Mikael Backlund: The Time is Now
Answer: Trevor Kidd, Niklas Sunblad, Cory Stillman, Jesper Mattsson, Chris Dingman, Denis Gauthier, Derek Morris, Daniel Tkaczuk, Rico Fata, Oleg Saprykin, Brent Krahn, Chuck Kobasew, Eric Nystrom, Dion Phaneuf, Kris Chucko, Matt Pelech, Leland Irving, Mikael Backlund, Greg Nemisz, and Tim Erixon.
Question: Name the Calgary Flames first round picks for the last 20 years.
Not many gems on that list are there?
The Flames drafting history has read like a who’s who of overrated fringe players for the better part of two decades. Most likely, casual Flames fans have never heard of Mattson or Sunblad, and why should they, Sunblad played all of two career NHL games, while Mattsson never touched the ice in the NHL.
So, let’s just say that the Swedish experiment never really panned out for the Flames in the early 90’s. It took until 2007 for the Flames to take a shot at another Swede in the first round. That shot was of course, Mikael Backlund. Backlund is undoubtedly the highest profile draft pick the Flames have had in the past while in terms of forwards.
Backlund is being thought of as the centerman this team has always needed. He is smart player who has speed and can pass with the best of them.
He was called up last season near the end of January and finished the season out with the big club. He didn’t play a very prominent role, but still received much needed experience in the NHL. He also was invited to the World Championships last year to play for his native Sweden. All of this has set Backlund up for a coming out party in the 2010-2011 season.
For all of the brutal draft picks the Flames have made, they have been equally as bad at developing prospects that have had or will have some sort of future in the league. Matthew Lombardi, Martin St. Louis (un-drafted signed as FA with Flames), Jean-Sebastian Giguere(Drafted by Hartford but was traded to Calgary in 1997), Dustin Boyd, and Kobasew are just some of the Flames prospects that were never REALLY given the right chance in Calgary to succeed and were subsequently traded away for spare parts. Giguere and St. Louis went on to be prominent parts of Stanley Cup winning teams, while Lombardi just landed a massive contract after having a breakout year in Phoenix.
This is my main worry with Backlund, that he will flounder on the 3rd and 4th line in Calgary and then be traded away and blossom somewhere else.
He has been given ample time to develop in the Flames system and his time is NOW.
And by now, I mean now!
With the recent injury to Matt Stajan and the uncertainty of Daymond Langkows health heading into the season, Backlund is primed to center the 2nd line and should be given extra time on the power play, anchoring the 2nd unit.
My original hope was that Backlund would center the top line with Iggy and Tanguay flanking his wings, but it seems Sutter is set on having the Joker center the top line for now. I would love to see Backlund play with Iggy and Tanguay, and then have Jokinen center a line with Hagman and Bourque. It's better than seeing Backlund play with couple plugs like Ivanans and Chucko(His original linemates to start the pre-season). Iggy and Backlund; think Ovechkin and Backstrom, the Flames version.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating too much but on some level it might be possible, right?
All I ask is for Sutter to give him the chance. This kid is seasoned enough to make a breakthrough in his professional career and this city needs something or someone to inspire hope into this team.