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David Backes' Knee On Matt Stajan Not A Good Idea

Intentional or not, the captain's knee on the Calgary forward is symptomatic of a bigger issue.

Derek Leung

Would you like to know why more people aren't complaining about David Backes' ill-advised knee on Matt Stajan than they are about Patrik Berglund's roughing call on Jiri Hudler? Because the Flames didn't score on the ensuing power play. Do circumstances matter? No, the outcome does. Right?

Berglund's penalty on Hudler was not exactly the best timed thing nor was it the brightest idea. Regardless of if Hudler sold it or not (Berglund's hold on him doesn't look solid enough to force him down), you don't put yourself in the position to have something like that called. The goal on the play, and the fact that the Blues lost the game, was being pinned on Berglund. You can argue if that's fair or unfair until the cows come home. For me, the fact that the Blues didn't play the last period in the game made more of a difference. The point here is that this was not a bright play on Berglund's part:


In overtime, an even less intelligent play was made by the captain, David Backes. Allow me to begin this with the statement that "unintentional" or "accidental" does not mean that the play's intelligence level can't be criticized.

Backes' knee-on-knee hit on Matt Stajan wasn't intentional. It's not Dustin Brown levels of obvious. Both intentional and unintentional plays can still have the same outcome; hopefully Stajan wasn't badly injured on the play. Backes' hit, though, stemmed from two things that he does have control over: situational awareness and frustration:

Backes should've seen Stajan there. Stajan cuts into the blue line, but cuts back out soon enough before Backes' hit that it should've been obvious it wasn't going to be an open ice check. You can judge, even at high speeds, when you're coming too close to someone and you're going to clip them, and that's what happened here. No Brown-style ballet moves, just a clip. A perfectly unavoidable clip at full blast. It wasn't intentional, but I'm pretty sure Stajan's knee doesn't care about that.

As Joe put it last night on Twitter, Backes "Hulks out" when he gets angry, when he's frustrated, or when the team's down. He does stupid shit. If you do a Google search for "David Backes cheap hit," you get scads of videos of Backes doing stuff when the Blues are down a goal or two, or after the whistle in a badly played game.

Like this:

Or this:

Or, heck, even this in international play:

Like it or not, Backes has a reputation around the league. We can defend him all that we want to as Blues fans, but if he were on another team, we'd probably hate his guts, and the team that he was on would probably love him as much as we do.

These hits are no better or worse than some of the one that Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott has made a career out of. Ott's hits are about 100% intentional (or stupid, depending on your perspective), give or take a little. Backes' are often thrown in the heat of the moment. Does that make them better? Of course not. You could even argue it makes them worse, because opponents don't know when it's going to happen.

I have said for years, on this site and on others, that the after the whistle stupidity needs to stop for the Blues. I've also said that Backes needs to calm down. When he gets angry, instead of motivating the team, it puts them at a disadvantage. He's lucky Calgary didn't score on the power play last night. He'll be even luckier if Stajan is ok.

Just because most of Backes' hits have not resulted in injury doesn't make it all right that he goes over the edge. He can play on the edge, and he can play with an edge. Both are things that I like in a hockey player and my captain. But crossing that edge, either out of frustration or because you're not paying attention, puts the team at a detriment.

There's a difference situationally between what Backes did last night with Stajan and what he's done before after the whistle or with a crosscheck or whatever. But the outcome is the same, and the cause is the same. Backes is exceedingly lucky no one has been seriously hurt yet (aside from Kent Huskins, but I maintain that was a clean hit with a nasty physical reaction). Frankly, having him out of the line-up due to a suspension would be the biggest detriment to the team that he could cause. I'd appreciate it if he calmed down and started paying closer attention before that happens. We just saw how flat the Blues can be without him - I'd rather not see it again.