(The Hockey Writers) (Boston Herald)
This past offseason, the Boston Bruins stunned the hockey world when they let 30-goal scoring right winger, Loui Eriksson, walk and signed veteran center, David Backes. Backes, 32, to a 5-year deal with Boston to become their second line right winger; teaming up with Tim Schaller and David Krejci as his linemates. The terms of the agreement with Backes was $30 million over the course of the next 5 years. On the flip side, the Bruins let Loui Eriksson walk. Eriksson, 31, signed a 6-year deal this offseason with the Canucks, worth $36 million. So the Bruins passed on a younger player, because he wanted 1 more year and $6 more million.
Since joining the Bruins, Backes has scored 7 goals and had 9 helpers, whereas Loui Eriksson is trailing him with 6 goals and 8 helpers. And I think it is safe to say that Backes, given his leadership ability as well as his physicality and overall drive to be a pest to opponents, is definitely the better player of the two. However, the Bruins may miss Loui on something really important this year: The power play.
Last year, the Bruins were absolute monsters on the power play for a while. At the end of the end of the season, like in many other facets of their game, they fell apart. However, their 20.5% output was good for 7th in the NHL. All of that had Loui Eriksson right there in the center of it, even if he wasn't scoring. This year, with Backes on one of the two PP units, the Bruins are in 28th in the NHL in terms of power play success at 13.1%. That's just brutal. Let that soak in for a second. The Boston Bruins are 13-99 when they go on the power play this season.
Now I'll set the record straight here. Obviously this isn't all on Backes, as many guys like Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner, and Matt Beleskey (I know Beleskey is hurt now) haven't performed up to par this season. But it's apparent that this team's power play is definitely not the same without Loui Eriksson out there, and it's showing in the numbers.
Now, I think the power play struggles will subside to a point when goal-scoring phenom, Frank Vatrano, returns. But it seems highly unlikely that it'll be enough to threaten their number from last year.
As for the question in the title? Yes. I think the Bruins would've been better off re-signing Eriksson and letting Backes go elsewhere, although I really like the fit of Backes in Black & Gold.