Tag: Niklas Backstrom

Zach Parise

Wild ’15-16 Outlook


When looking at the Minnesota Wild, it’s easy to see their potential, but without making any major additions over the summer, are they in a position to get past the second round for the first time since 2003?

To a decent extent, Minnesota’s fate rests on Devan Dubnyk’s shoulders. This is a team that was in a free fall when he was acquired and his stellar play helped right the ship. Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need him to win the Vezina Trophy, but if he struggles mightily, as he did in 2013-2014, then Minnesota could be in serious trouble. Of course Darcy Kuemper and perhaps even Niklas Backstrom could step up to fill the void in that scenario, but Backstrom is 37 years old with a history of injuries while Kuemper is coming off of an erratic campaign.

Part of the reason why so much rides on Dubnyk though is because Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been anything to write home about. Which is a shame because in theory, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Mikko Koivu should make for a great core and when you throw in promising youngsters like Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle, the potential is there for the Wild to be more than a middle of the road team when it comes to offensive production.

That’s what they were last season though, in part because Koivu regressed while Granlund, Niederreiter, and Coyle weren’t able to make meaningful offensive improvements compared to their 2013-14 campaigns. Perhaps that will change this season though and if it does, that would certainly take some of the pressure off of the Wild’s goaltending.

As far as their defense goes, Ryan Suter is expected to once again play in nearly half of every game. Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, and Jonas Brodin are projected to make major contributions too, but the X-factor is 21-year-old Matt Dumba as he should play a bigger role in his sophomore campaign after being limited to 15:00 minutes per contest last season.

The makings of a contender are there. It’s just a question of if everyone will click this time around.

Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo

Did you know that 36-year-old Roberto Luongo is now the second-oldest goalie in the NHL?

It’s true. The only one who’s older and still under contract is Minnesota’s 37-year-old Niklas Backstrom.

Luongo, of course, is very much under contract. He’s signed through 2021-22, to one of those front-loaded, back-diving deals they don’t allow anymore.

But you can forget the cap-recapture consequences for now, because Luongo is also coming off an excellent season, one in which he started 61 games for the Panthers and registered a .921 save percentage. Which is to say, he didn’t look like a guy on the verge of retirement.

Coach Gerard Gallant called Luongo “our MVP, our best player most nights.”

If Florida is to take a run at a playoff spot in 2015-16, Luongo will, in all likelihood, need to be just as good. The Panthers’ backup is Al Montoya, the 30-year-old who struggled last season (.892 SV%) and has just 88 NHL starts with four different teams to his name.

And make no mistake, the Panthers have their eyes on a playoff spot. They made a late surge last season after acquiring Jaromir Jagr, only to fall a few points short.

“We went toe-to-toe with everybody this year,” Luongo said at season’s end, per FOX Sports Florida. “The good teams, we played them well and we won some games. It’s just a matter of growing as a team, getting a bit more experience and taking the next step.

“We took a huge step this year, but we fell a little bit short. It’s really a matter of putting it all together next year.”

Backstrom (hip) hopes to be ready for Caps’ opener

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals

After undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in late May, Washington forward Niklas Backstrom says he’s targeting a return in time for the club’s season-opener on Oct. 10 versus New Jersey.

“I hope, of course, to be ready to start the season,” Backstrom said this week in an interview with Swedish radio station Sverigesradio.

In mid-June, a report from Swedish news outlet Gefle Dagblad suggested Backstrom would miss up to five months recovering from surgery, a procedure he required after playing most of the season in pain.

A five-month recovery period would, of course, be at odds with what the Capitals said following surgery:

“Based on the nature of this procedure we are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015-16 regular season.”

Should rehab go five months, Backstrom would be on target for a late-October return, and could miss as many as 10 games. Washington opens the season with a four-game homestand, then goes on the road for a three-game Western swing through Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton before closing out October with dates against the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Panthers.

Related: Trotz: ‘Up in the air’ if Backstrom (hip) will be ready for opener