DAVE BACKES: MIKE GILLIS’ R.F.A.

by Ron Spence

You think that Alain Vigneault’s pulling out his hair with Vancouver’s recurring “too many men on the ice” penalties.

Imagine if he had both Shane O’Brien and David Backes on his roster.

They are the NHL’s penalty leaders.

O’Brien has 120 minutes, while Backes has 113 – but has played four fewer games.

The Canucks’ Dman has 6 majors versus the Blues forward’s 5, O’Brien has 30 minutes of minor penalties and Backes 24.

Where Backes tops O’Brien is his 3 game misconducts [the most in the NHL] to Shane’s 1.

It was Backes’ 20 minutes in penalties a week ago – the result of his cross-check on Columbus’ Kristian Huselius – that jumped him into the top 2.

Backes could have been a Canuck, as Mike Gillis made a RFA offer to acquire the power forward last summer – 3 years at $2.5 million per year.

********************************

sportsnet.ca wrote:

ASSETS: “[Backes] Has size, hockey sense, a nose for the net and plenty of grit and determination. Can play both center or wing.”

FLAWS: “Is still a bit raw in all aspects of the game. Needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage in order to become a complete player.”
CAREER POTENTIAL:  “Top six forward.”
*****
The Blues drafted Backes during the second round – 62nd overall – in 2003.
He played at Minnesota State University, Mankato and later in Peoria.
He was called up on December 19, 2006 and assisted on a Doug Weight goal on his first NHL shift. This was against the Pens and his next game – against the Kings – he potted a goal.

When Gillis made his offer last summer, Backes had played two seasons for St. Louis, netting 23 goals and 54 points in 121 NHL games. He had also finished third in the NHL with 3.3 hits per game (LA’s Dustin Brown led the league with 4.0 and Montreal’s Mike Komisarek had 3.6.).

Of his aggressive play, Backes says:

“I think … it will give myself and my teammates more time and that creates more offense, more goals, more wins. It’s part of my game, it’s part of what I’ve tried to establish and it’s one of those things that you can control because it’s really how hard you’re working . . . you can get to those hits and finish them. I’m proud to do it and I’m going to keep doing it this year … I think if you watch a guy like Dustin Brown, he hits like a truck but he’s using those hits to get him more space, intimidate the other team and put 30 goals in the net. Am I going to be able to do that? I hope so. Can I tell you that for sure I’m going to? I don’t think I can make that statement now, but I’m going to do everything in my power to be more productive offensively and make a big contribution to this team.”

Backes is a tough kid and plays according to the code.

“If somebody questions how tough I am or respectful I am,” Backes said. “I’ve got (Hjalmarsson) down and I’m banging the top of his head and I could have thrown a few uppercuts in there. One ref jumps in and I stop and let the kid go. The point was proven. There’s no reason to really feed the guy his lunch, ruin his face … do anything crazy like that.”

Backes played for Team U.S.A. at two World Championships. In 2007 he had 1 goal with 2 assists and 6 penalty minutes in 7 games, and last spring he had 1 assist and 35 penalty minutes in 6 contestss.

Many remember his fight against Finland’s Anssi Salmela.

Vancouver had first tried to acquire Backes via a trade.

“The offer was like a Volkswagen for a Porsche,” said Blues president of hockey operations John Davidson. “It didn’t make any sense at all – not even close to being sensible.”
This was followed by the RFA offer.
“When you have an offer sheet like this,” Davidson said, “it’s more than we thought it would be. But he’s an investment. He’s played 1½ years of good NHL hockey and we expect him to get better. He’s got a paycheck now where he’s no longer just a young player.”
“David is a major part of our youth movement in St. Louis and we expect him to play a huge role…” Davidson continued. “He’s got some experience … he’s a power forward, which are hard to find … and he’s got a physical presence. We’re very motivated to continue going forward with the game plan we have in place and David Backes is an important part for us.”
Backes’ take on Vancouver’s offer? He told Jeremy Rutherford:
“…it’s one of those things where I love the city of St. Louis and I’m set up here. My wife is set up here. She’s going to school now and volunteers at the Stray Rescue of St. Louis shelter. It’s like if you’re offered a raise to move . . . a lot of people take those all the time. It’s one of those things where that’s where the game has become a business and it’s a business decision. Now, I’m fortunate that they matched it and I’ll be here for the next three years. Everything worked out great … It was the last morning of the honeymoon [in Hawaii – when he got the call] and it was a good wedding present. I’d been clued in the night before that there might be a team trying to trade for me and that anything could happen. But to get that call was a surprise . . . I wasn’t expecting it.”
*****
backes625july02courtesy of images.stltoday.com
*****
Nor was Gillis expecting John Davidson’s response.
The Blues’ executive made a RFA offer for Steve Bernier – thus driving up his salary, which Vancouver had to match and pay.
Gillis’ comment? “Quid pro quo is what it is. We were aggressive and they’ve been aggressive … We had been made aware it was coming and they knew we were going to match it right away….”
The two executives were playing the same game – off ice – as Backes and O’ Brien: Don’t back down and take no prisoners.
And both were penalized with higher salaries.
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2 responses to “DAVE BACKES: MIKE GILLIS’ R.F.A.

  1. I can see why Gillis tried to get this guy. Perfect blend of smafrts, character and skill.

  2. The more that I read about the kid, the more I am impressed by his intelligence. He knows what he has to do to stay in the league.
    I think that he is a Scott Mellanby – who lives in St. Louis – referral.

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