As the regular season begins to draw nigh, day by day, the time has come to predict and begin to take a look at what the Caps and their fans can expect from each player on the roster. Today’s player is young centerman Nicklas Backstrom, who will being his fifth season in the organization this fall.
Recap of Last Season: Backstrom had a bad campaign by his standards last year, dropping off 40 points from his 2009-10 season and setting career lows in games, assists, and points. He was bad all year save about the first month, and though he did suffer a wrist injury in February that knocked him out for a bit and clearly affected him, that’s not excuse for before his injury. He was also downright awful in the playoffs, registering only two points in nine games, both assists, and missing several yawning cages in the process. It’s almost like he was allergic to shooting, and it made no sense. For my full post-season analysis of Backstrom’s 2010-11, click here.
Expectations for this Season: With another long offseason to rest and heal his wrist, Backstrom needs to get back to superstar center status this year. Without a clear #2 center, at the moment, Nicky is the leader and only elite offensive force up the middle and he must play like it; otherwise, the Caps are sunk. It’s really very simple: his talent is undeniable and rare, but he has to find it and use it again. Anything less is a failure.
Playing Time: First line; power play unit A; penalty kill unit B. I, like most, think Backstrom will play most of the season on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble, a role which he will likely fill as top line center for the next nine years. As Washington’s best passer as well, he can obviously be expected to be a first-choice option a man up; his defensive skills are also good enough for him to continue being a penalty killer. He should see a regular shift on the PK.
Projections: 81 GP, 25 G, 65 A, +24 rating, 20:19 ATOI.
The next season preview will feature John Carlson.