If the loss of St. Louis Blues captain David Backes extends farther than a week or so, the Blues could be in serious trouble. Think about it. Backes scores goals, delivers the big hits, plays two way hockey and is a great leader. If anyone deserves to be captain in this league, Backes is at the top of the list. He lives and breathes authority on the ice every time he touches it and is more nifty with a puck than people give him credit for.
The captain has 16 goals and 14 assists this season and was lost in the Ottawa Senators game on Tuesday night after a collision involving his head. When Blues fans think of head collisions, the mind immediately triggers memories of David Perron and Andy McDonald. The two former Blues lost a heavy load of games due to concussions, and no one is even uttering that word right now around Scottrade Center. Backes’ injury is almost under lockdown order, with the press not officially releasing the heavily feared “C” word in physical sports. We all know what it is. Watch the replay again and try not to grimace. The big guy got clocked and went down hard. He has been ruled out for a week at least. All we know is he can skate with the team but that’s it. If one of the FSN girls bumps into him in the hallway, the guy could be set back a few days probably for all we know.
Now that we know this is a higher than usual body injury, what are the Blues going to do without their leader? Survive of course. What did the Cards do without Yadi Molina in August? They got by and tried to win as many games as possible without their rock. The Rams have surprised people all over the league with their play after the loss of Sam Bradford. The Blues are going to have to dig their feet in and win games on grit and supreme effort.
This a wakeup call to a big Swede named Patrik Berglund, who has TWO goals this season. He doesn’t play good defense, makes lazy attempts at forechecking and wouldn’t be put on a penalty kill if Hitchcock was down to his coaching staff for options. He is taking up space and only playing a decent amount of time because he is part of the original magic group of youth which once included Perron, T.J. Oshie and Erik Johnson. Two of those guys are departed and while T.J. is having a quietly fine year, Bergie hasn’t done anything worth talking about in a positive tone. How long are we going to wait for the player with the size to be great to produce? The clock is ticking towards the trade deadline and it’s time for Berglund to step up. Throw in another ghoulishly disgusting mustache if that’s what it takes.
Chris Stewart was on the same watch as Berglund until a recent surge of goals and pulse activity. Stewart can languish and fight for points like other hollow bodied forwards, but he at least brings a tenacity and two way skill to the game. When in doubt and you aren’t producing points, it’s time to be a little mean out there and Stewie can do that. Both Berglund and Stewart need to step up and at least imitate Backes this weekend. Do something useful or find yourself on the market in two months.
Losing Backes long term would be detrimental to the team. Color it with shiny blue colors and pass the tasty kool aide around but if Backes misses 3 to 6 weeks because of a head injury, you can go ahead and drag this team down to the bottom of the conference. We have 22 wins and are struggling to maintain position in the toughest Western conference in a decade.
When Ryan Reaves went down, that put the team in a decent bind. Reaves makes the other team rethink their line strategy and fear the aggressiveness of Reaves unleashed on the ice on their big guys. He can also dislocate someone’s jaw and score a goal and handle himself on the ice in a hockey sense. He is much more than a goon. Reaves was hard to lose, and it’s nice to see him skating again with the broken hand on then mend(he got that bashing some guy’s face in by the way).
If losing Reaves was tough, taking David Backes from this team would be crippling. Backes is the Blues in one body. Toughness, skill, smarts and fearlessness. You can’t replace that with a trade or a backup option. You can only imitate it for a few games.
Backes used to be the guy who scored 30 plus goals,had some ferocity and was a valuable young player. He has grown into a leader in the community and takes the place at the forefront of this team every time he touches the ice. He takes on the other team’s best, wins faceoffs with ease and has rediscovered his scoring touch after a lost partial season last year.
In comparison, Alex Steen play a great 2 way game and is scoring a ton and making a difference but he isn’t David Backes. He isn’t the heart and soul of this team. The rookies look up to Backes like he is a blend of Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin on ice skates. They would follow him into a nuclear missile strike. Without Backes, the Blues are a frail team leaking oil. Take the engine out of a Dodge Charger and you have the Blues going against Montreal tonight at Scottrade.
This couldn’t happen at a worse time. Vladimir Sobotka is out and Jaden Schwartz is returning after missing a couple games. Reaves is only skating. The Blues have a couple road games against inferior talent on Saturday and Monday but those aren’t sure fire wins. This isn’t the time to slip down the mountain. If you ask for anything this Christmas, ask for a healthy David Backes. With him, we are deadly long term. Sure, we have had an uneven past couple of weeks but with him we are deadly for teams every night. Without him, in addition to the losses of Reaves and Sobotka, we are missing something out there. Something vital.
Be well, Backes, please for the love of Cup Crazy explosive energy on Clark Avenue in June be healthy soon. Your team’s chances depend on your health.
Also, the Blues play the Blackhawks next Saturday and I would love to see Backes kick the crap out of Jonathan Toews again. Some things just don’t get old.
PHOTO CREDIT-sports.yahoo.com, espn.com
Dan Buffa writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, www.doseofbuffa.com. He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease. He also operates and writes for a STL based movie website, film-addict.com. When he isn’t writing, running or drinking coffee vigorously, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City. Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter or reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at email@example.com.