This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…
David Backes had a tough first year in Boston.
Not as tough as Loui Eriksson‘s first year in Vancouver, mind you.
But you know things didn’t go all that well when management is forced to defend your signing at season’s end.
“David had a hard time adjusting,” said team president Cam Neely. “He mentioned that at the end of year. It was more of a challenge for him to come to a new city and a new team, to get to know 22, 24 other players. That took a while for him to get adjusted.
“I feel like David is really built for the type of playoff hockey you have to play to go deep. He’s a great leader. He’s helped the young kids a ton. If he could pick up a little bit of a step in his game, which he’s going to work on in the offseason, I think that would be beneficial for him and us.”
Backes notched 17 goals with 21 assists in 74 regular-season games — which isn’t the worst production ever. And to be fair, he did produce in the playoffs, with one goal and three assists in six games.
The concern is his age. At 33, it’s easier said than done to “pick up” a step — even with a hard, focused offseason of training. And with four years left on a $30 million contract, it’s fair to wonder if the B’s should’ve just let Eriksson go and saved the cap space for use down the road.
Alas, nothing can be done about that now. But at this point in his career, Backes is probably best suited for a bottom-six role. That’s why the Bruins would love to see a youngster like Anders Bjork come in and show he can play in the top six.
In theory, Backes could form a complementary duo with Ryan Spooner, another player who will enter the season under pressure to perform. The former is defensively responsible and can win battles, while the latter’s strength is offense. Heck, throw in another player with something to prove, Matt Beleskey, and perhaps you’ve got yourself a third line.
So much will depend on Boston’s young forward prospects and whether any are ready to play at the NHL level. If one or two of them show well, Backes could be a solid third-liner. If not, he might have to play in the top six again, and that may not be the best thing for the B’s.