Backstrom 'critical' to Caps' pursuit of another Stanley Cup

Chris Lingebach
January 16, 2020 - 6:41 pm
Backstrom 'critical' to Caps' pursuit of another Stanley Cup

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Washington re-signing Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year contract extension was a welcome surprise to Capitals fans this week.

More importantly, it's "critical for the Caps' success" in their pursuit of another Stanley Cup title, Craig Laughlin told 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny during his weekly appearance, presented by American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning.

"I love it, fellas. I knew it was coming right around the corner," Laughlin said. "I think the fact that they got him wrapped up is critical for the Caps' success. The Caps want to win another Cup. To do that, it's got to be part of the package with Nick Backstrom. I mean up the middle now, more so than wingers and probably more than D in the NHL, power up the middle leads to more success."

"When you have a four-man punch up the middle with Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Eller and Dowd, that's enough strength to win," he said. "Other teams that are looking to win the Cup don't have that type of lineage up the middle and that's why they're not gonna win. That's why when you look at drafts recently, you look at a lot of teams looking for big centers to have big results.

"And to sign Backstrom for five years, to be honest with you, it probably was a hometown discount, because I think on the open market he could have easily got over ($10 million) per year if he wanted to go that route. I'm very happy to have Nick Backstrom for another five seasons here in Washington."

Asked what's made him so special for so long, Laughlin traces Backstrom's NHL success back to his lineage.

"I think that he was born and raised in Sweden could be number one, because Swedish players, historically guys, have been very intelligent, and intelligence in hockey and the so-called 'hockey IQ' are very hard to train and to get better at," Laughlin said. "It's just about you're born with the innate skills of a great player to be like a Nick Backstrom. It's very hard to make great players like Nick Backstrom. That to me is a huge difference."

"He's so cerebral. He's so smart," he continued. "As (Wayne) Gretzky always says, 'Don't go where the puck is, go to where the puck is going.' Well, that's best described for Nick Backstrom. He reads the play, he's got that hockey IQ that you cannot train, and because of that, guys, he's not the fastest guy, he's not the hardest shot guy. He's not any of these things. He's a package made up of smarts when it comes to every skill he possesses, and he's able to utilize that skill package at the right time, put the puck in the right place. Whether it's leading a guy, whether it's passing on the tape, whether it's putting the puck behind somebody; he's one of those very few guys."

"If you look around the NHL among great centers, they all have that trait," he said. "And a lot of the guys coming into the league now are of Swedish descent, are able to have that training over in Sweden. I think Europeans are trained totally different, but we're starting to catch up in North America.

"But that's what separates Nick Backstrom from everybody else, and that's why he's gonna have great longevity in the NHL. And I'm not sure this will be his last contract. He can play the game at any speed he wants, and because of that, he may play till 40 or more."