This season’s Hart Trophy race has been one of the most unpredictable in recent years. Players like Brad Marchand and Brent Burns are solidifying themselves as elite by exceeding a point per game thus far. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin is having a surprisingly below-average season. However there is another player in Washington who is having a great year, Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom should be in the Hart Trophy conversation.
Nicklas Backstrom Should be in the Hart Trophy Conversation
Backstrom lives in the shadow of Ovechkin, and has since his rookie season in 2007-08. In that time over 200 of Ovi’s goals have featured assists from Backstrom. Earlier this season he accomplished the feat of both 500 assists, and 700 points respectively. He recently hit the 50 assist plateau for the 7th time in his career (becoming the 1st Cap to do so). He is a bonafide stud and is the star player on any team. He just happens to play on a team with one of the 100 greatest players of all time.
Backstrom has been playing second fiddle for his entire career. The league, however, has been failing to notice what he’s done. Isabelle Khurshudyan said it best in her article addressing how underrated Backstrom is when she said, “If McDavid, Crosby and Burns are considered the favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player deemed the NHL’s most valuable, then shouldn’t Backstrom, the top center on the league’s top team, at least be in the conversation?”
Khurshudyan makes a very valid point. With Washington being at the top of the NHL standings and Backstrom being their leading-point man, doesn’t he deserve some recognition? Backstrom has been quietly leading his team, and they are the favourites to win yet another President’s Trophy. He leads the team in points, assists, and power play points. With that knowledge, the league should take a serious look at him for the first time in his career. They overlooked him for the All-Star game which is nothing new to Backstrom, having only played in one in his nine-season career. Backstrom’s play has been nothing less than exceptional, and it’s time he was compensated for his efforts.
Backstrom’s name doesn’t come to your mind when you think of the best players in the NHL. But what names do come to mind? Sidney Crosby? Connor McDavid? Patrick Kane? Maybe even Alex Ovechkin. They are all phenomenal talents, but there’s no reason Backstrom’s name can not be involved in the conversation.
Backstrom currently sits three points behind Sidney Crosby who the league’s fourth leading scorer. He sits five points behind both McDavid, Kane and Marchand who are tied for first place in the NHL. As of this writing, Backstrom is sixth in the league in points. He also sits in 2nd place in assists, behind only McDavid. Backstrom’s tied for 2nd in the league in power play points with 27. Out of all the players just mentioned (and anyone else in the top 10 in points), Backstrom plays the least amount of minutes, logging only 18:14 per game. It is pretty clear to see how well he stacks up to other top tier talent across the league, and why his name should come to mind when you’re thinking of the best players in the NHL.
Backstrom is the definition of silent, but deadly. Everyone thinks Ovi’s shot is unstoppable, but those shots would not occur as often without Backstrom’s ability to dish the puck. He’s carrying a serious contender of a team on his back and it isn’t slowing him down. He is forced to pick up the slack of those around him and he is doing it with no complaints. With multiple point per game seasons under his belt, one would think that he would be recognized as one of the NHL’s best, but that has not been the case– until now. Many people are starting to realize that you can not ignore the sheer talent he possesses. Backstrom has been under the radar for far too long. Those who play in Washington, and fans of the Capitals appreciate what the underrated playmaker has done for them in his career; maybe it is time the NHL recognizes it too.