The Key Stat: Backstrom played just 47 of the team’s 82 games this season, hindered by a lingering hip injury that delayed the start to his 2021-22 campaign. That accounts for just 57% of the total games - the first time he’s been below 88% since a concussion kept him out for about half the year back in 2011-12.
The Good: Despite missing a significant portion of the season, and having no training camp ahead of it, Backstrom actually did a decent job of keeping up the offense. His production was off a little from his career rates, but he still managed 1.8 assists per 60 - just slightly below his rate for the last few seasons, and really the bulk of his career, which is around 2.0-2.2 assists/60.
Along the way, he picked up career point #1000, becoming the 40th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points with one franchise, with 737 assists in that total - the sixth-most assists through a player’s first 1000 points in NHL history. He also became the fifth player to record 1000 points since his NHL debut back in 2007, and the second in franchise history (joining pal Ovechkin), with the most assists and second-most power-play points over that span, and was the first of his draft class to hit the 1000-point mark.
He also maintained his elite status on the power play (and was probably one of the keys to it returning to form in the second part of the season and in the playoffs). 14 of his 31 points were earned with the extra man, and he had a shots-attempted percentage of 76.7, a career high - meaning that on the power play, over 76% of his shots got through to the net.
Backstrom also stepped up his offensive game in the playoffs, his six points in six games tied with Alex Ovechkin for second on the team (trailing only Oshie’s seven). Four of those six points were picked up at even strength, as well, a nice change from his regular-season output.
The Bad: Despite that small run of even-strength offense in the postseason, the power play was unfortunately really the only place where Backstrom was effective anywhere close to the level we’re used to, from the start of the season through the team’s elimination in the first round. It was clear that at even strength, Backstrom simply wasn’t able to keep up with the flow of the game more often than not - and coach Peter Laviolette probably took this into account, giving Backstrom his highest rate of offensive-zone starts at 61.5% as a way to put the center in as beneficial a situation as possible.
Backstrom’s never been a goal-scorer, but his .4 goals/60 was the lowest of his career (although it didn’t help his final goal total of six that his shooting percentage also dipped to a career low of under 9%). And while he was given all of those offensive-zone starts, it wasn’t too helpful if Backstrom couldn’t keep possession of the puck, and that was tougher with his faceoff prowess (or lack thereof). Backstrom’s faceoff percentage of 46.4% was the lowest of his career since his rookie season (46.3%), and was also his fourth-consecutive sub-50% rate after being about 50% in seven of the previous eight seasons.
What a night.
The Discussion: As talk shifts to the options facing Backstrom this offseason, what role do you see him playing when he returns - in other words, is he still a top-six player going forward or does he need to take on a more reduced, specialized role? Who is Backstrom’s heir apparent up the middle (or do you think that option is not in the organization yet)? And finally, what would it take for you to give Backstrom a 10 next season?
The Vote: Rate Nicklas Backstrom below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
How do you rate Nicklas Backstrom’s 2021-22 season?
This poll is closed