Thursday, April 24, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Nicklas Backstrom

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. First up, Nicklas Backstrom.

Contract Status: $2.4m cap hit in 2008-09; RFA after 2009-10
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 20
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 1
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 82 games played, 14 goals, 55 assists, +13, 24 PIMs
Key Stat: Lead all rookies in assists
Surprising Stat: Led the team in takeaways

The Good: Backstrom, who finished second on the team in scoring, was one of just four Caps to play all 82 games, had 60 points (13 goals and 47 helpers) in his last 61 games (a span, incidentally, that began with Bruce Boudreau's first game as head coach and on Backstrom's 20th birthday) and is a Calder Trophy finalist. He finished tied for second on the team with four game-winning goals and third among the team's forwards in average time on ice with 18:59, and had a strong playoff series after he looked lost at the beginning of the round.

The Bad: Backstrom won just 46.3% of his faceoffs and was credited with just 34 hits all season (and given the type of player he is, I'm not sure that's even "bad").

The Vote: Rate Backstrom on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

Finally, what will it take for him to earn a 10 next year?

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

The own goal drops him from a 10 to a 9.

Marky Narc said...

I can't think of a more pleasant surprise this season for the Caps than Backy's play. I think we all were expecting a season like this perhaps a couple seasons down the road, not this year. It was great to see him "get up to speed" in the NHL so quickly.

I gave him a 9. What does she need for a 10? Improved face-offs and a 20-goal season. Both of those are attainable in 08-09.

Marky Narc said...

"she"? obviously I meant "he". Holy moly, I'm going to go get some coffee now. Ha ha ha ha.

Eric said...

Obviously, the own goal was a blemish. But I think he exceeded expectations.

JP said...

I think he was better than I expected overall, but could have had a better first quarter, shot more and been better in the dot. That would have gotten him a 9 in my book (10 would have been the best season I could've realistically imagined from him, which would have probably been around 20 goals/60 assists - very attainable next year, as Marky said).

I gave him an 8.5 (8 from home, 9 from work).

Anonymous said...

I gave Nicky Backs a 10, basically because he not only exceeded expectations, but if he put up the exact same numbers for 10 years (with NO improvement), he would still be considered a great player. Now when you qualify everything by saying he was a 20 year old rookie, then he is off the charts. I thought the poise he shows with the puck is truly astounding at times. It really stood out when Feds arrived because you could see the same calming effect in Feds' play.

And jp, I think the 1st quarter stuff was mostly attributed to playing on the bigger ice his whole life, and basically acclimating to playing in the NHL and working in less space with bigger/faster guys.

Also a 10 for his play in the Playoffs - he was passing, shooting, backchecking and most surprisingly hitting and getting a little ornery. Can you imagine how great he will be next year!?

Oly_for_Olie said...

I have to give him a ten based on expectations. My expectation was that he would be a winger on the second line with Nylander centering. Given that he excelled in that role and the team needed a shake-up, he was suddenly the first line center? Ovie suddenly climbs the scoring chart? I expected that to occur next season.

And now it's time to retire Oly_for_Olie. As much as I hope Kolzig comes back to the Pacific NW and becomes another Dale Hunter, I can't abide someone who thinks they are bigger than the team.

JP said...

Now I'm thinking 9. Maybe I can vote from my cell and bring my vote up to 8.67. :)

JP said...

Oh, and let us know your new handle, O4O.

VT Caps Fan said...

I gave him a 9; Only because every player can improve in some way. If he can put on about 15 pounds of muscle. He will be VERY dangerous player.

15 pounds isn't much because he's only 20 years old (he's still growing). His hits will go up and he'll win a few more face offs with added weight. He already played like a veteran for most of the year and he found his scoring touch late.

Nik has potential to be the quietest, yet one of the most prolific play maker the caps have ever had.

And a rookie playing in every game is something impressive in its own. the fact he did it at a high level is fantastic.

~Mark said...

I gave Nicky an 8. He was brilliant with or without the biscuit. Points off for faceoffs, physicality/strength, and goal scoring. If he works on the strength more, the faceoffs will get better right away. Scoring is a matter of taking shots, as his shot is clearly good. Nick will be a top 5 scorer in this league as soon as next season (if he skates with Ovy).

Brunella said...

I gave him a 9. I thought he did a super-outstanding job for a teenager, but the 9 is also a reflection of my possibly too-high initial expectations. I expected a very cute, yet suavely cool Superman.

I take away 3/4 of a point for his excruciatingly slow start. I mean, how much time do you need to "get used to" the difference between the two kinds of hockey. It's not like NHL games are played in secret. Plus he had Nylander to school him. Maybe this was a problem with how delicately he was handled by Hanlon. (Blame Hugs? Oh sure.) Was it warranted? Did he need the adjustment time? Or was he held back? We can only ask Backie himself.

I take away the other 1/4 point for the exact same annoyingly slow start in the playoffs. Yes, you don't really understand until you've been there, but maybe I was expecting a little quicker learning curve. Like one period.

In any event, I am most impressed with his aplomb. He does not panic or run around heedlessly/needlessly. He is a rock. Which is extraordinary for one his age. I look forward to watching him grow. (Literally. He could use a few extra pounds. Which I am sure will accumulate naturally.)

Speaking of that, and with regard to that nasty crack that Wise had in one of his breathlessly stupid columns this past week, about Backie not meeting a barbell that he liked. I wonder how Backie himself felt about that. I was sorry to read it.

Tyler said...

I don't think 19's about to win a Selke, but most 20yos aren't as defensively responsible as 19 was.

Bunnie said...

Not to change the subject, but this is pretty heartbreaking. As if we didn't need more heartbreak. (I KNEW there was something amiss with Ovie.) It's from Tarik's blog.

Boudreau said Shaone Morrisonn has been playing with a broken jaw, Boyd Gordon has been playing through a torn hamstring, Mike Green had a hip pointer and a foot injury and Alex Ovechkin has been dealing with "something," but neither he nor Ovechkin would divulge what the injury was.

Jed said...

I only gave him an 8 because i think during the playoffs he showed that he could be a goal scorer if he wanted to be. I know he's on a line with OV, but it would be nice to see him shoot the puck more. It would open OV up some if the other teams know that Backstrom is as likely to shoot as pass it over to OV!

maaan said...

9, he plays like a 10 year veteran. also because he matured the most in the playoffs out of anyone, and he did it fast. very hopeful for next year. attack the net like these past two weeks, he could easily score 25, with just as many if not more assists. 91 for 19

Get Real said...

I don't think people are understanding this poll correctly. It's not how you rank him as an OVERALL PLAYER, it's how you rank him COMPARED TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS of him coming in. HUGE difference.
Come on - coming to a new country, 19 years old, adjusting to a different game and rink size etc etc. How can you vote anything LESS than a 10? My goodness, he is a CALDER finalst. Now go back and try again, people.

moby said...

Everyone's expectations are different. I personally expected him to be a Calder finalist from the start, and at the start of the year pre-Boudreau I was thinking, "THIS is the next Peter Forsberg?" I was scared we had another Petr Sykora on our hands.

Paul said...

9, and it would be a 10 if his faceoffs were better. Even on that, though, he got steadily better as the year went on.

Tarik is posting that Olie took his nameplate down just to keep it as a memento to frame with a jersey. Brings tears to my eyes.

maaan said...

he had 69 points if he had 5-10 more, mostly in the form of goals, it would be a 10. 9 is pretty good though buddy, relax.

get real said...

just needed to clarify a bit. I think it's the 8's that are really getting to me.

/reaches for decaf rather than caf

get real said...

oh man, I was SO dreading that Caps Eulogy from yahoo sports and now there it is on your sidebar.

JP said...

@ get real: Yup. It's there so you guys can go comment on it and represent.

Oh, and if it's any consolation, you all are pretty familiar with the guy who's going to be writing the Flyers eulogy.

Tyler said...

A thought on 19 and next year: He should be a 25-goal scorer. But then again, to do that he'll have to shoot the puck 25 times. Iffy.

JP said...

@ Tyler: I think that on a line with Semin, he scores 20 fairly easily. On a line with Ovie, though, it'll be close.

get real said...

woo hoo! (try to control yourself when you write it. okay, don't.)

Scai said...

Backstrom's play to me was a revelation. Having seen him in the worlds I never thought he would have the season he ended up having. I give him a 10.
The only thing he could get better at is scoring goals and he started doing that with big goals down the stretch (Atlanta) and in the playoffs. Great pick by GMGM.

b80vin said...

He has a solid 9 in my book. His ability to avoid becoming flustered along with his being able to handle centering the best forward in hockey was a revelation. The own goal was not even an issue as it was a fluke. I never expected him to dominate in the circle, a specialized skill that takes some time to master, and that few rookies excel at. Given his age I think he met my expectations there.

Next year he needs to trust his shot, increase his size and toughness, and yes, improve his faceoff work.

bigonetimer said...

I rated him a 9. He is arguably the most exciting prospect at the pivot we have ever had. A true building block for the future, we need to lock him up before the end of next year.

Scott said...

I'll give him a 9. Did he exceed my expectations? Hell yeah. He was a key cog in the run to the playoffs and his flexibility was outstanding. I was very impressed with his ability to play on the wing, as well as center Semin or Ovie.

Only reason I didn't give him a 10 was faceoffs. I didn't expect him to be even as physical as he was this year. The kid is 19...and his name isn't Phaneuf. I still think he needs to put some muscle on, and I agree that it will help him in faceoffs. I guess partly I expect every center to win at least 50% of their draws.

FAUX RUMORS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Backstrom had an excellent season and definitely earned the Calder nomination. However he will probably be the runner up because of Kane's edge in goals.
2) If one recalls Crosby and Ovechkin were neck and neck for the award 2 years ago, but AO got the nod because of his higher goal totals
3) It also should have become apparent (too late for voting) that Backstrom's numbers were NOT inflated because of Ovechkin as he was just as effective (perhaps more so) playing with Semin

jh said...

I gave him a 9. It's easy to grade him a little lower at first because he does things so well, you forget he's practically a teenager. But really the only thing I thought he could've done better was shoot the puck, which he did in the playoffs. Add upper body strength, shoot when given the chance, improve faceoffs and he will be in the top 20 in scoring as soon as next year.

JP said...

Faux -

Crosby and Ovechkin weren't all that neck and neck, really - 124 of 129 voters had Ovechkin at the top of their ballot. That's damn near unanimous.

Tyler said...

Faux(es) seems so authoritative when they use those numbered thingys. The myth of authority: Shattered!

b.orr4 said...

Yeah, JP. Ovie and Crosby were neck and neck like Secretariat was neck and neck with the second place finisher at The Belmont. As to Nik, he gets a ten in my book. I did expect him to be Calder finalist but I had no idea how skilled and poised he would be at just 20 years old. I love his ability to slow the game down to his liking. (Some centers play 20 years and never figure that out) His stickhandling was incredibly smooth and he had very deceptive speed. And then throw in the fact that he was centering the best player in the game and actually made him better. But what really impressed me was his innate ability to go into a scrum and almost always come out with the puck. It got to be so commonplace that when it didn't happen I was shocked. Gretzky used to make a living finding the spot where the puck was going to be and not where it was. Nik has a lot of those same instincts. I think he's going to be a consistent 85-100 point player and a 20-30 goal scorer. He said don't compare him to Forsberg and he's right. Before long he may be better.

bigonetimer said...

While I think Backs has a high ceiling, he's no Peter Forsberg, who is much more of a power forward with a nastier edge. Certainly the playmaking skills rate, but a fairer overall comparison for Backs is to someone like Scott Gomez (who had remarkably similar stats his own rookie year)

grapejoos said...

I went with a 9, and only held off on the 10 because of the possibility that he could have had an Ovie-like debut. He won't win the Calder, but he came very close. By the way, I think the Ovie/Sid comparison is valid, and I expect Kane to get a similar % of first-place votes unless Towes splits the Kane vote. He may be 2nd in the Calder race when all is said and done, but it worked out ok for the Pens with Crosby. There is no doubt that he is/is going to be a stud.

Quite simply, he's the 2nd best rookie the Caps have had in the 14 or so years I've been watching, and I am looking forward to him bulking up, shooting more, and becoming a truly complete player. Sundin/Forsberg comparisons already make sense to me, and they will even moreso next year.

grapejoos said...

I went with a 9, and only held off on the 10 because of the possibility that he could have had an Ovie-like debut. He won't win the Calder, but he came very close. By the way, I think the Ovie/Sid comparison is valid, and I expect Kane to get a similar % of first-place votes unless Towes splits the Kane vote. He may be 2nd in the Calder race when all is said and done, but it worked out ok for the Pens with Crosby. There is no doubt that he is/is going to be a stud.

Quite simply, he's the 2nd best rookie the Caps have had in the 14 or so years I've been watching, and I am looking forward to him bulking up, shooting more, and becoming a truly complete player. Sundin/Forsberg comparisons already make sense to me, and they will even moreso next year.

b.orr4 said...

bigonetimer,
I nevrs aid his game compared to Forsberg, hust that when all is said and done, he may be the better player. Time will tell, but I'm sure glad we got Nik and not Phil Kessel.

b.orr4 said...

and my typing is awful. I shouldn't have had that second glass of wine.

bigonetimer said...

b.orr4: I love your optimism. The sky's the limit for Backstrom if he stays healthy. I would be happy if he were close to being the player Forsberg is--a borderline HOF, imo...

RandyD said...

I gave Backie a 9 on meeting his potential. A quicker start would have made it a 10, or playing more physically. By the end of the season, his style is more Gretzky-like than than Gordie Howe-like. His playmaking has matured. But he still needs to improve his upper body strength to hold onto the puck better and have more ability into high traffic zones. Watching Nicky skate around an incoming check is a thing of beauty, but he will need to add a little more dimension to his game.

Ted said...

Next year we add:

1) strength in his lower legs, similar to Crosby's strength gain after the first year.

2) not always slowing the game down and curling. Sometimes you just got to go like hell and keep the defense honest.

But what do I know

Jimmy Jazz said...

Around July, I think I said that anything above a 60 point season would be a success for Backstrom. He had to adjust to the North American game. He had a less room to play with, but still created some amazing chances.
I give him a nine.

mrsbackstromwannabe said...

My favorite player!!!!!! I totally <3 Nicky. Maybe I'll take a leaf out of Faux's book and use numbers. How do I love thee, Nicklas Backstrom? Let me count the ways:
1. His assists are AmAzInG!
2. He's really cute
3. He works really well with OV, as well as Semin. (I personally think he is better with Semin, and anyone can rock skating with Ovie)
4. He is really good for a 20-yr-old rookie!
5. He is from the same part of Sweden I am from
6. I don't care about Patrick Kane(who looks like a 5th grader, jsut saying) and Jim Toews, because I don't know about you, but I didn't see the Blackhawks in the playoffs-let alone as three seeds- did you? He has a great chance for the Calder.
7. Without Backs, there is no way OV could have scored 65 goals. It only would have been like 50 or so, which would have made a cutback on all those YouTube tributes for Ovie.
8. He plays like Wayne Gretsky!!! :]:]:]:]:]:]
9. Did I already say he's hot?
10. I like that he is breaking the hockey stereotype that you have to rely on your strength to be a good player.
11. He'll get better. Much better. Don't worry.
12. Just forget about the own goal thing OK? It happens. Not his fault, he thought he was clearing it!(Did that count as a goal for him? Like, without that he would have only had 13 goals this season?)
13. I could go on and on. :]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]:]