Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Flames Preview: Mikael Backlund Autographed Card

(team and product links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: Unlike in the distant past where I would post different texts on this collectibles blog and my personal one, I've been using a new format for the past couple of years, where I'll copy the same text on each one. As a father of two young kids, I just do not have enough time to write two separate posts per day on each blog. This year again, the entire scope of the analysis will take place first and the featured player will have a direct or perhaps indirect connection to what's written, below.

Caveats: At this point, despite training camp being set to start in a week, several players haven't found a team yet and a few clubs are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

Key exits: Tyler Toffoli (RW), Milan Lucic (LW), Troy Stetcher (D), Michael Stone (D), Nick Ritchie (LW), Trevor Lewis (C), Dryden Hunt (RW), and Matthew Phillips (C).

Key Arrivals: Yegor Sherangovich (C), Jordan Oesterle (D), xxx (C/LW), xxx (C), xxx (LW), xxx (D), xxx (G)

Top prospects: Jakob Pelletier (LW, 22 years old, point-per-game player in the AHL, 26th-overall pick in 2019), Dustin Wolf (G, 22 years old, .932 save percentage in the AHL), Matt Coronato (RW, 20 years old, 13th-overall pick in 2021, point-per-game player in the NCAA), and Connor Zary (C, 22 years old, 24th pick in the 2020 draft).

The Calgary Flames are a riddle in a question in quicksand in a parallel universe in a different timeline trying to prentend they were of this worls all along. They are everything you ever thought and its exact opposite. They are a two-year-old having hissy fits in need of a new downtown arena.

What makes their odds look good:
Three-quarters of this team won its division two seasons ago, and although two 100-point players left that team, they were replaced by another division winner in Jonathan Huberdeau and Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri. This is a much better team than what transpired last season.

Question marks: Previous GM Brad Treliving left because the Darryl Sutter problem was getting too big - both men were eventually replaced by their direct underling. Will that really be enough to chance the team's culture? Will that really get Huberdeau back to his All-Star level, or incite Elias Lindholm to re-sign?

This team is too good and too deep to not make the playoffs two years in a row regardless of circumstance, and with a goalie like Jacob Markstrom, once in there, they could make a serious dent into many experts' prognoses.

Fourth in the Pacific Division.

With news that he had been signed to a two-year contract extension, Flames utility forward Mikael Backlund was named the team's 21st captain - and first since Mark Giordano's exit at the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Backlund is a cerebral two-way centre who can chip in offensively, able to replace on the first two lines at a whim but at this point in his career ideally situated in the 3C role where he can shut down opposing teams' top lines and pad his stats up when playing againt middle-of-the-lineup players.

After missing the playoffs by two points last season, his end-of-season presser was steeped in disappointment, and he let float the idea that he might leave as a free agent next summer or perhaps even ask for a trade, as it seemed the drama surrounding the team had put too much weight on him, but he seems to view the new admninistration in a positive light, enough to warrant sticking around for a couple of extra seasons at least and give it an honest chance. His staying means the Flames don't have to go through a rebuild regardless of Lindholm's status and that the team can contend for a playoff spot (and likely get in).

Here he is wearing the Flames' white Reebok-designed uniform on card #178 from the 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee set, manufactured under license by Upper Deck, always a favoutite of mine to get signed:
He signed it in thick black sharpie after a game against the Montréal Canadiens, probably that same year.

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