There certainly haven’t been many bright spots for the Calgary Flames of late, but there is a key one that has emerged. Mikael Backlund is finally starting to show the promise that was expected of him when he was selected in the first round of the 2007 entry draft by the organization. The Flames ended their two-game road trip with a 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, but in that contest Backlund netted a goal for a third straight game.
Backlund’s numbers of eight goals and 11 assists in 46 games aren’t going to bowl anyone over, but it’s been clear in the midst of a dreadful few weeks for the club that the 24-year-old Swede has emerged as an on-ice leader for head coach Bob Hartley. Backlund’s career in Calgary has been plagued in the past by inconsistent play and injuries, but it looks like he’s finally starting to put it all together.
Backlund’s game has featured plenty of feisty-ness of late as well — a trait that hasn’t been a calling card of his career so far. He was battling with Sidney Crosby in a recent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins managing to get under the superstar’s skin, and he also got involved in a late third period wrestling match in front of the net with talented Predator rookie defenseman Seth Jones. Backlund’s getting involved physically, going to the tough areas to get scoring chances and playing a much better two-way game.
Hartley says sometimes it takes young players plenty of time to finally find their groove at the elite level, adding that Backlund has come a long way since the start of the season. He adds Backlund has shown a solid commitment and is only going to get better. It’s hard to believe that this is the same player who not so long ago was sent a message by being a healthy scratch and has also been the subject of trade rumors. While Backlund has always struggled with consistency, his performance and effort in the last month or so has to be encouraging for both the organization and its fanbase.
Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports