There are so many ways to describe Mikael Backlund. Since being drafted by the team in 2007, he has garnered many different acumens. The model of consistency. Defensively reliable. Swedish King. The guy who loves fireball shots.
This season, I would describe him as the Flames’ best player. We will dive into Backlund’s numbers, and why he has been so effective through the first half of the 2022–23 season.
Backlund is tops among Flames metrics at 5v5
Note: The following numbers are courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
Backlund currently ranks first on the team in CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and xGF% at even strength, all while rocking a 0.993 PDO. Being first in every category is no small feat, and Backlund is above his teammates by a significant margin.
Comparing Backlund’s totals with that of the Flames average is even more telling:
The Flames are above average in every category, and a 0.984 PDO tells us they should have a little bit more luck go their way in the second half of the season. So, those numbers should increase a bit. But glancing at Backlund’s metrics, which are anywhere from 7–9% higher than the Flames average, is very telling. Astonishing, really.
When Backlund is on the ice, the Flames are outchancing opponents 541 to 335, for a 61.78 CF%. Scoring chances are 255 to 170 in favour of the Flames when Backlund is on the ice, for a 60.02 SCF%. The Flames have 105 high danger chances to the opponents 72 when Backlund is on the ice, for a 59.27 HDCF%. Expected goals are 23.93 to 14.71 when Backlund is on the ice, for a 61.92 xGF%. In essence, they are a much better team with Backlund on the ice, and his 0.993 PDO demonstrates his numbers could increase even more. Phenomenal stuff.
What models are saying about Backlund this season
Evolving-Hockey.com‘s RAPM chart shows how well Backlund is performing. The Expected Goals Against per 60 and Chances Against per 60 ranks among the league’s best. Backlund ranks in the 96th percentile when it comes to defence, which puts him in Selke contention. The Backlund for Selke campaign should begin immediately.
HockeyViz.com tells us a similar story. The even-strength offence is above average at +3%. However, what really stands out is the even-strength defence and penalty kill, sitting at -9% and -3% respectively. For those unfamiliar, you want a player to have a higher positive value in the offensive end, and a higher negative value in the defensive end. A value of -9% in the defensive end at even strength shows us that opponents are having a tough time creating offence when Backlund is on the ice.
HockeyViz helps to demonstrate that the Flames are a better team in the offensive and defensive ends with Backlund on the ice, plain and simple. The offensive value increases from +2% to +12%, while the defensive value increases from +2% to -29%!! That defensive value increase is shocking, and helps to demonstrate just how effective Backlund has been this season.
Everyone who has played with Backlund has benefited this season
It seems like everyone seems to play better when on a line with Mikael Backlund, from Trevor Lewis, to Jonathan Huberdeau, to Adam Ruzicka.
As noted in our summary of games 25 to 32, the most effective forward lines have been the Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli line, and whatever line Mikael Backlund has been on. Seriously.
Not only is Backlund having a very effective season personally, but he is also making players around him better. A sign of a very effective season. Backlund deserves to enter the Selke conversation due to his strong defensive results. It isn’t a far stretch at all to say that Backlund has been the Flames’ best player through the first half of the 2022–23 season
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire