Could Mikael Backlund be the next Calgary Flames captain?
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
For the past decade or so, Mikael Backlund has been one of the most important players on the Calgary Flames. But could the savvy Swede become the club’s next captain? On Friday’s edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast, Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman discussed Backlund’s future with the club after all the changes that the team has undertaken early in this off-season.
Marek asked Friedman, “Do you get a sense about what Mikael Backlund is all about right now?”
Here’s Friedman’s: lengthy response
“First of all, I think the Flames are trying to get a handle on okay now that they’ve made the coaching change, what does this mean for some of the players on their roster? The two that really got the most attention because of the way they answered the questions were Backlund and Lindholm. So, Backlund I think it potentially does. But one of the things that I have heard about him, and I don’t know where this stands right now so I’m going to say that this is something that has been out there in the past, is that Backlund really wants to be captain of the Calgary Flames. He’s been there for a long time and I think it’s very meaningful for him. And I’ve also heard that the players on the team know that, they recognize that, and they feel that he would be an excellent choice because he’s a guy that I think a lot of those players really think could fit the bill in that role. And as I told you on an earlier podcast, there was definitely a feeling this year that they were missing at least somebody in the captain’s role to act as a buffer. So I’m curious to see if, with his extension, potentially that becomes part of the conversation.”
Following Mark Giordano’s departure in the 2021 expansion draft to Seattle, the Flames opted not to name a full-time captain for either the 2021-22 or 2022-23 seasons. Instead, head coach Darryl Sutter extolled the virtues of a broader leadership group of Backlund, Sean Monahan (2021-22), Matthew Tkachuk (2021-22), Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev and Jonathan Huberdeau (2022-23).
Part of Sutter’s rationale was how tough it can be to be a team captain in Canada. But over the course of the past season, in particular, Backlund has been front-and-centre in most post-game media scrums – especially after losses. And his on and off-ice importance has been such that, when asked about Backlund’s play late in the season, Rasmus Andersson referred to Backlund as the team’s leader.
So despite Backlund not being the team’s official captain, he was named co-winner of the Peter Maher Award, was the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Award, and was singled out by teammates for his consistency and referred to as their leader.
Backlund has a year left on his current contract and could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024 (at the age of 35). A first-round pick way back in 2007, he’s played over 900 games for the Flames and has been a fixture in Selke Trophy conversations as one of the NHL’s top two-way players since around 2013. He’s become one of the most important players for the team on the ice, off the ice, and in the community. If he ends up extending his stay with the Flames via a new contract, the question might as well be “Why not Backlund?” as much as “Why Backlund?”
It’s going to be a busy off-season, and we’ll have updates on this (and other) stories as it develops.
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