Calgary Flames

The case for Mikael Backlund as the Calgary Flames’ next Captain

Throughout our profiles of potential next captains for the Calgary Flames there have been a wealth of candidates that both surprise, and make a ton of sense for the team. MacKenzie Weegar, Jonathan Huberdeau, Rasmus Andersson, Nazem Kadri, and Chris Tanev all fit the bill for what the team could be looking for in its next leader of the franchise.

But there is an elephant player in the room, and one we have avoided talking about because he is simply so obvious that it makes too much sense. 

That of course would be Mikael Backlund.

What makes Backlund an enticing captain candidate

Backlund has done virtually everything in his control during his time with the Flames to be named the next captain of the Flames, without being named the next captain of the Flames. 

Drafted by the team 24th overall in the 2007 NHL draft, he is the longest tenured member of the franchise by a mile now. He has suited up in 908 NHL games, becoming just the third player in franchise history to play in 900 games donning the flaming C. The other two players? The last two captains in team history being Mark Giordano and Jarome Iginla. 

If he plays in just 41 more games for the team, he will tie Giordano for second all time in games played. He also sits in a tie for sixth all time in game winning goals, and tenth all time in assists, records he could pass if he is with the team for much longer.

Backlund is one of the most active players in the Flames community as well, contributing to the ALS Society of Alberta, Kids Cancer Care, Special Olympics Calgary, and Parachutes for Pets. This outstanding service earned him the honour of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy this past June. 

The last few seasons when the team did not have a captain, it was noted by so many players that although he did not have the “C” on his jersey, he was the captain to many. On his 32 Thoughts the Podcast interview, Rasmus Andersson claimed that Backlund was virtually the captain last season but could only do so much not formally holding the role. 

He has been the leader for this team for many seasons now and it’s frankly disrespectful that he was not given the role after Giordano was selected in the expansion draft. Another Darryl Sutter special for everyone.

That being said though, there are two clear things that hold back a potential Backlund captaincy.

First, and most glaring, is that he is a pending UFA set to explore the market in July 2024 barring an extension. Backlund has made it evidently clear that he wants to win, and with his career coming to a close he deserves a shot. That probably won’t be on the Flames, based on the season’s projections, which means he may request a trade to explore that opportunity. You can’t give out the “C” to a player that won’t be here next season. 

Secondly, an argument that has made its way around as of late against a Backlund captaincy is that if Backlund was truly meant to be the next captain – he would have already gotten it. The role isn’t something you can maybe give to someone based on a few factors, it’s something that some players simply earn. Although I do not personally agree with that take, it’s one that people have started to wonder about due to the last few seasons.

Oh captain, my captain

Backlund should have been the captain of this franchise the last two seasons, as well as what will likely be his final season as a member of the Calgary Flames. The fact that he is not wearing the “C” now, is truly disrespectful. It’s not every day a franchise is able to draft, develop, and keep a player for over 900 NHL games in addition to being one of the most engaging players in a community.

It may be too late in the game now for Backund, but there is no denying his place amongst the best Calgary Flames of all time. 

Not naming him captain may be one of the biggest whiffs in franchise history.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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