Mikael Backlund. The enigma playing center for the Flames at one point holding the high hopes of fans on his shoulders but lately has few points to back them up disappointing many. The folks over at Match Sticks and Gasoline have long been vocal proponents of Mikael Backlund. Their look at his opportunities vis-a-vis performance concludes that although the point production isn’t there he remains a valuable asset to the team.

Andrew Walker out of Fan 960 posted a blog entry about the short leash Backlund may/should be under given his lack of production. In Walker’s mind scoring from the highly touted prospect is the be all and end all, and although management regards their prospect philosophy much differently than the past, he gives Backlund a year to prove his worth.

Arik from MatchSticks vehemently disagrees.

*EDIT ADD* FlamesNation Kent Wilson provides his usual in-depth analysis complete with analytical context on Backlund here. Good read that lacks the unnecessary vitriol.

Arik writes as if he holds shares in some kind of Backlund fund and plans to go long on his investment. Arik’s attack on Walker’s writing abilities and his gross contempt over Walker’s arguments are unnecessary noise and diminish the brand that generally produces well thought out posts.

But MatchSticks is undeniably right in the assessment on Backlund’s opportunities–he has very few offensive starts and has been pitted against the opposing first lines or relegated to third line duty. I don’t think he’s ever fully made up ground from his month long rehab on a broken finger (erasing any promise he was building on in training camp). You also won’t find him displaying offensive numbers given the situations he plays in.

At the end of the day point production from such a highly touted prospect is the desired. Backlund isn’t a third line plugger or a shut down centerman (blown coverage lead to Anaheim’s first goal). However, neither has he displayed capabilities (or even physical size) to dominant on the first line.

All that to say Backlund has a long way to go before he meets expectations, expectations that should be kept in check when dealing with a young and under-developed player. To suggest he only has a year left before management runs out of patience is laughable. There’s nobody remotely close to Backlund’s ability ready to be promoted from the farm system in the next couple years. We should approach Backlund’s development with a level of patience coupled with tepid expectations for daily improvements. If Flames brass sees improvement, (which we can only assume they do and more which prevent them from making knee jerk decisions to dump young players,) on a regular basis then it’s only a matter of time before Backlund breaks out. Patience is a virtue with your only under 25 forward prospect who’s a RFA and relatively inexpensive.

What’s your take? Is there hope for Backlund? Or has he reached his peak? Should the Flames continue to be patient?