During the first week of the season, all I heard from Blues forums and fan sites that David Backes shouldn't be the Captain of the St. Louis Blues. The reasons caused chuckles, double takes and film reel viewings(okay I just wanted to sound cool, no one actually looks at actual film anymore).
"He falls down too much. He's not fast enough."
"He doesn't score enough goals."
"He is part of the old core and needs to go."
"He likes dogs more than his teammates."
Okay, I made that last one up.
The truth is Backes is the leader this team deserves right now and the one they need first in line. He is the oldest tenured Blues player on this roster. He put on the Blue note sweater back in 2006. In his time since, he has scored 25+ goals five different times, netting 30+ twice.
For me, it's all the stuff he does when he isn't sinking game tying goals in Chicago that complete a 5-2 comeback assault in Chicago on a previously depressing Wednesday that perk my interest.
It's the mentality he takes to the ice. He doesn't care who you are out there. If it comes down to protecting his teammates, he will do whatever it takes. He will Jonathan Toews on his skinny little hairless ass and glare at the Blackhawks bench. He will plant Sidney Crosby into the boards(there's a reason the dude hasn't had any success against St. Louis) and make a snide comment on his mustache. Backes is tough as nails and someone the entire team respects like they have Clint Eastwood in skates sitting with them.
During the offseason, everyone was talking about the idea of trading Backes. Was it time to cut him loose? Send him out into the wasteland to hook up with Sylvester Stallone and kill bad guys with robot heads(sorry, Judge Dredd came on and I still have nightmares). When I was debating it in my head, a good friend and hockey mind named Art Lippo dropped a bit of knowledge on me. "This hasn't been Backes' team yet. Now that Jax is gone, it is his team again." He was right. For the first time in years, the Blues actually belong to #42.
When Ken Hitchcock and his coaches were rearranging the lines recklessly, Backes was told he wouldn't center a first line in 2015-16. He accepted the lesser role without hesitation(well, he thought about shitting in Hitch's office, but decided not to). He did this because he knows whats best for the team is having him work the 2nd line and contribute different minutes for the team.
Does he fall down a lot? Not sure if there is a stat on that. When he brought down Shaw and collided with Brian Elliott Wednesday, it was a play I've seen a million times. You try to take out the guy and prevent a breakaway. He did that in part, while crashing into Ells. Sometimes, hockey gets ugly folks. I guarantee you no one will throw Backes to the floor. If he does like to hit the ice on occasion, he will do it himself.
These are the same people who watched Eric Brewer captain this team for too many years. They actually grow the guts to ridicule Backes even with those painful memories. Come on.
When people complain about Backes not scoring in the postseason, I smirk. He hasn't done much, but neither have many Blues. We aren't there yet. Let's enjoy some winter hockey before we launch into the spring. More will be expected from Backes and maybe, just maybe, he will a little more in the tank in April to unleash some more offense. If not, his reduced role will give guys like Tarasenko a better chance to be inhumanly great.
When I ask people who should replace Backes if they want him stripped of the C so badly, I get weak answers. Alex Pietrangelo isn't ready to take over that mantle. Not yet. Tarasenko is amazing but not a captain. Stastny needs to cement himself in this team for a year or two before he gets a taste. Steen isn't any more worthy than Backes. Kevin Shattenkirk is behind Pietro in line. Backes is the guy the Blues players would vote for right now. In a heartbeat.
He also doesn't mess around with good mojo. A day after #RoarBacon became a new rally cry, he brought Piggy Smalls(yes an actual pig) into the clubhouse for a meet and greet. While he is doing his job on the ice, Backes may have replaced the idiotic Louie off the ice.
To the Backes critics, mount a better case. Is Backes the guy for other NHL teams? Nope. He is the player this young Blues team needs leading the charge. He is also in the last year of a five year, 22 million dollar contract so he is playing for something. He has the incentive of a new contract and that 48 year old Stanley Cup St. Louis desire to push him forward. Just shut up and watch him work. Don't be so damn reliant on goals scored to measure a captain. If that is your one measuring stick, you've obviously never played hockey or really understand the game.
Go Blues! Sorry Jax, but your ass will be thoroughly kicked tonight.