One of the most anticipated announcements with the power to send ripples of excitement through the Calgary Flames’ fan base has finally arrived. The Calgary Flames have named its newest captain: Mikael Backlund. The Flames have played the past two seasons without a captain ever since former captain Mark Giordano was selected for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Instead, they have dressed alternate captains in Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Jonathan Huberdeau, and former Flames Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
Now, heading into the 2023–24, the Flames are once again led by a new face of the franchise. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Backlund opted to re-sign with the Flames on a two-year deal that kicks in at the start of the 2024–25 season with an AAV of $4.5M.
The Flames needed leadership
After nine- and eight-year tenures by former captains Jarome Iginla and Mark Giordano respectively, the first-time captainless Flames went on to win the Pacific Division in 2021–22 with a 50-win season; coupled with a game-seven victory over the Dallas Stars in Round 1 of the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were bounced by the Edmonton Oilers out of the second round, but it was a sign that Treliving and Sutter not rushing to name a captain wasn’t the end of the world.
However, the tides of change brought to them by the summer of 2022 shifted everything. Suddenly the new-look Flames core went from poised to still be contenders to regular season disappointments. A part of the dismal display of hockey was tied to the Flames having a rift between the players versus the coach. A mixed locker room with no unified front was the new reality in Calgary.
Sutter’s firing was the first step in righting the ship and the critical decision on naming the next captain would be necessary to steer the franchise back on course.
Calgary’s newest captain
Many players were worthy candidates and all signs pointed to the Flames starting the new campaign with a captain named. Backlund comes in as both a fan favourite and a vocal player.
Backlund embodies excellence both on and off the ice. He has consistently demonstrated this commitment throughout his career, making him a natural choice for the leadership role. One of Calgary’s best ambassadors through and through. His dedication to the community and charity work showcases the profound impact he has had on the city, and his win of the 2023 King Clancy Memorial Trophy is just another testament to his character.
With Backlund as the captain, the Calgary Flames are signalling their intent to compete at the highest level for the coming years. They committed to keeping him on as captain with a freshly renewed contract. This current core will be with the Flames basically until the end of the decade, and having Backlund as captain for at least the next few years is welcomed.
A home run selection
By and large, naming Backlund captain was the right choice for the players and for the fans. The Flames’ appointment of their new captain is more than just a hockey decision; it’s a declaration of intent. The Flames are looking ahead to a future filled with renewed hope and excitement. The roster all expects that 2022–23 was the outlier year and not the norm.
Therefore, this season in particular represents a refresh to a new era of Flames hockey. The responsibility of a brand new captain during this season will be significant as it will set the tone for the Flames’ regular season expectations and outcomes, whether pending free agents will re-sign or request trades/test the markets, and above all, what the direction of this team really is. Backlund was the right choice all along.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire