Mikael Backlund is a great fit as the new Calgary Flames captain
Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
When the announcement went out on Tuesday afternoon that the Calgary Flames had named Mikael Backlund as the club’s 21st captain, there were two strands of thought that were pervasive among Flames fandom: “Yeah, that makes sense” with a little bit of “Took them long enough” sprinkled in.
The Swedish forward’s coronation as captain, long overdue in the minds of many fans, is the right move for the club (and the player) at this point in time.
Heck, over the past few weeks and months, Backlund’s teammates said as much. Over the summer, Rasmus Andersson appeared on the 32 Thoughts podcast (during the NHL’s media tour in Stockholm) and noted that “in our room, we all saw Backs as the captain.” MacKenzie Weegar during a podcast appearance recounted loud arguments between Backlund and former head coach Darryl Sutter. Once training camp opened, teammates such as Jonathan Huberdeau and Nikita Zadorov indicated that Backlund would be their pick.
So what makes Backlund such a logical choice? A few factors probably play into it.
Seniority: No, we’re not calling Backlund old, but he’s currently the oldest player in the Flames organization at a spry 34 years of age. He’s also the most senior in terms of NHL games played on the club overall and games played with the Flames franchise overall. With 908 regular season games under his belt, only Jarome Iginla and Mark Giordano have logged more.
Continuity of leadership: Not only is Backlund the most experienced player, but he’s spent a ton of time as an apprentice of sorts with the club. He’s served under the captaincies of both Iginla and Giordano, and has been an alternate captain with the club since 2018-19. His experience wearing an A is probably why teammates saw him as a C in waiting, so to speak.
He’s good at hockey: We can all probably think of countless of examples of veteran captains that didn’t quite work out. Heck, a few of them happened in Calgary. If Backlund was just a gritty old centre, his captaincy probably wouldn’t have the potency that others did. When he was captain, Iginla was one of the NHL’s top power forwards. Giordano wore his C and established himself as a Norris Trophy calibre competitor. And while he’s not quite as excellent as those two were, Backlund’s been a consistently high performer in his shutdown role. He’s put up points, sure, but his impact has been preventing goals in his own end – and he’s had a big impact in that regard.
The good guy factor: Last season, Backlund was named the NHL’s winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contributions. He was also nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Calgary chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association – disclosure: I am member – and was voted the co-winner of the Peter Maher Good Guy Award (along with Blake Coleman) by local media. Backlund’s built a reputation for treating people well, both inside and outside of the game, and if you’re going to be integrating more and more young faces into your team over the next few seasons, he’s precisely the type of person you want them to be emulating.
Since Giordano was claimed by Seattle in the expansion draft a couple years back, fans have been clamouring for Backlund’s ascension – with the mindset that if he was sticking around for the long haul, he should get the C.
Well, Backlund’s sticking around for the long haul. He got the C. And it’s the right move for all involved.
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