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David Backes: The least publicized great player in the NHL?

When you ask a group average NHL fan about great players, you are likely to hear a few names multiple times. Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, The Sedin Twins, Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, and Tim Thomas would probably come up right now (Well, Weber would for those fans who know Nashville has an NHL Hockey team, but I digress). However, there are many other players that are great, that any team would welcome to their roster with open arms, but are less publicized. Whether they are less publicized for playing in a smaller market (Rick Nash in Columbus, Eric Staal in Carolina), because his team has many players that are talented and they tend to blend together in people’s mind (Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlav/Bobby Ryan in Anaheim) , or any number of reasons, some players don’t seem to get the credit they should.

However, I think David Backes is the one that flies the furthest under the radar, especially after such a unique 2010-11.
On paper, I can understand why Backes is forgotten. He wasn’t a “can’t miss” prospect when he was drafted (The Blues took him 62nd overall in 03). He didn’t play on a playoff team. He plays in a relatively small market in the Western Conference, where less national media attention is given. And while Backes is thought of as a good player, he only got 62 points last year, while is unquestionably a good total, it also just puts him as equals as such names Clarke McArthuer, Patrick Elias, and Ryan Clowe. I wouldn’t rank any of those 3 as “great” NHL players right now. Very good, sure, but there is certainly a leap from that very good to great player, and I can’t in good conscious say any of those 3 can do that. So why would I argue that David Backes is great, while those 3 aren’t?

Well, there are a few things that would lead the argument, number one being David Backes place as a true power forward. Backes is one of the more physical forwards in the NHL, ranking as one of just 13 to accumulate 200 hits last season. He is also one of only one of 5 f to get 30 goals and 150 hits last year, joining the ranks of Ovechkin, Ryan, Morrow, and Lucic. If you want to raise that to 30 goals and 200 hits, Backes still applies, this time only with Ovechin and Morrow as company. If you transfer to points, Backes’s total is 2nd among those with 200 hits (behind Ovechkin, who is the best power forward in the game bar none), and tied for 4th if you go down to 150 behind Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlav, and Bobby Ryan. Case in point is that Backes probably has a claim at being one of the 5 best power forwards in the game, and the vast majority of them certainly have a case at being “great”.

Now where things get more interesting is when you look at David Backes’s +/-. Now, +/- can be a deceiving stat, I will admit. Generally, it favors the good teams, and isn’t the best measure of a forwards defensive abilities in his own zone. But this number is something I’ve found amazing in comparison to his peers, to the point where you have to take a close look at it. David Backes was a +32 last year. That was tied for 2nd in the NHL last year, trailing Zdeno Chara by 1. Chara, who is considered the best defensemen in the NHL, and was the Captain of the team that won the Stanley Cup. Yeah, that guy. Furthermore, while Backes is tied for second, he’s tied with 2 defensemen. Which means he lead all forwards in +/- . Last year. That’s impressive.

Actually, that’s really impressive. Just think about this for a second. David Backes, who played his entire year on a team that finished 11th in the Western Confrence, had a better plus minus than any other forward in the NHL. Daniel Sedin (who had 42 more points than Backes) finished 2nd with a +30. 99 point man Martin St. Louis finished the season even. 50 goal scorer Corey Perry had a +9. The difference there is rather astounding. And furthermore, it takes quite a bit of looking to find the next highest ranked forward on the +/- list to have not played on a team that made the playoffs last year. Next highest is Backes’s teammate Andy McDonald at +18, 14 behind. I’ve tried to find a player who can claim they all led all forwards in +/- over a season while playing his entire season on a team that missed the playoffs, but I couldn’t find one in research in recent history. I can safely say that he’s the first to do it in over a decade, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that time table goes back much farther. That is also quite impressive.

Just to go ahead and tie this into a neat little package, Backes is also the only player I could find that has had a 30 goal, 30 assist, +30, 200 hit season. Ovie has come up close couple times, but has never nailed down all 4. So while it’s hard for me to say he’s the only one to do it in NHL history, I am confident in saying he’s the only on to have done it in the last decade.

I’m not saying Backes is a player at the level of Crosby, Ovechkin, or Weber. But his overall stats sure seem to make him stand out in the crowd. And, in this humble writers opinion, certainly fits the definition of a “great”.

-Daniel Betzel


  1. Backes is the man!

  2. wow. st. louis atually getting some media!

  3. America! Fuk yeah. I truely feel David Backes is the best thing since slavery...was abolished

  4. I agree, David Backes is one of the most underrated players in the league.

  5. El Captain David Inglourius Backes is the FN Man. FK-DA-HAWKS AND FK-DA-WINGS. LETS GO BLUES!