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Michael Fenton The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, April 28, 2015





The REAL Problem in St. Louis: David Backes

I have being trying to find words to summarize the Blues’ first round exit for the past couple of days and the best way to describe it is: lack of leadership.

Everyone thought ‘this is the year’, which has been the mentality of this fan base for the last four seasons. Nonetheless, it’s the third straight campaign where St. Louis hasn’t made it into the Western Conference second round. With so many promising young players on the team, a Central Division title, and a first round match-up with Minnesota Wild, what went wrong?

Most experts and journalists have been quick to point the finger at head coach Ken Hitchcock, something I did before the playoffs when TJ Oshie threw him under the bus. He is a problem and will most likely find himself without a job within the next couple of days or weeks in hopes of finding a coaching solution. However, after watching that playoff series it’s clear to see where the real problem is.

David Backes.

If you look at the three teams who have won the cup the last five seasons they have had captains who exemplified being a leader of a team: Los Angeles with Dustin Brown, Chicago with Jonathan Toews, Boston with Zdeno Chara. All three of those players have all the leadership qualities everyone loves in a captain.

Take a second to picture this in your head; St. Louis Blues captain David Backes lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

You don’t see it do you? Welcome to the club.

Backes Needs to be Stripped of the ‘C’ and Dealt

I don’t know if it’s that no one cares about the Blues in general or that they are just forgotten every year that they lose in the first round. Yet no one looks at David Backes, he just isn’t going to be the guy to lift the cup in St. Louis.

Before I ruffle more feathers, let me say this, Backes is one of the best two-way centres in the entire league. He consistently gives you 25-30 goals, 30 assists, 100 PIMs and all kinds of grit. He’s a lunch box guy that any organization would trade a slew of players to have him a part of their core group. He is always in consideration for the Selke Trophy which recognizes the games best defensive forward. This year he didn’t find himself on the final three but very well could have. He’s a GREAT regular season player.

He just doesn’t have the ability to raise his game when the team needs him the most, in the playoffs.

It’s time to part ways with the ‘leader’ of this team. With one year left on his five-year deal at $4.75 Million it’s hard to imagine 29 other GM’s wouldn’t be calling for his services. Although Backes has a no trade clause in his contract, stripping the captaincy from him would probably give him enough motivation to waive it allowing GM Doug Armstrong to deal him in a trade.

Backes has a no trade clause but after five seasons as captain it's time for a change (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Backes has a NTC but after five seasons as captain it’s time for a change in St. Louis (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

On the other hand, taking away the ‘C’ and having him stay on the team could be an option. But it would most likely turn into a gongshow like Joe Thornton in San Jose. Who would want to go through that?

From a production point of view, in the last three playoff series Backes has played in he has scored two goals and six points in 16 games (Vladimir Tarasenko scored six goals in this series alone). He only had two points in the entire series vs the Wild and they both came in a 6-1 win. Looking at the bigger picture he has five goals and 13 points in 29 career playoff games.

That’s just not good enough for the leader of any team.

With an average of 19:06 TOI per game in he is relied on to shut down the opposing team’s offence, in this case the Zach Parise. Parise finished the series with seven points and scored two goals in-game six to send the Blues home for the summer. The Notes’ captain just didn’t do his job. For some reason Backes doesn’t have that extra gear that every team needs during the playoffs. Will he ever have it?

So many questions without any answers.

The Blues Without Backes

You never know what is going to happen in the off-season, maybe Backes goes maybe he doesn’t and next season he leads the Blues to a Cup. Regardless of potential scenarios the initial analysis is that he choked and so did his team behind him. In my eyes, it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to lead the Blues in the right direction, Backes had his opportunity and he failed. With many young players coming up ready to take on more important roles the void left by Backes can be filled from his trade return or within the organization.

I will leave the last word to Backes from locker clean out day which could be his last at the Scott Trade Center.  He looks tired, worn out, and a captain who isn’t ready to lead a team through what will be a summer of drastic change.


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