Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom is making his case as a Hall of Fame player.
Back on Tuesday, the Capitals faced the New Jersey Devils and Backstrom found his way to 50 assists on the season with his helper on Tom Wilson’s second period goal. It’s not a statistic that generated a lot of headlines. At first.
But Backstrom’s 50th assist was the sixth consecutive season that he’s hit the mark, which makes him just the 26th player in NHL history to do so and one of just two active players. The other is Joe Thornton.
Oh, and by the way: of the 26 players to have achieved the feat, 23 of them are in the Hall of Fame. That includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Adam Oates, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and so on.
Throwing Backstrom in that mix doesn’t seem like the most obvious thing, but it’s hard to ignore the consequence of his accomplishments. And with the Capitals having added hockey’s ultimate hardware to their own considerable accomplishments last year, the case for the 31-year-old’s addition among the sport’s greatest players keeps getting stronger.
It’s almost been easy to ignore Backstrom in Washington. He’s been outshone by one of hockey’s all-time greatest scorers so often that his own statistics seem to drift away.
But the Swedish centre has 69 points in 73 games this season, including 18 goals and 51 assists. He’s reached over 100 points once and has only posted fewer than 65 points twice. He’s almost always been a point-per-game player and debuted with a 69-point season in 2007-2008. He’s only finished as minus player twice.
Most people, for right or wrong reasons, hold out on announcing a player’s magnitude until the accomplishment of raising Lord Stanley’s Cup is met. But now that Backstrom has that under his belt and could potentially win more, it’s hard to come up with reasons not to include him among the sport’s best.
Without a doubt, Backstrom is one of the game’s most underrated players. He’s an example of putting in the work, putting up the numbers and getting the job done without the flourish and fanfare.
Backstrom will continue putting up great numbers in his own right and he’ll keep building his case for the Hall of Fame, putting him in line as one of the best players to ever lace the skates.
(Photo credit: Patrick Smith)