Bruins' Backes working hard to keep up in younger, quicker NHL

by
Winslow Townson / USA Today Sports

David Backes' first season with the Boston Bruins didn't exactly go as planned.

The veteran power forward averaged only 0.51 points per game with his new club in 2016-17 - his lowest such mark since 2007-08, his first full NHL season.

That was due, in part, to getting settled in Boston after 10 years in St. Louis, as well as finding his spot within the Bruins' lineup. At the same time, the 33-year-old appeared to have lost a step or two in a league that is increasingly emphasizing youth and speed.

As such, Backes - at the behest of team management - is prioritizing quickness, agility, and explosiveness during his summer training, according to Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, rather than focusing on adding bulk or building raw power.

Backes said he was a offered frank evaluation of where his game was lagging, "the way the game's trending, and how we need to keep up," and took the feedback seriously.

"We need to be honest in order to improve ourselves," he said. "That was a recognition, probably in January in conversations with Cam (Neely), Don Sweeney, and a little bit with (former head coach) Claude (Julien). This was the way I needed to improve myself. I've really taken that to heart and put the time in this summer."

The former Blues captain reiterated how tough it was to change teams and conferences last summer, and is excited to enter this year's camp with a clearer mind.

"Looking forward to having a year where I can just play hockey, come to a house that's set up, just move my family and dogs and cats in, start living life, and really be able to focus on playing the game and helping our team win," Backes said. "That's what I'm most optimistic about."

He has four seasons remaining on a contract that carries a $6-million cap hit.