi For player last season on a team that was not great at puck possession. Backlund's numbers weren't great this season, primarily because he was in pain most of the time and wasn't playing to the best of his ability. Now that he's healthy, he's a huge addition to the line-up and gives the Flames much more options roster-wise, particularly up the middle, as it will allow the team to more strategically deploy Sean Monahan (and others) they might want to shelter.

However, that also means somebody needs to depart to eventually open a roster spot for Backlund. The designated healthy scratches appear to be Brandon Bollig and Brian McGrattan with everybody healthy, and the options for guys going down would appear to be those two and Markus Granlund, who is a center. Granlund doesn't require waivers to go down, nor does anybody particularly want to see him as a healthy scratch, so he seems to be the most logical guess for who's going back to the farm.

We'll most likely find out in a week or two. If nothing else, the return of Backlund will help keep the Flames above water and stem the tide of any statistical regression down the stretch.

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Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames since 2010. He's Senior Contributing Editor at FlamesNation and a Senior Writer covering the Flames for The Hockey Writers. He's just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.
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#51 Kevin R
December 31 2014, 10:44AM
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beloch wrote:

Monahan could have been sent down to the WHL/OHL at any point last season. It was the AHL that he couldn't be sent to, and it was thought he had progressed too far to be sent back to junior.

By this time last season, Monahan had averaged 15:08 TOI per game, put up 16 points in 32 games, and was not the most sheltered forward on the team. So far this season, Draisaitl has averaged 12:47 TOI per game, put up 7 points in 36 games, and is by far the Oilers most sheltered forward. The case can be made that Draisaitl has proven less NHL ready than Monahan did. That's not a knock on Draisaitl. Monahan was as huge of a surprise last season as he has been this season.

I think sending Draisaitl down is the right choice, but it should have been made before the world juniors. Seriously, the Oilers told Draisaitl he couldn't go to the WJC, made him a healthy scratch for one game and then sent him down before the WJC preliminary's are over, but before a year can be burned off his ELC. If I were Draisaitl I'd be just a wee bit pissed off right now!

Edit: Draisaitl burned a year off his ELC already, but playing him past the 40 game limit also moves him a year closer to UFA status, so sending him down now basically forces him to play an extra season for cheaps.

OK. Not to appear stupid or anything, don't say anything, isn't burning 1 year on an ELC the same friggin thing as being 1 year closer to UFA? Is that a double wham to the team, 1 year off ELC & his UFA age moved up 1 year as well. What is the point of that rule? I guess it's a two way thing then, Draisatl can't be too ticked, he earns a big pay cheque this year & he can negotiate his 2nd contract quicker than if he just had a 9 game cup of coffee. Surely he must realize that the NHL is a way different level & he needed some transition time. I still don't understand why the CBA has that after 40 game rule. Then again, that is understandable that I don't understand. :-(

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#52 PP
December 31 2014, 10:52AM
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@Piscera.infada

Partly agree. While i can certainly see Granlund being sent down as the most likely scenario when Backlund comes back, I'm personally of the opinion that best asset management for Flames at this point would probably be to keep and develop the 21-year old Granlund up playing him as a 3rd line centre, and moving Jooris and Colborne (both 24 year olds) to the wing. Backlund and Monahan will occupy the top 6 when Backlund comes back and Stajan will probably continue to serve as a bottom 6 pivot. Keeping Granlund up would require trades/roster moves, so i'm not very optimistic of it happening though. We will see probably sooner than later which path the management takes.

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#53 Baalzamon
December 31 2014, 11:22AM
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@Koolmoedee

From what I've seen this year, Monahan would be driving play if he were out there with Gaudreau and Hudler in the offensive zone and away from the toughs.

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