Countdown to Bruins training camp: David Backes


From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: David Backes.
David Backes has two years in the books with the Bruins and the word 'incomplete' leaps to mind. The 34-year-old has missed time in each of the two seasons in Boston, hasn’t been able to reach 20 goals or 40 points in either one, but has also provided the size, strength, toughness and leadership the B's were looking for when they signed him. It would be beneficial for both the team and the player if Backes could avoid the freak injuries or illnesses (diverticulitis, bursa sac surgery) that have plagued him, but that’s part of the deal when you sign an aging free agent who's already logged a lot of heavy NHL miles. 


What Happened Last Year: Backes had some of his best stretches since joining Boston when he was healthy and playing on a third line with Riley Nash and Danton Heinen, and he finished with 14 goals and 33 points in 57 games. He also missed time with surgery for diverticulitis and sat out three games when he was suspended for a hit on Detroit's Frans Nielsen, and had his season ended when he suffered a concussion after a massive hit from J.T. Miller in Game 5 of the second-round series against the Lightning. He's pretty much the only big, strong power forward-type still left in a lineup full of smaller, skilled forwards. The hope is that Backes can be a little healthier, but when you sign a seasoned, grizzled player you’re likely getting them as they’re starting to regress. There was good and bad with Backes last season, but the encouraging thing was he was better in Year Two as a Bruin than he was in Year One. 
Questions To Be Answered This Season: When the Bruins were in the running for John Tavares, there were rumblings that either Backes or David Krejci, or perhaps both, would be on the trade block. That means that, on some level, the Bruins have already thought about life without Backes if they had a better option up front, and his contract is certainly one they'd like to get out of before it becomes problematic. That said, Backes could quiet all that talk if he could stay relatively healthy, post upwards of 20 goals and 40 points and at least be the player that he was during his final year with the Blues. The Bruins don’t have anybody else like Backes in their organization, so it would be difficult to replace his presence even if he’s slowing down a bit and getting injured more often than he did in the past. The only real question is how effectively he can stave off Father Time. 
In Their Words: “Hopefully he is going to be healthy. He went through . . . even he described it as a pretty difficult year. I don’t know if a lot of players are going to play through some of the things David went through [last] year. It speaks to his character. It’s a big reason why we went out and got him . . . His offense comes in spurts, probably moreso than what he used to from a volume standpoint. He’s also playing with younger players at times that’s he’s helping on and off the ice. I think we looked at David Backes as providing balance in our locker room, on the ice and not just from a pure production standpoint. Do I hope he becomes a 20-50 guy again? Yeah, I absolutely do. I don’t know, that’s up to him. He hasn’t the last two years, but at times, if he was healthy, he was trending in that way, but a little bit depends on the usage piece.” -- Don Sweeney, on Backes and what the Bruins are hoping for from him moving forward.  
Overall Outlook: While Backes hasn’t become a top-6 winger like the Bruins might have envisioned, he's brought leadership, toughness and sheer physical size, and plays the game the way Bruins fans expect. The only issue with Backes is, predictably, the level of performance he’ll be able to consistently give as he enters his mid-30s. If he can stay relatively healthy and productive, there’s little doubt he’s going to be a force on a regular basis even if there'll be the occasional night when the skating legs aren’t there during an 82-game season. The things nobody ever doubts with Backes is his heart, his work ethic and his desire to win, and nobody should underestimate those qualities for a veteran player still looking for his first Stanley Cup. 


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