Like it or not Bruins fans, the Boston Bruins are likely stuck with David Backes until at the very least, next summer when the team could decide to buy him out of what will then be the final season of the five-year $30 million contract he signed back on July 1, 2016. Considering the situation and the fact the Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now, it may be a good idea to accept Backes situation for what it is. Doing so will be much easier if you embrace what Backes has brought and can still bring, leadership, work ethic and the odd clutch goal here and there.
The likelihood of finding a dance partner in a trade involving a $6 million cap hit on a player that is oft-concussed, just returned from what was believed to be another concussion that kept him out since November 2 is slim to none. However, while Backes may have minimal value to 30 other NHL clubs right now, what he means in this Bruins dressing room can’t always be measured in monetary terms and definitely not with the analytics that teams use to determine a player’s value and essentially contracts.
Need proof of that, go back and watch how excited not just Backes teammates on the ice were for him when he scored his first goal of the season in his first game since November 2, but also the entire Bruins bench. To put frosting on the cake for what was just simply a feel-good moment, Backes powerplay goal at 10:29 of the third period proved to be the game-winner in another Bruins comeback and 3-1 win over the hated Montreal Canadiens Sunday night.
“He’s a very lovable guy,” teammate Jake DeBrusk – who scored the team’s third goal in the win – told NESN rinkside reporter Sophia Jurksztowicz after the win Sunday night. “Obviously coming back from an injury’s not easy and especially an injury like that. I know a little bit. …thing or two about that, so to see him get back on the ice and playing and just have him be vocal on the bench, is something that’s underrated. Not a lot of people know that unless you’re inside the room and obviously to see him score, just really happy for him, he deserved it.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 2, 2019
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy – who had the unpleasant and very difficult experience of having to sit Backes in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last June – was also ecstatic for the embattled 35-year-old veteran, who was being bashed by fans and media alike on social media from the opening faceoff until he scored the game-winner in the third period.
“We’re happy it worked out tonight. Happy for him,” Cassidy said. “Listen, he’s been working hard to get back in the lineup, we didn’t know what he’d have to be honest with you, he hadn’t played in a while. I thought he gave us some good energy, had a couple of looks, was banging bodies and his pace seemed fine.”
Cassidy decided to slot Backes into Patrice Bergeron’s bumper spot on the powerplay Sunday night and the move paid off.
“Yeah, he went in the bumper there in the past when ‘Bergy’s’ [Bergeron] been out,” Cassidy pointed out. “We had, years ago, it was Riley Nash. He went in for a while then he got, you know. Backes, when he actually got that gash in his leg, I think up in Tampa it was, he was playing in the bumper. So he’s been there before, at times.”
Maybe Backes will serve as a viable option in the bumper until Bergeron (lower-body) returns or even after the Bruins top center comes back, during games on the second powerplay unit should the Bruins need to change things up during a game. Maybe he won’t. One thing is for sure though, it won’t be for lack of effort, hard work, and preparation. Backes brings that to work every day and it’s what earned him this ‘really cool’ moment – as he described it after the game – only weeks after contemplating retirement.
“Scoring a goal in the NHL is cool,” Backes said after the win Sunday. “To have some adversity to fight through it; to put hard work into, to be back in the lineup and have that opportunity, and to make good on it, is really cool! To have that micro-storyline to say ‘Two weeks ago I wasn’t even skating and didn’t really know if I was done for my career and to go through the steps I went through to get a clean bill of health and to press back to play and have that moment, it was special.”
If you’re a sports fan, how can you not be moved by that moment and his pure elation and love of the game shown in his postgame scrum?
Obviously, the Bruins are where they are right now because of the play of players like the league’s leading goal scorer, David Pastrnak; Brad Marchand, who leads them in points; Charlie Coyle, who’s versatility has proven invaluable thus far this season; the best goaltending tandem in the NHL in Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak, and so much more. However, as Backes pointed out Sunday night, they got to within one game of the Promised Land last season because they truly are a team.
“It’s an awesome group of guys. The best group of guys,” Backes said of the Bruins. “What we were able to do last year and get to Game 7 of a final was no fluke because we genuinely care about each other.”
His teammates genuinely care about and respect Backes as a part of the team’s leadership core. Is making him a cap casualty truly worth it for the Bruins, if the move doesn’t immediately enable them to acquire what they feel would be the final piece to get that one more win next June? The read here is an emphatic no and it’s time Bruins fans and some local media get over the busted contract and embrace Backes the way his teammates have.