Mikael Backlund Hopes For More Next Year



(Uffe Bodin is a Swedish sports writer and editor-in-chief of hockeysvierge.se who is a friend of the site and has worked with me in the past. Uffe recently interviewed Mikael Backlund about his difficult season and was good enough to send over translated sections for FlamesNation readers. The original article can be found here.)

By: Uffe Bodin

(Backlund on returning from his first injury)

"I immediately got the chance on the first line and in the beginning, I felt as strong as I’ve ever felt. I had three great chances early on, but didn’t score and after that things didn’t go my way."

"Things didn’t work out with Iginla and Tanguay as it did the previous year. About eight games after my comeback I was demoted to the third line. It was almost as if I freezed and the points didn’t come as I had hoped. If I had scored early on things might have gone my way, but it never came to that."

(On his shoulder injury)

"First, I got hit by Alexander Edler, which made my shoulder pop out of its joint (not sure if that’s how you say it). They got it back in place pretty fast and I continued to play, but then it popped out again when I grabbed their defenseman Alberts. It wasn’t too comfortable the first time, but the second time it was worse. It was extremely painful."

(On the coaching change and his RFA status)

"I think it’s good thing. If you don’t make the playoffs in three straight seasons, you need to do something about it. I really like Brent Sutter, but I think it was time to hear a new voice in the locker room."

"(Hartley) has won at every level he’s coached – the juniors, the AHL, the NHL and in Switzerland. He called me and introduced himself last week. He seemed very nice even though I’ve heard that he is a very demanding coach"

"A lot of things can happen during the summer, but it was a great feeling when Hartley called and sounded positive. He said he was looking forward to meeting me in August. I also had a good conversation with GM Jay Feaster after the season and he also sounded positive."

(On expectations for next season)

"I want to have a much better year than this past season, which was really rough. I want to have a spot among the top three centres on the team, ideally among the two really. I also want to score and produce much more."

Uffe also noted that Backlund is training with Mats Emanuelsson this summer, a strength coach who has also worked a lot with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

(Thanks again to Uffe Bodin for not making us rely on google translation. You can follow Uffe on twitter here.)

  • Graham

    Nice Interview. Really hope Mikael turns it around this coming season. Seems like a good kid with breakout potential. You know he’s hoping Jokinen finds a new home this summer.

  • Colin.S

    The most important thing I took from that interview, that Hartley immediately called Backlund which is great, I take that as a sign they have good plans for Backlund this year and those plans DON’T include trading him.

    There was a bit of speculation that he could be trade bait at the draft, but if Hartley is already reaching out to him I’d assume it’s because Hartley knows he should be around in the fall.

  • Graham

    A new coach, another opportunity for Backlund to step up and prove that he is more than a defensive minded third line center.

    If he has another challenging ‘offensive’ year I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved at the trade deadline. Players only get so many chances… A key year for Backlund, and I hope he takes full advantage of the opportunity.

  • Colin.S

    @Graham, I would hope they don’t trade him, he’s still really young and has shown ability to be an actual possession player and great defensive player, even if his ceiling eventually becomes a dominating third line center, that is NEVER a bad thing to have, he can give us that option to be able to deploy Iggy and Tangs with 60% Ozone starts.

  • Colin.S

    I would think Hartley is probably calling every player on the team, not just select individuals.

    Glad to see Backlund is working hard at improving his strength. I think it will make a huge difference to his game. No reason the guy shouldn’t be a #2 ecenter IMO.

    Definitely at that age that he has to make it happen this season though.

  • RexLibris

    Regarding – “First, I got hit by Alexander Edler, which made my shoulder pop out of its joint (not sure if that’s how you say it). They got it back in place pretty fast and I continued to play, but then it popped out again when I grabbed their defenseman Alberts. It wasn’t too comfortable the first time, but the second time it was worse. It was extremely painful.”

    Any concerns about the medical or training staff in Calgary? The Oilers used to do this sort of thing (Mike Grier was the poster child) and it eventually came back to bite them.

    Not being involved in the medical and training side of professional sports I can’t say if this is standard in the NHL or not.

    From my perspective, if a player has his shoulder dislocated in a game it would seem pertinent to sit him for the remainder and have him rehab it for a day or two.

  • @ Rex Libris

    That seems like a pretty common thing.

    “Are your legs or arms broken? Okay. Do you have a concussion? Okay. Can you still skate and shoot? Sort of? Well, here’s some novocaine and a shot of high-powered steroids, get back out there and play”

    From what I understand, many players don’t feel the pain immediately and it isn’t until the game is over and they stop that they realize the pain is tremendous. From the team’s perspective, it seems like the player either needs to be crippled or dead before they won’t let them go back out there. Especially if the player wants to play.

    Fleury used to tell the coaches and doctors he was fine even when he clearly wasn’t, just to play hockey. Granted, Fleury had a lot more skill than Backlund and scored 50+ goals several times, all while high out of his mind on cocaine.

    • It’s common at most high levels of hockey. My friend is an atheltic trainer for the Bufs here in Calgary (AAA 14-16 year old kids) and even there he has to fight with coaches and players when it comes to keeping kids out of action with bad injuries.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Good read. I will say that it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of a strength coach when his two primary clients are the Sedins, though. Skilled players, but strong?

  • JR

    @smellofvictory – Sedins are never going to be msitaken for Bob Probert, but they can take a hit and keep control of the puck and fight through traffic far better than they used to be able to.

  • MC Hockey

    Good to hear he is trying to get stronger, I agree he needs to be more steady on his skates when hit. Perhaps he can fight through checks to score more and get more assists (as well as continue his good 2-way play). I guess the very high expectations for him tend to make us think he should score 80 points on the first line but 50-60 pints (at the very top end) is more likely. While so called “counting statistics” are not loved on FlamesNation, you have to score more than the other team to win (if I am not mistaken).

  • everton fc

    I don’t think they’ll trade Backlund. They’ll sign him for 2-3 years… Low cost… Seems he wants to be here. And I agree; he’s decent kid, and probably good to have in the room.

  • RexLibris

    @FOI and Kent

    I understand the drive to play through injury (Oilers fan, remember. Taylor Hall, etc). But I think today a good team structure is partially measured by that organization’s ability to rein in some players when it clearly is in their best long-term interests.

    I think of the paternal role that a coach can often have and the many ways in which this can be manifest. Kavis Reed, to use an intersport comparison, has often intervened in some aspects of his player’s training, play, and diet both out of concern for their level of play but also on account of their long-term health after retirement.

    Teams are criticized now for letting players play through injuries in the regular season, and perhaps rightly so.

    Theo Peckham shouldn’t have been put back on the ice after his initial concussion, and neither should Backlund after his shoulder was dislocated.

    I would like to see the trainers actually given the final say, rather than just lip service, on putting a player back on the ice.

    Forgive the rant.

    • beloch

      Flames centers:

      Signed: Roman Cervenka, Matt Stajan
      Unsigned RFA’s: Blair Jones, Michael Backlund
      Unsigned UFA’s: Olli Jokinen

      Jokinen has proven he can play #1C, although perhaps not at a truly elite level. Cervenka is totally unproven in the NHL but may have a ceiling high enough to play #1C. Not resigning Joker is a big roll of the dice since Cervenka may not transition well to the NHL at all!

      I think Jokinen/Cervenka would be a solid #1-2/#2-1 and would be much safer than just hoping Cervenka is ready to be a #1C in the NHL, but this seems unlikely if there is any truth to that tweet about the Flames no longer being a cap team.

      If Jokinen is re-signed, that means the Flames will have to get rid of one of Stajan, Jones, or Backlund somehow. Stajan is being paid $2.5M for the next two seasons (vs. the $4.5M he got for the previous two), so he’s no longer quite so bad a deal if the Flames aren’t up against the cap. He’s likely untradeable, so he’ll probably stick. It would be idiotic to cut Backlund loose. That means that, if Joker isn’t signed first, the Flames resigning Jones will likely signal Joker’s imminent departure.

  • RexLibris

    On Backlund’s saying that Feaster sounded positive: Backlund better be re-signing here. Also it sounds like he is planning to play here this season, so why haven’t the Flames struck a deal yet with this guy? Are they waiting to get closer to July 1st? Why not get it over with and give him paper and ink?