Todd Reirden spent four seasons as an assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals’ biggest rival, before coming to DC.
During that time, Reirden says he respected Nicklas Backstrom “a ton” when game-planning for the Swedish center. But Reirden’s admiration went another level when he became his coach.
Reirden made the comments Tuesday to the media when asked why Backstrom does not get more attention for how good of a player he is.
“I think part of it is his personality,” Reirden said. “He stays underneath the radar in terms of seeking out different opportunities whether it’s commercials or publicity. He likes to fly under the radar.”
Then Reirden gave some background from his days with the Penguins.
“I think with Nicklas, I didn’t have any idea that he was this good. I obviously respected him a ton before coming here. Played against him a lot and he was always a focus point to stop when you’re playing the Washington Capitals,” Reirden said. “But he’s even better than I ever, ever thought. The hockey sense and the feel for the game is off the charts. His desire to continue to improve and get better, and how he trained this summer, really showed his desire to make sure our team is where it belongs and that’s playing longer into the summer than we did last year. Nick’s outstanding leader for us as well. Challenges players at the right time and is a great resource as a coach.”
Backstrom, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, can become the first member of the 2006 NHL Draft class to reach 900 points when he scores 27 more points. He’s registered nine career 50-assist seasons and is only the 26th player in NHL history to record six consecutive 50-assist seasons. 23 of those players are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 10, 2019
Over the last five seasons, only Sidney Crosby, who is generally referred to as the greatest player of this generation, has recorded the same amount of assists as Backstrom (275).
No one has done a better job than Sid dishing the puck over the last 5️⃣ years. 🍎🍏 pic.twitter.com/1kY2Rw2nFU
— NHL (@NHL) September 16, 2019
Yet, there still seems to be a disconnect on just how good Backstrom is. The playmaker didn’t make the All-Star Game until 2016, his ninth full season. The NHL Network recently ranked Backstrom the 18th best center in the league right now and the 48th best player overall.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) September 5, 2019
Beyond Reirden and his teammates, Backstrom does have some believers outside of DC after winning a Stanley Cup with Alex Ovechkin in 2018.
Mike Milbury says he believes Nicklas Backstrom will make the Hall of Fame after winning a Stanley Cup
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) March 3, 2019
I’d love to see it.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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