However, his 363rd game at the venue offers a sense of unfamiliarity. It will mark the first time in David Backes’s 11-year career that he plays at Scottrade Center without honing a Blues uniform.
Backes agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins less than an hour into NHL free agency. The move has kept him on par with career standards thus far, as the 2003 draft pick is averaging about .6 points and 18 minutes of ice time per game nearly halfway through a campaign in which Boston is seeking its first playoff birth in three years.
The 32 year-old’s return to St. Louis could prove very emotional, and rightfully so. As the team’s captain from 2011-2016, Backes earned two All-Star selections, represented the USA hockey team in the Olympics and finished within the Top 5 of the Selke Trophy, recognized to a forward who best exemplifies defensive abilities, four times.
Backes continues to display gratitude for his first team since joining Boston, having invited the team to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner before one mid-November game, in which he collected the first goal against his first team.
The Minnesota native also discussed his expectations upon his return to St. Louis in one NBC Sports article and said that there would be “a myriad of emotions of playing your old teammates, seeing old familiar faces, being in old familiar stomping grounds.”.
This ongoing support, paired with a decade of NHL experience in the Gateway City, has fueled several significant moments that helped the Blues reform their identity today.
As recently as last season, Backes played hero with three game-winning playoff goals. Two of these were overtime tallies that gave the Blues their first victories in series the team eventually won against the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars. Backes contributed 14 points and 93 hits en rout to the Blues deepest playoff run of the 21st century.
Since his departure, the Blues scoring tendencies have changed significantly. St. Louis has a -4 goal differential compared to the +23 mark created with grinders such as Backes and Troy Brouwer last season. As a result, the Blues’ corsi factor ratio, which measures the team’s effectiveness in creating shots and scoring opportunities in even-strength play, stands at its lowest mark (51.6%) in seven seasons.
Backes averaged a 52.7 corsi percentage and reached at least 54 percent in two seasons during his time as Blues captain, suggesting he was one of the larger offensive catalysts throughout the team’s stretch of five consecutive playoff births.
Prior to his captaincy, Backes played through arguably St. Louis’s worst stretch in franchise history, one during which the team missed playoffs in five of its first six seasons following the 2004-05 lockout. He prevailed through this era particularly well, collecting at least 90 penalty minutes or 40 points in all but one of these campaigns.
Additionally, Backes developed expertise as a two-way forward playing alongside offensive specialists in the likes of Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya throughout St. Louis’s recession. Eventually,Backes used this experience to produce an increasing number of captain-defining moments.
From scoring a last-second equalizer goal against Boston that prompted his playoff run in 2009 to fighting other captains like Jonathan Toews in high-stake rivalry games, Backes developed a repertoire as a fearless player who could step up in multiple occasions, provide momentum for the team when least expected and more focused on team than individual success.
When reflecting on Backes’s career in St. Louis, the fact that he could not be single- franchise player or deliver a cup may have overshadowed his true impact. It’s difficult to determine if he will be worthy of a retired number or a statue outside of Scottrade, but there’s no denying his efforts opened a period of rejuvenation in contemporary St. Louis hockey culture.