Can David Backes bounce back in 2017?

Getty
4 Comments

Entering the second year of a five-year contract signed last summer in free agency Boston Bruins forward David Backes is feeling some pressure heading into the 2017-18 season.

Backes struggled so much through his first year in Boston that team president Cam Neely had to publicly defend the deal.

This past week it was Backes’ turn to talk about his first season in Boston and what he has to prove heading into a new season.

He spoke with Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe and talked about the adjustment process of going to a new city and a new team after spending the first decade of his career with the St. Louis Blues.

“I feel I’ve grown in a lot of different ways, having the challenges of change,” Backes said. “Different personnel, different area, different streets, and a way of life — everything that’s gone into change from St. Louis to here. Looking forward to having a year where I can just play hockey, come to a house that’s set up, just move my family and dogs and cats in, start living life, and really be able to focus on playing the game and helping our team win. That’s what I’m most optimistic about.”

He also talked about focussing his offseason training on improving his agility, quickness and explosiveness over power. That would certainly be a change from the type of player Backes has been for most of his career, but in today’s NHL speed and quickness seems to be the desired approach for teams over strength. For the most part.

It remains to be seen what sort of impact all of that will have on Backes’ season. The concern for Boston has to be the fact that for as much talk as there has been about his adjustment to Boston and the struggles that came with it his performance in his first year with the Bruins really wasn’t all that different from his final year in St. Louis.

The production — both traditional numbers and underlying advanced metrics — were not only similar, but in some cases better with the Bruins.

There was only a slight drop in his goal scoring and point production (he had four fewer goals and seven fewer points in five fewer games while getting less ice time per game) while his ability to generate shots and drive possession actually increased with Boston, as did his production on a per-minute basis.

It is entirely possible that what the Bruins saw from Backes in 2016-17 is what they should probably be expecting in the future as he is at a point in his career (entering his age 33 season) where his production is only going to continue to go south. Sometimes you simply can not fight father time. This is also the problem that teams run into in free agency. You have to pay a player top dollar, probably more than they have ever made in their career, based on the production they had for another team. A lot of times that does not work out for the team.