Boston Bruins veteran winger David Backes won’t be in the lineup for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final as head coach Bruce Cassidy decided to go with more speed and reinsert rookie winger Karson Kuhlman back in. In or out though, Backes’ presence, leadership, and grit have finally paid off for Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins during this 2019 Stanley Cup Final and chances are he will still be helping in the leadership department even as a healthy scratch.
Sweeney signed the gritty forward and former captain of the St. Louis Blues Blues back on July 1, 2016 and for most of his tenure here, the B’s GM has been under scrutiny as Backes production declined and the 6’3, 215-pound grinder, failed to produce and struggled to catch up with the ever-increasing speed of the game. However, this past season and more specifically in the playoffs, Backes has become part of the fabric of the Bruins’ leadership core. Clearly his message won’t always resonate as much as those of mainstays, captain Zdeno Chara’s, Patrice Bergeron’s, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, but a being a former captain himself, he has drawn from the past and present to become a key voice in the dressing room, on the bench and on the ice.
“Let me tell you a perfect example of leadership and why I always know this Bruins leadership core is never out of it,” NHL on NBC Between The Glass Analyst Pierre McGuire told ‘Melnick In The Afternoon’ recently. “Think back to Game 4 and Marchand’s losing it on the bench there and Backes pulls him over and calms him down. You can see Marchand buying in because Backes is saying ‘This isn’t how we do it; this is how we’re going to win’ and that just reminded me of Mark Recchi having similar conversations like that in Game 6 of the 2011 Cup Final. I’m not saying Backes is on that level of Mark Recchi, but he’s having similar effects on that bench I can tell you that.”
This is where David Backes is so valuable for the Bruins. Brad Marchand was ticked about the power play sequence and lost his cool. Backes providing veteran leadership on the bench. The things we don’t see. pic.twitter.com/ouv7lO266J
— Brandon Share-Cohen (@BShareCohen) May 30, 2019
Maybe even a greater example of leadership from Backes is how he has handled being a healthy scratch in the playoffs, even after he has come into the lineup and been effective. Backes has two goals and three assists in 15 games played in this 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs season. He did not play in Game 5 as Cassidy decided to dress just 11 forwards and seven defensemen due to Chara playing with a broken jaw. As always, he took it in stride and remained ready to do whatever the team needs.
Each time he’s gone back into the lineup though he’s provided a spark and that same leadership he’s still sharing when he sits.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m here to do whatever it takes to win,” Backes told BostonHockeyNow earlier in the series. “I think each team that has success in the playoffs has a guy that maybe humbles himself into a role that isn’t necessarily what you draw up on paper when your ten years younger on how you’re going to make a deep run in the playoffs. But, if that’s what’s desired of me and needed of me in order to have this success, I’m going to embrace it with open arms; fill my role and try and grab any loose ends that I can see that are floating around and try and tighten those up as well.”
One thing Backes has always done and continues to do is learn and evolve with the game and scenarios he finds himself in as he gets older.
“My first year was guys like Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight, or Bill Guerin and Dallas Drake, or Eric Brewer and I was sitting there going, these are the guys that I watched on Team USA growing up, this is amazing!” Backes recalled. “I was kind of the quiet mouse in the room, absorbing everything that I could. I just listened to those guys and them even talk about the leaders they played with and take it all in.
“I think everyone should want to learn about and from the past in this league. What guys did to succeed and how they found that success, but also to then see where the league’s going and try and jump ahead of the curve a little bit, maybe you get an edge and maybe you’re able to help other guys see where the game’s trending, where it’s been before, if it’s cyclical, if it’s going back towards another direction, or if it’s speed now, maybe it’s going to be size and grit five years from now again. There’s kind of ebbs and flows to that, so if you can learn where you’ve been, sometimes you can tell where you’re going a little better.”