Opposing centers in the Atlantic Division might want to start stocking up on Advil right about now, because they’re going to need it. If you don’t play for the Boston Bruins,
David Backes is coming for you, and it’s going to hurt. The Bruins not only replaced a lot of the physical identity they had lost when they signed Backes to a five-year deal worth $30 million, they also loaded themselves down the middle and have one of the most imposing center ice corps in the NHL. Backes joins
David Krejci and
Patrice Bergeron as the Bruins top three pivots. “You want to number them, that’s up to you,” Backes told TSN after he signed his deal.
Backes brings with him to Boston a ton of character and an ability to play the game any way you’d like. With the exception of the lockout season, Backes has put together five straight 20-goal seasons and six in seven. He can win faceoffs, play a shutdown role, play on special teams and if teams ever want to get down and dirty with the Bruins, he’ll particularly be able to handle that. Backes was the heart and soul of the Blues, all you have to do is watch how emotional he was when the Blues were eliminated from the Western Conference final, and wanted to return to St. Louis. But with the Blues in a cap crunch themselves, the captain became a casualty. This move will play well in Boston, where they like their players to be big, mean, physical and productive. Backes checks off all those boxes and leaves no doubt as to what the Bruins intentions are moving forward. The Bruins, probably rightly, look at the Eastern Conference and still think they can compete, even though they collapsed and missed the playoffs last year. With the very useful and productive
Loui Eriksson signing with the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent, Backes will be able to plug some of that void offensively. But make no mistake, his biggest mandate for the Bruins will be to make them a more punishing opponent. With Krejci possessing sublime playmaking skills and Bergeron establishing himself as one of the premier two-way centers in the league, Backes will be called upon to provide some room for the Bruins forwards and give them the kind of third-line depth that the Pittsburgh Penguins had when they won the Stanley Cup this season. There is some real risk here for the Bruins, although they managed to avoid going beyond five years on the contract. Backes has played his entire career in the most demanding division in the league and he has played a lot of heavy, heavy minutes. He’ll be 37 years old when this contract expires and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup with a lineup whose most prominent strength was speed. Backes is in a bit of a danger zone here with respect to that and the Bruins will have to watch his minutes to make sure he doesn’t wear down too much. That should not be a problem as long as Krejci and Bergeron are healthy, but if one of them goes down and Backes has to move up the depth chart, those miles may begin to show.
WHAT ADVANCED STATS SAY: Too much money. Too much term. It’s a theme for the day, but it’s especially true here with Backes who only had 45 points last year and only marginally improved the Blues 5-on-5 goal numbers. His possession stats have been relatively hit-or-miss too. Backes is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just very unlikely he continues being one during the duration of this deal. He’s no longer the 60 point guy, defensive stalwart that he once was and it’s probably very safe to say this contract bites the Bruins hard for years to come.
By Dominik Luszczyszyn