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.