Frozen Pool Forensics: David Backes

by Scott Maran on May 6, 2016

This week's Frozen Pool Forensics dives into a down season production-wise for David Backes.

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Entering the second round of the NHL playoffs, the St. Louis Blues had reason to celebrate. It is a well-known fact that the Blues have had extensive playoff trouble, yet this season, they were finally able to advance past the first round, and most importantly, past the Chicago Blackhawks.

However, the Blues are now pitted against a deadly Dallas Stars team and found themselves in an early 1-0 hole, losing the first game of the series. Until this point, captain David Backes had only scored one point in his previous five games, and the Blues were quickly losing steam. But, with a new-found fire sparked in part by Backes, the Blues won their next two matches. Backes did his part with three goals and one assist in his last three games, and now has eight points in 11 playoff games.

With that said, Backes’ playoffs have only told half the story. While he’s been an important part to the playoff run, Backes had one of his worst statistical regular seasons of his career this year. Since he entered the league in the 2006-2007 season, this was only Backes’ fourth season with fewer than 50 points, and first year failing to reach the mark since 2009. So which David Backes can we expect next year?

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

2015-2016

79

21

24

45

0.57

4

83

168

12.5

239

2014-2015

80

26

32

58

0.73

7

104

183

14.2

227

2013-2014

74

27

30

57

0.77

14

119

165

16.4

273

2012-2013

48

6

22

28

0.58

5

62

100

6

158

2011-2012

82

24

30

54

0.66

15

101

234

10.3

226

Throughout fantasy hockey leagues, Backes has always been thought of as one of the best cross-category producers available. And up until this season, he had been. In the five years before this season, Backes scored at least 24 goals and 30 assists in four out of five seasons and steadily ranked high in hits and penalty minutes. In the 2014-2015 season, Backes ranked 14th overall in penalty minutes and 14th overall in hits, while in the 2013-2014 season, Backes had the 17th-most penalty minutes and 3rd-most hits out of all NHL skaters. His only bad season in the past few years was during the lockout-shortened season where he posted 28 points in 48 games.

Yet, this season saw Backes slip in most of the major categories, and overall, disappoint most fantasy owners. With only 21 goals and 24 assists, Backes’ 45 points was tied for 121st overall amongst all NHL skaters. Not to mention, his 83 penalty minutes were only good for 31st in the league. So what changed? Why did Backes do so poorly this year and, more importantly, was how he performed this season what we should expect from him in the future?

One area we can rule out to explain Backes’ sub-par season is his ice-time. By taking a look at Backes’ profile through FrozenPool, we can see his ice time statistics over the past five seasons. This season, Backes was given ice time consistent to what he’s been given throughout his career. Over the last five seasons, Backes has averaged about 19:23 time on ice per game and saw about 19:14 per game this year. Also, his 2:30 ice time per game on the power play and 31% of the team’s short-handed time, were right in line with his averages. If anything, Backes actually saw a slight increase in his powerplay usage. Over the last five seasons, Backes has on average received about 48% of the Blues’ power play ice time. This season, Backes was on for about 55% of the team’s total powerplay ice time.

Season

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2015-2016

2:30

54.5

31.1

19:14

31.5

2014-2015

2:25

47.9

33.8

18:38

30.5

2013-2014

2:39

48.3

32.8

19:33

32

2012-2013

2:14

43.3

33.1

19:37

32.2

2011-2012

2:24

45.9

30.9

19:59

32.8

Average

2:27

48.2

32.2

19:23

31.8

Where we really start to see the issue with Backes’ inability to score this season is in his shooting percentages. Before this year, Backes had previously scored 26 and 27 goals and 58 and 57 points in each of his last two seasons. However, he did this by scoring on 15% of all the shots he took. This year, Backes was only able to convert on 12.5% of his shots, which is exactly equal to his 12.5% career shooting percentage. If Backes ended the previous two seasons with shooting percentages closer to 12%, he would have only scored 22 and 20 goals.

So, even though we’ve seen why Backes had such a poor season, why has he had such success during the playoffs? Backes’ current rate of eight points in 11 games during the playoffs projects to over 60 points over a full 82-game season. However, 11 games are a very small sample size, and it appears that Backes has merely been getting fortunate bounces. In his 11 games, Backes has only taken 13 shots on net, but has seen five of them go past the goalie for an astonishing 38.5 shooting percentage, 5th-highest in the league out of all players to play in the playoffs.

With Backes’ playoff run looking unsustainable and his regular season stats plummeting even though he kept a high amount of ice time, what does this mean for Backes in the future? At the end of the year, Backes will become an unrestricted free agent and it is unlikely he re-signs with the Blues. If Backes were to sign with another team, it would be hard for him to keep consistently getting over 19 minutes of ice time per game, easily creating new problems in the following seasons. If he does get a little luckier shooting wise, he’ll still have to deal with a decreased role and possibly less ice time. In addition, Backes is already 32 years old, so it’s possible that we see him start to naturally decline due to old age. While 32 isn’t too old, for a skater that plays a rough hitting style like Backes, it could cause his play to drop off a lot sooner than the average NHL player.

Backes may be leading the charge into the playoffs for the Blues but I’d use caution when thinking about grabbing him for your fantasy hockey league team next year.

Previous Frozen Pool Forensics:

John Tavares

Reilly Smith