Where does Backlund fit?

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators

I know that Kent here at FlamesNation and a few others have wondered about the decision to not have Mikael Backlund in the Calgary Flames lineup the last three games, and to instead dress Craig Conroy. It’s an interesting debate, because Backlund is a player who has shown he can be a useful player at this level. But the question is, if the coaching staff isn’t going to use him, should he remain at this level?

As it was explained to me today, there might be a reason for a little reluctance to send Backlund back to Abbotsford. Once the NHL trade deadline passes, a team is granted four recalls from the American Hockey League. Once those recalls have been used, you’re limited to emergency recalls, which are not easy to get apparently. So, the worry would be: send him to Abbotsford because the Flames aren’t using him NOW, then run into injury issues and burn one of the recalls. Perhaps the injury woes from the end of LAST season are still fresh in the minds of management.

I guess I understand the thinking, but at the same time it seems odd. Backlund turns 21 on St. Paddy’s Day (March 17). He’s playing in his first professional season, and has shown great improvement in doing so. Would it not be better to have a guy like that playing meaningful games as opposed to sitting and watching? Sure, you get the practice time, I understand that. But you wonder if it might not be better for a guy like that to be in actual game action.

I’m clearly not a scout or well-versed in player development. I’m going solely on things I’ve read and heard before from people in the hockey world. As such, it seems as if the feeling is game action is important at the transition stage a player like Backlund is in.

To be honest, I don’t have a real problem with Conroy being in the lineup. If that’s what the coaching staff wants to go with, that’s fine. In a lot of ways, you could probably argue Backlund and Conroy are a wash right now. My real wonder is if a guy like Backlund is better suited in the AHL right now as opposed to the NHL.

  • Perhaps the injury woes from the end of LAST season are still fresh in the minds of management.

    I think this is probably it here Pat. It's silly, in my estimation – not only do the Flames have 3 extra NHL bodies at their disposal besides Backlund, but the rash of injuries last season was fairly unprecedented. The chances of the same thing happening again are slim. So the Flames would have to get hurt so severely that they'd re-insert the 3 healthy guys they have now AND have to recall 4 other guys (or another guy 4 times) for this to be an issue.

    On Conroy vs Backlund, I'm guessing Conroy is probably the better all around player right now, so I don't have an issue with the player choice in terms of winning games.

  • "It's silly, in my estimation – not only do the Flames have 3 extra NHL bodies at their disposal besides Backlund, but the rash of injuries last season was fairly unprecedented."

    Well if you step back and try to practice Sutter-think it's not so silly (beyond the unlikelihood of the injury rash reoccuring). Take a look at the 4 extra bodies right now…

    Pardy – Defenseman
    Dawes – Winger
    McGrattan – Winger
    Backlund – Center

    Of the four Backlund is the only one to spend significant time playing the Center position. So to draw it out further…

    Injury to one of the scoring wingers = Dawes
    Injury to one of the 4 bottom six wingers = McG
    Injury to a Blueliner = Pardy
    Injury to a Center = Backlund

    I don't really agree with this since, like you, I think it's very unrealistic that there will be as many in-an-out injuries that would cause the Flames to exceed the recall limit but one of D. Sutter's most prominant M.O.'s is the tendancy to overcompensate.

    I suppose he could just be overly cautious, I mean if Backlund were to get injured in Abbotsford that would leave the Flames with only Jason Jaffray and Brett Sutter as the two best Center callup options. In retrospect it would have been better to have waived the big oaf McGrattan instead of Lundmark.

  • I'd like to see Backlund in the lineup once in a while. Conroy isn't playing all that great. The kid needs to develop, sitting in a press box isn't going to do any good. Him playing over Conroy won't have a huge influence on whether the flames win or lose so why not throw him in.

  • @JF

    That's all probably true…

    Which, of course, brings me back to the Boyd trade. If that's the concern, keep Boyd, demote Backlund and then if you still feel Dustin has no place in the offseason, trade him then. I'd understand if someone had contacted the team with an offer they couldn't refuse for the kid…but a 4th round draft pick?


  • As I said last night, if they wanted to keep the extra body around, yet don't want to play Backlund regularly, then the most sensible thing to do would've been to let Backlund keep playing/developing in the 'A' and let Boyd stick around as an extra body.

    Agree with Kent's take above entirely. It basically makes that trade indefensible. If Boyd was moved because they figured Backlund was ready to be a regular, then there's at least some miniscule way to try and defend the timing of that trade. But keeping Backlund up as a healthy scratch after moving Boyd… that is BAFFLING.

  • Under present circumstances I'd really like to see Backlund put out for some home games centering the 3rd line as well. The guy isn't a massive liability in that position, especially if Sutter can shelter him with last change.

  • in my best estimation, every single move that has been made by the management in the past six weeks can be easily explained by darryl sutter desperately trying to keep his job. keeping backlund in the bigs (while a possible disruption to the rookie's development) will assure that the team will not need to test the "emergency recall" rules.

    in SAYING that, anyone who thinks what happened last year was anything less than a cap situation is delusional… i did the maths at the time and got really positive feedback (as much as possible) from a guy currently running the PA. furthermore, i'm quite certain that "emergency recall" means that if you have a metric f*ckton of injuries in the season's final month, you can still promote enough players from your AHL affiliate (or otherwise) to dress a full squad….

    admittedly, i wouldn't put it past darryl to plant a seed of doubt that would suggest otherwise…. 😉

    • Key words thrust the comment into moderation (even if you add a "ton" to the end of it), where they may sit for an eternity…or not.

      In any case, I've brought it back from the dark side for 'u' 😉

  • Hello sir, i just wanted to say that I am a big fan of your time on air on the fan960. I live in windsor, ontario, canada and listen to you whenever you are on… TO reply to your article however, the bst way to develop a player is to have him play with the big team and get the chemistry going with other players because that is how he will produce best. With that being said; i can see Backlund on a 3rd line as the centre; if so , he would have to use his european-skill to help the wingers achieve there goals by feeding them passes that have some hope of connecting and reaching the back of the opposing teams net.

    • Thanks for listening, first of all!

      I guess there are 2 ways of looking at it. You can develop a high end skill player by having him play a fair quantity with an NHL club, and get him used to that level and see him improve there.

      The second line of thought would be to let him develop at a lower level, and then bring him on when the team is ready.

      Obviously that goes without saying…but the problem is, the Flames are doing neither with Backlund right now.

  • Key words thrust the comment into moderation (even if you add a "ton" to the end of it), where they may sit for an eternity…or not.

    In any case, I've brought it back from the dark side for 'u' 😉

    *curtsey* thank you, kind sir… 😉

    apparently i will have to self-censor if i want my thoughts to appear over here at FN. kindof a bummer since i really only curse when i feel it necessary (and i have taken quite a shining to RO's four-letter exaggeration of the metric quantity).

  • You wonder though, if you see Backlund back in Monday against Detroit after what happened tonight in Van.

    in the words of darryl himself, quite honestly i'd be surprised. i wouldn't be shocked to see dawes draw in over moss but i think your centres will still be stajan, langkow, conroy, and nystrom (cause apparently nyzerman is now a centre, right ?).

    let's not forget that in "must win" situations, sutters prefer experience over youth. which is why we'll get a hearty serving of staios and conroy over backlund and pardy down the stretch.

    ….. aaaand if all goes well, we'll have a new guy making these decisions sometime this summer.