Nicklas Backstrom is still going strong. Much like his long time and legendary teammate Alex Ovechkin, Backstrom is still putting up points despite the increasing number that is his age. That is something you will hear a lot about when talking about the Washington Capitals. Age.
When you look at the current Capitals roster there is only three skaters who are under the age of twenty-eight. There is also only six skaters who are under thirty. Then of course you have to talk about the goaltenders who are both young, Ilya Samsonov being 24, Vanecek is 25.
Age is a concern when talking about this franchise. The most important players on this side are on the wrong side of thirty, and the key guys are quickly approaching, if not already on the wrong side of thirty-five. The decline for those players is right around the corner whether we like it or not.
When we talk Nicklas Backstrom however I think we might be able to hold off on that for at least a couple of more seasons. Backstrom will be turning thirty-four early this coming season, that number pretty much meaning you are out of your prime seasons. It would not be surprising if you saw a players numbers starting to decline at this age.
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That could very well be the case for Nicklas Backstrom as well. Then again, if you were to force me to bet on it, I would say, hold off on the Backstrom decline. At least for the next couple of seasons.
Last season Backstrom put up 53 points in 55 games played. If you were to give him a full season, on the point pace he was on he would have registered around 78 points in 81 games. That would have been his highest point total since the 2016-17 season where he was over a point per game at 86 points. That also would have been only the fifth time in his fourteen year career he hit at least 78 points.
So, while getting older, Backstrom still had a very good season at age thirty-three. There were even large portions of the season, especially early where Backstrom was clearly the best player on this team.
Time keeps going, ages keep going up, but Backstrom hasn’t started to feel it yet. Or if he has, he hasn’t shown it. The decline hasn’t begun yet, and if I had to guess when it might start, I don’t think it will start in the next couple of seasons.
The main reason I believe the decline will be delayed for number nineteen is his hockey smarts.
There is another guy who I have watched a ton over the last decade plus who reminds me of Backstrom a bit. Joe Pavelski, now of the Dallas Stars. Their overall games are different of course, Backstrom clearly a pass first playmaker, Pavelski more of a two way and goal scorer type.
Physically is where the similarities become more apparent to me. Neither guy is the biggest, Backstrom a little bigger, but still fairly average size. Neither guy has had blazing speed, again, both about average. Skating maybe the bigger issue there. When you get older, you get slower, and the question then becomes, can you keep up?
Joe Pavelski, at age thirty-six, kept up just fine. Last season he scored 25 goals and 51 points in the entire 56 game season. Give him the full 82 games and in his mid to late thirties Pavelski was on pace for 36 goals and 74 points. While not the biggest guy, while never having the scary speed and with those legs getting more and more miles on them, Joe is still contributing now well past his prime years.
The reason he can do this is because he is a very smart hockey player. Nicklas Backstrom is also a very smart hockey player. While father time is coming for him like everybody else, and the decline will come. Thanks to his smarts I believe he will be able to continue to put up good stats for the next two to three seasons still, just like Joe Pavelski did or has done in Dallas.