The 60-player roster has been split into two teams.
Coach promises to place greater emphasis on checking.
Blues hold the leverage over their budding young star — and GM Doug Arnstrong will use it.
Hitchcock says it's a chance for the club to look at young players in a key role.
Training camp kicks off with many players back, but Hitchcock says 'full-on competition' is there.
Signing players to contract extensions does not always work out.
Exhibit A: Vincent Lecavalier. After scoring 40 goals and posting 92 points in 2007-08, the Tampa Bay Captain inked an 11-year, $85 million contract extension. Tampa was hoping for another fantastic season from the gifted center. Imagine the disappointment when he scored just 67 points the following season, 70 last season and is now on pace for just under 38 points this season.
Exhibit B: Rick DiPietro. After charging Team USA through the 2006 Olympic Games and playing stellar between the pipes on the Island, newly appointed General Manager Garth Snow signed DiPietro to a 15-year, $67.5 million contract in September of 2006. DiPietro played strong the following season, recording a .919 save percentage in 62 games. He played fairly well the following season, but the contract started looking like a bust soon after. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, DiPietro has played in just 30 NHL games. Injuries have taken over the player’s career not even halfway through his 15-year contract.
David Backes is not looking to be another contract extension punchline.
The Blues’ forward has had a very streaky NHL career thus far. Known primarily as a second-half point-scorer, Backes’ numbers are all over the place. The 26 year old scored 13 goals in his second NHL season and 31 goals the following season. He followed up that career-high with just 17 goals last season.
Despite Backes’ lack of consistency, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong sees Backes as a player that will keep the team moving forward. He signed Backes to a five-year, $22.5 million contract extension in November.
"He's a Blue for the next five years and I'm hoping much past that to end his career here," Armstrong said.
Immediately, Blues fans were throwing red flags at Armstrong. At an average of $4.5 million per season, many people felt that someone who was not technically a proven-thirty goal did not deserve that kind of raise. The fact that Backes had just two goals and four assists in 14 games played to start the season did not help Armstrong’s case either.
But Backes quieted his skeptics as quickly as it took him to sign his contract.
Including the game before he signed the contract, Backes went on a six-game point streak, scoring seven points. On November 30, Backes was a man-possessed with the puck, picking up a goal and three assists in the Blues’ 7-5 loss in Chicago.
Because of his hard-work and determination, the American-born forward has 14 goals on the season, which puts him on pace for 26 by season’s end. He has overtaken the Blues’ point-scoring lead as well, scoring 35 points in 44 games. What’s the most amazing thing about this though? He has produced without top forwards David Perron, Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie in the lineup.
Backes’ efforts are being rewarded by the NHL. He was the lone Blue selected to participate in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.
"It hasn't sunk in that I've been chosen," he said after hearing that he would play in the All-Star Game. "It's a dream come true, obviously."
“I think he understands there's lots of ways he can contribute to our team's success," Blues Coach Davis Payne told Chris Pinkert of stlouisblues.com. "On each given night something different is required. Is it the big hit? Is it the key goal? Is it a timely penalty kill? I think he understands that and he's comfortable providing anything.”
Many words come to mind when Backes is mentioned: Feared. Determined. Strong. Dynamic. Game-changer.
Who would have ever thought that Team MVP would be included in his description?
Slumping after signing his contract extension must never have been a thought in Backes’ mind.