Marcus Johansson: “I’m not worried about that, I think I’ll continue to play there”

Marcus Johansson is currently a restricted free agent (RFA), and earlier this summer Johansson and his agent chose to file for a player elected arbitration. In most cases the teams and players come to an agreement before the arbitration hearing. But when they don’t, things can sometimes get ugly like when Mike Millbury, then the general manager of the New York Islanders, made Tommy Salo cry during an arbitration hearing.

Hopefully it won’t come to that during Marcus Johansson’s hearing, if they indeed get that far. According to the Washington Post the hearing will probably happen: “Several sources that have indicated that both sides are trending toward a hearing”. Reached via email recently, Johansson’s agent Marc Levine wrote, “Nothing to comment on at this point other than we continue to prepare for the arbitration hearing.” The arbitration hearing is set to take place on July 29.

Marcus Johansson is spending his summer in his old hometown of Karlstad, Sweden, the city where he played for Färjestad from age 16 until he left for the NHL in 2010. When speaking with Värmlands Folkblad, Johansson said that he couldn’t reveal much about the negotiation between the two sides and he didn’t seem concerned at all about not getting a new contract in order.

Marcus Johansson in Karlstad. Photo Credit: Håkan Strandman, vf.se

Marcus Johansson in Karlstad. Photo Credit: Håkan Strandman, vf.se

“I’m not worried about that, I think I will continue to play there. My focus right now is on training hard and getting myself prepared, for I know I will be playing. We will just have to wait for everything to be dealt with and finalized. It’s all part of the normal process and I have people over there that are doing the things they are supposed to be doing.”

The Washington Capitals have about $10.3 million in cap space left to sign goaltender Braden Holtby, who is also scheduled for an arbitration hearing soon, and Marcus Johansson. Holtby is asking for $8 million, and the team is offering $5.1 million, per Alex Prewitt. Meanwhile, Marcus Johansson is asking for $4 million plus, and the team wants to keep him closer to $3 million, per Prewitt again, via Sportsnet.

I should point out that at the time Värmlands Folkblad interviewed Johansson, Holtby was thought to be asking for $1.5 million less than the $8 million figure that surfaced today.

Marcus Johansson also discussed the 14 game long playoff run against the Islanders and the Rangers, and describes the series against the Islanders as a [old school viking style] holmgång. Additionally he reveals to Värmlands Folkblad that he was playing through an injury in the playoffs.

“It was damn hard and I got into some small injury problems early in the playoffs and that made it hard for me to perform at a maximum level. But at the same time, that teaches you to just put your head down and play through it anyway.”

He didn’t specify when exactly the injury occurred, but one possibility is this collision with Cal Clutterbuck in game three against the Islanders.

“I’ve never been part of a series with that much hitting before, and it wasn’t just the usual suspects that were throwing their bodies around. It was a real holmgång, hockey at its best.”

It was quite the different story playing against the Rangers. ”It wasn’t as tough. The main focus there was on controlling play and puck possession. It was night and day, really.”

Marcus Johansson felt that the Capitals were the better team in the Rangers series. “It was hard. We had the lead 1-0 in game five, and had already won 3 games but then they tied the game and managed to win it. We should have won then and I think we were the better team all through out.”

Winning is everything to Johansson. ”There’s no other goal. It’s the final and winning is all it’s about. We weren’t satisfied at all with last season but we are heading in the right direction.”

Johansson commented on Barry Trotz’s importance to the team. “It’s been good. This time it felt like the fresh start was real, it was exactly what we needed and it had effect. Even if we didn’t win, we showed that we are on the right track.”

Marcus Johansson taking part in Karlstad Open with Oscar Klefbom, Magnus Nygren, Jonas Brodin- Photo Credit: Håkan Strandman, vf.se

Marcus Johansson taking part in Karlstad Open with Oscar Klefbom, Magnus Nygren, Jonas Brodin- Photo Credit: Håkan Strandman, vf.se

Johansson discussed putting down roots in Karlstad. “I’ve built a house here now, so it feels like this is a real home base, something to come home to plain and simple. When you are gone for 8-9 months a year, it feels good to have a steady place to come back home to when you are not working.”

Publicerat i news, translations | Märkt , | 4 kommentarer

Nicklas Bäckström: “Of course I’m hoping that I will be ready for the start of the season”

Nicklas Bäckström did an interview with Swedish radio station Sverigesradio. The interview was published on July 18th. My translation of the first part of the conversation is below.  

When you get home for the summer, the main thing is to spend time with family and friends that you don’t get the opportunity to see during the season. Training takes a lot of time as well. I’m trying to enjoy the Swedish summer, not that it’s easy on a day like this when the weather is bad. But at least we had some nice days earlier in the summer. I like to sit down for a cozy barbecue dinner and just hang out and talk with family and friends. I have a daughter now and it’s great to watch her grow and develop every day.

How much do you train during the summer? Could you take a couple of weeks off after the season had ended?

I usually take about 14 days off, but since I underwent surgery after the season ended, I had to rest a bit longer than that this year. In a normal year I like to get things going pretty soon after the season has ended. The training gets more ramped up as the further into the summer you get, and later on I go on ice as well. Personally I like to start my training for the upcoming season almost right away after the previous season has ended.

Nicklas Bäckström rehabbing while talking to Gefle IF's trainer Johan Holmström. Photo Credit: Magnus Hägerborn, Gefle Dagblad.

Nicklas Bäckström rehabbing while talking to Gefle IF’s trainer Johan Holmström. Photo Credit: Magnus Hägerborn, Gefle Dagblad.

What type of injury did you have that required surgery?

It was a hip injury that I had the surgery on and I felt it was time to do something about it. I can’t say that I’ve been tortured by it, what can I say? I have felt it during the season and wanted to get rid of it.

So you had it for the entire year?

Since sometime in November. I didn’t really feel it when I was playing because during games you have other things to think about (laughs).

It sure sounds serious. You obviously don’t undergo surgery for kicks and giggles.

It’s been a cause for concern and I wanted to take care of it, so that I did.

So you are not fully recovered yet then?

No, it’s going to take some more time. We will just have to wait and see how things go exactly, but of course I’m hoping that I will be ready for the start of the season.

When you are home in Gävle, like you are right now, are you getting a lot of attention from people wanting to get autographs?
Heh. It’s pretty calm on that front. I think people in Gävle are pretty used to me being here so it’s not really a thing, and I’m maybe not the guy that’s out on the town very much either, so..

What’s your hometown now, as you see it?

My hometown will always be Gävle, and Valbo since that’s where I’m from. But at the same time, I spend most of my time in Washington and that’s where I live for at least 10 months of the year. In the beginning when I got over there it didn’t feel like home but you grow into it gradually, and I have to see it as my home now. Gävle will always be home for me since that’s where I spend my summers and that’s where I’m from and where I grow up.

You are good at hockey but where you good at any other sports growing up before you chose to focus on hockey?

I played a lot of floor hockey, soccer, golf and tennis. I was pretty decent at floor hockey and golf. I don’t know, but I think I have some ball sense, so maybe that’s why. I like to do a other sports than just hockey, it’s fun.

Do you think you could have been as good as you are at hockey in any other sport?

I don’t know, it’s hard to say but if I were to start over from scratch I would want to see how good I could get at golf.

It’s not too late. You can pick it up after your hockey career is over.

Yeah, you never know. Maybe I could try to qualify for the senior tour (laughs).

How old were you when you started focus only on hockey?

I think I was fourteen. That’s when I moved from Valbo to Brynäs and that’s when I decided that I would do hockey full time, in the summers as well.

Nowadays kids might have to start focusing only on hockey as early as seven to nine years old. What do you think about that?

I think It’s deplorable. I think it’s good that they can try out different types of sports so they figure out what feels good. Besides, who can really look at a nine year old kid and see that he will be good at seventeen or eighteen?

No one can do that. I personally believe that you should try out as many sports as you can and want so that you can figure out what you like. Also, it’s good that they get to go outside and get moving. It’s great.

Nicklas Bäckström playing for Brynäs. photo credit: Jan Düsing, expressen.se

Nicklas Bäckström playing for Brynäs. photo credit: Jan Düsing, expressen.se

You really like to workout and practice.

Absolutely. I always had in the back of my head that the way you practice is the way you play, and I think there is a lot to that. Maybe things are a little different when we have a lot of games in a short time frame. Maybe then you have to hold back on the training and practice and focus more on recovery. But when you do have a couple of days between games, I think it’s important to have good practices and by practices I mean on ice sessions.

With the amount of games you play how much time do you really have to practice?

Yes, sometimes it’s at least four games a week. At the beginning of the season, the practices tend to run longer. During the season, especially at the end, they tend to get shorter. It gets more important to think about getting enough recovery time in since the body gets beaten down playing that many games.

It’s a delicate balance that you have to strike, really. All coaches are different and they also have to talk to the players to figure out where the players are at and how much treatment they need. There’s a lot of things to consider. A normal practice usually lasts 45-60 minutes. At the end of the season it’s more like 30 minutes.

Can the play suffer and decline when the practice time gets cut in the second half of the season?

Yes and no. For some players, they feel better when they can go out on the ice and feel the puck so they don’t lose their feeling. Other players need to rest to be able to focus, so that they can perform at their top level. I would say that it varies a lot from individual to individual.

Which type are you?

I’m both. Sometimes when things aren’t quite working, I like to go on ice to try to get the feeling back. But other times when your body feels totally spent, it might be better to rest.

Next season will be your ninth season in the NHL. Is it pretty much the same or have a lot of things changed in the league?

I would say that the league is faster now. I thought the tempo was high when I first got over there but it’s even faster now, especially in the playoffs. That’s when you really see how much it changes from the regular season to the playoffs. The speed in the playoffs is so damn fast.

Also, when I first came over, there were a lot of fighters in the league. Every team used to have one player that was a fighter and that’s not the case any more. Maybe you can say that it’s a more skilled league now.

Is it more fun to play in the league now when the game is played with more speed?

Yes, it’s awesome. That we play on a smaller ice surface makes it go even faster, that in turn makes it an even bigger challenge, and I really enjoy that. I think it’s more fun for the fans, too.

Is it more fun to play on the smaller rink than on the European sized rink?

Absolutely. Smaller ice surface, greater challenge and more entertainment for the fans. You can suddenly get a scoring chance from nowhere, one little mistake is all it takes.

Since the European ice surfaces are bigger, the distance to the goals is bigger too. You don’t get the dangerous chances as you get on the smaller ice. So I personally think that it’s much more fun to play on the smaller rink.

I would have thought that for a player like you, that sees the ice as well as you do, would have preferred to play on the bigger ice sheet, you would have more ice to “show off” on.

Yeah, but it’s more ice to cover as well (laughs).

In part two of the conversion Bäckström talks about having a leadership role on the team, who his best friend on the team is, and who’s the best player he has played with, among other things.

Read more about Bäckström’s rehab training here.

NoVa Caps fans has also written about the same Bäckström interview. You can read their take here.

Posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog  

Nicklas Bäckström is rehab training back home in Sweden

Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury:  “I’ve been in pain since November”

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer?

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part II )

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like  (part 1)

Nicklas Bäckström: ”Alex needs to do some of the dirty work” 

Publicerat i news, translations | Märkt , , | 6 kommentarer

Nicklas Bäckström is rehab training back home in Sweden

Nicklas Bäckström is back home in Gävle, Sweden for the summer. Gefle Dagblad’s Magnus Hägerborn stopped by the training facility where Bäckström and some other NHL players such as Calle Järnkrok, Elias Lindholm, Anders Lindbäck, William Karlsson and Jacob Markström are preparing for the upcoming season. It is not a normal summer of training for Bäckström, though, because this year he is forced to focus solely on rehab training after having a surgical procedure on his hip.

Here’s a recap of the injury situation:

In late May Nicklas Bäckström underwent arthroscopic hip surgery. The Washington Capitals said the day after the surgery, “We are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015-16 regular season.”

A little over two weeks later, Bäckström gave an interview to Gefle Dagblad where he said, “I’ve been in pain since sometime in November so we had to fix it. It’s hard to say how long it will take for me to come back. It varies from individual to individual, but five months is a time frame I have heard. Right now my main focus is to get back the mobility in my hip again.”

Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post at the GM meeting in late June, “I think his hip surgery went well. He’ll be close to starting the year, it looks like…I know [from] talking to the trainer and the doctor that everything’s gone well, they expect the rehab to go well. It’s hard for me to predict. Optimistically, I’d say I’m hoping he’s coming back for training camp.”

During his talk at the National Press Club, Barry Trotz said that the team is exploring adding another center and that the injury wasn’t a problem until about February when they had to start monitoring the situation more closely. (click here to get the full quote from Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post).

Earlier in the week when Trotz was on the radio on “Elliot in the Morning”, he expressed some concern that Bäckström would get behind conditioning-wise since he is only allowed to do rehab training.

With that in mind, it is nice to see video of Bäckström working up a sweat on stationary bike at the multisport facility called Korpen Gävle Strand. Just like last summer when Bäckström worked out at the same facility in the crossfit section, it is not the most luxurious part of the facility. It is small and crowded. But it is still where a handful of Swedish, mostly Gävle based, NHL players choose to train.

“I like the environment and it feels good to be here,” Bäckström told Gefle Dagblad.

“It definitely makes the training easier when you know you have people to buzz with later,” said Jacob Markström.

Anders Lindbäck started the trend of working out at Korpen Gävle Strand. The other players who followed Lindbäck train a lot together but Bäckström can not join them this year. Instead he works out alone, going through his rehab exercises from the trainers in Washington.

Nicklas Bäckström rehabbing while talking to Gefle IF's trainer Johan Holmström.  Photo Credit: Magnus Hägerborn, Gefle Dagblad.

Nicklas Bäckström rehabbing while talking to Gefle IF’s trainer Johan Holmström. Photo Credit: Magnus Hägerborn, Gefle Dagblad.

”It’s back to basics that is the thing right now. Working with machines is almost dead now. People have realized that this is the most natural and efficient way to train. Even if the hockey guys are not doing pure CrossFit, it’s the feeling they are after,” said Johan Holmström, the trainer for the local soccer team, Gefle IF, that practices at the facility.

More posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog

Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury:  “I’ve been in pain since November.”

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer? 

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part II )

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part I)

Nicklas Bäckström: ”Alex needs to do some of the dirty work” 

Publicerat i news, translations | Märkt | 4 kommentarer

André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part II)

André Burakovsky is back home in Malmö, Sweden. Recently he sat down in the Burakovsky’s outdoor room with local blogger Johan Svensson, a.k.a. MrMadHawk, and had a lengthy chat. The video was  first published in Kvällsposten. If you missed part one of the conversation, here’s a link to part l.  My translation of part ll of the conversation is below.  

It’s tough to come down there, knowing that you have been scratched from the NHL. The only thing you can do at that point is to prove that you belong, and I did play really good down there.

The coach in Hershey gave me a lot of praise. I got right back up after two AHL games. It continued going so-so in the NHL. In Hershey I could relax but in the NHL I couldn’t relax and focus on playing my own game. It took some time to come back but eventually I did, I scored some more goals. It was going up and down like that for me all the time. I was down in Hershey again for maybe six games?

Burra and Liam O'Brien in Hershey.

Burra and Liam O’Brien in Hershey.

I absolutely didn’t want to do that but I just had to push through it. I talked a lot with Jacob de la Rose about his time in the AHL and he felt the same way, that it’s not where you want to be. So it wasn’t exactly fun but we talked a lot about it. [Ed.note: Burra and de la Rose played together on the Swedish junior national team. de la Rose was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2013, 11 picks behind Burra, and he also spent time both in the NHL and AHL this past season.]

Jacob de la Rose and André Burakovsky celbrating midsummer together in Leksand, Sweden.

Jacob de la Rose and André Burakovsky celbrating midsummer together in Leksand, Sweden.

I did actually play well down in Hershey and the next time I got called up, I continued to play good and then the playoffs started, and I think I had really, really good playoffs and Barry told me as much in the meetings after the season had ended, that he was really impressed by my play in the playoffs.

Do you have any lingering bitterness since you didn’t get go to the World Juniors and then still ended up not playing in the Winter Classic?

Of course I would have loved to play for Sweden at World Juniors, there’s no debating that. I love playing for my country, and it’s fun to get back to playing with everyone I know in my age group. It would also have been fun to compare yourself against the players you been playing with through the years to see how much I had developed compared to them. I wanted to go but at the same time I wanted to play in the Winter Classic and be part of the whole experience in Washington, since that is such an unique thing.

He [Trotz] told me the day before the game that I wouldn’t be on the ice for the Winter Classic and that obviously wasn’t fun at all. He said that he wanted to give the veteran players an opportunity to play since it was their last chance, and that I would get many more chances at playing in games like that, so that was one of the reasons. So it was just for me to hop on the bike and watch the game on TV. It was still fun to take warmups and to skate out in front of all those people. It was an experience.

You had a magic game against the Rangers in the playoffs.

Yeah, that was a pretty great night. It felt good against the Islanders too, when I got in after 2-3 games. I did well and created a lot on my own, made a lot of great passes, and Barry saw that, too, and he increased my ice time up to sixteen minutes. So I could tell he had faith in me.

About that game against the Rangers, I had felt good all series so far and I created lots of chances even before my first goal, but I couldn’t finish. But then I took the puck from Kreider along the boards, I cut to the middle of the ice and I had in the back of my head that in the pre-scouting they had said that the Rangers are leaving the middle of the ice open. I saw that Brouwer was open but I thought I’m free in the slot, I should just shoot and it went in.

It was pretty cool to score my first playoff goal in an important situation and to get to do it on Lunkan [Henrik Lundqvist] too, someone that I always looked up to him, too, since I was little and he played for Frölunda.

andre-burakovsky-goal

In the second period, Brouwer kicks the puck to me and I got an almost one on one with the goalie from the side. I just to cut to the inside while protecting the puck and get off a backhand shot. I hit it good and it goes post in. It was amazing to score a game winning goal in a playoff game.

andre-burakovsky-goal1 22

But then you lost the series against the Rangers.

We were a minute and a half from making it to the next round in game five, I think, so it was pretty rough. The margins are very slim. It stings especially because we had a real good team and things felt good against both the Islanders and the Rangers.

We really felt that we could have beaten any team. But the Rangers really came to play in those final two games and Lunkan was standing on his head. So did our goalie but Lunkan was great and it was hard to get anything past him.

It feels like the Caps really have a bright future ahead of them though.

Absolutely. We have many good players, our defenders look strong and John Carlson has really taken some enormously big steps forward. He is one of our leading players. Also, Brooks Orpik with all his experience and he has won everything you can win. He’s a real good player and a leader in the locker room, too, and that you can add Niskanen to that. I think we look real strong on defense.

On the forward side, we have four units that really work and our fourth line is great. I think it’s top five in the league as far as ranking fourth lines goes. They are really good at grinding down opposing teams. The first line with Ovechkin and Bäckström has always worked. Our power play is real solid so we really have a base that we can build on to get far in the NHL next season.

You are going into that important second year this upcoming season. How do you feel about that?

Now I know how things work after I have tried it out for a year, I can build on that. What’s more important is that I focus on my summer workouts. We are working hard at getting me to gain some weight so I get heavier and stronger. Then I need to deliver at camp as well.

We had a good talk about how Barry views my role on the team next year and I feel excited about going into my second year.

How big are you today?

Ehh?

I mean how much do you weigh?

I’m 187 centimeters tall, almost 188 (6’2″), and I weigh 92 kilos (203 lbs). So I’m a bit heavier than in my Malmö days. I’m a bit bigger and stronger. Everything is going up and that’s important.

 

That’s pretty tall and your dad isn’t exactly tall.

 

Yeah, he’s like 166 centimeters (5’5″) or something. He’s really short, I really have no idea where I got it from since no one in my family is especially tall. It looks like I got all of it.

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo Credit: Sydsvenskan

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo Credit: Sydsvenskan

 

How much do you think being tall works is an advantage in the NHL?   

 

I don’t know, If you look at someone like [Martin] St. Louis, he’s not tall and he’s still one of the best in the league. There’s a lot of small guys that still are very strong and that can hold you off, so I don’t know how much it really matters. But I like to be taller, I think it has some advantages to it. But the smaller players in the league are still very skilled and good.

 

You turned 20 this year so you have every opportunity to become a great NHL player.  How big do you think you can get in the NHL?

 

My goal is to have a long career in the NHL and play until you can’t play anymore. Well maybe not quite as long my dad but…

 

Is he finally done playing now?

 

I hope so but I’m not sure. [Ed.note: Robert Burakovsky is 48 years old and played for a local Malmö team called Limhamn last season and is very well traveled hockey player, to say the least]. But I’m hoping that I can play in the NHL until I’m 35 or 37. That’s the goal.

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo via blogg.vf.se

André och Robert Burakovsky. Photo via blogg.vf.se

 

There’s a lot of wear and tear during a NHL season but I’m assuming that you stay at nice hotels and travel well.    

 

Yes, we always stay at the best hotels and have our own plane that only we use, and there are only first class seats on it. We travel well and the service is top-notch.

It’s amazing that you can have it that good but of course we play a lot of games, practice a lot and that does wear on your body. That’s why it’s important to really take care of your body and don’t cut corners.

It’s important to always stretch and to go in and receive treatments. I feel like I always have to sit in an ice bath after every practice and game, that way I keep my legs fresh for when it really matters. We have amazing doctors and masseurs that are around the team that help us 24/7 if needed. Recovery and getting help with recovery is really important, that you get the help you need.

[Ed.Note. It’s interesting to compare Burakovsky’s view on what type of help the team is providing for their players with what Evgeny Kuznetsov’ had to say on the subject two weeks ago to the Russian radio station 93.2 SportsFM, via RMNB: “Recovery process and medicine are at a different level, although it seems that is at a higher level in the KHL. In Russia you get a lot of help with recovery, but in the NHL you have to solve that problem by yourself. You have to find a masseur by yourself. We try to visit a sauna and a masseur after a game. That is very important after hard games. If you don’t pay enough attention to recovery, the fatigue will accumulate. You have to pay attention to your health. If you don’t take care of it yourself, nobody is going to help you.” (Click through to read all of Igor Kleyner’s excellent translation over at RMNB. )

When I first read Kuznetsov’s comment, I figured it had to do with him being a rookie. From a Nicklas Bäckström translation I did last year:

Q: “With the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, sometimes I think that some of the rookies think that everything is so easy and that they are the center of the universe.
How often do you come across kids that maybe need to be taken down a notch?
It happens, and I think that young players often…not that I’m that old…

Q: But you are not that young either.
I’m in the middle.
Anyway, it feels like the players that get drafted get talked up by media, and things like that and they feel great hearing that, of course. It’s on the older players on the team to make sure that things are done the right way, that they get started at the bottom and work their way up. When I got over here as a nineteen year old, I remember Olie Kolzig and the other older players on the team were very firm in making sure that the unwritten rules for rookies were followed.
Q: Like what?
Well, you are not lying on the massage table during your first year. You have to go outside the rink for that.
Q: Pick up the pucks at practice.
Pick up pucks, always standing at the back of the food line, always making sure that everyone else has their plates full before you take food for yourself.”

It’s odd that two players in a similar situation can feel so differently about something, unless Kuznetsov was “playing it up” or maybe I should say ”playing it down” for a Russian media outlet.

Anyway, let’s get back to Burra in Malmö, shall we.]

Do you see the World Cup in 2016 as potential goal even though you just made your NHL debut?

Absolutely. I’m not satisfied by just making the NHL, I want to continue to take steps forward. I want to be a leading player in Washington, to be a top player there. I also want to make Tre Kronor and be a good, established player there.

Elias Lindholm and Filip Forsberg have already taken that step and played well with Tre Kronor at Worlds, so maybe it’s not all that far away?

Yeah, absolutely not. I got an email from Mårts [Pär Mårts, the Swedish National team coach] and they came over to watch us play. They showed some interest which is great, obviously. Foppa [Filip Forsberg] and Elias are one year older and they have made their debuts now and I’m hoping to do the same soon.

How good are the players born in 1995 compared to the players born in 1994? Both Jacob de la Rose and Lucas Wallmark [Wallmark was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round in 2014] have signed NHL contracts.

I think it’s particularly great that Wallmark has signed, he is an amazing player and one of the smartest players I have played with. It was so great when de la Rose got his shot to play with Montreal. I talked a lot with him during the season and we helped each other. I think the 1995 crop is good and the 1994 group are amazing with players such as Hampus Lindholm, Elias Lindholm and Forsberg.

Playing with the national team can be problematic for you since you are wearing number 65. How are you planning on fixing that?

I think Erik just has to move over…Haha, I’m only kidding. I’m the kid so I probably have to change my number.

You played with #18 with the national team before so maybe you can go back to that when Erik has stolen your number.

Yeah, I would consider wearing 18.

How long are you planning on staying home in Malmö?

I haven’t really decided. I know I’m going over to Washington in September but I’m not sure if it’s early in the month or in the middle. I also talked with Tom Wilson from the team about visiting with each other. I don’t know if I’m going over to see him or if we are taking a trip somewhere together. But me and Tom have plans to do things together.

Is he your best friend on the team?

Yeah, we live together, too. He is one year older than me so we get along great and hang out 24/7, so we are real good friends.

The other Swedes are a few years older than you?

I hang out with them all the time, too, and we get along great. The three of us have so much fun together. I lived with Bäckström for a while before I was supposed to find a place of my own. With Mackan and me, it’s almost like we are brothers. We make fun of each other all the time. It’s always a great time when the three of us get together.

So is it Bäckström that is the dad then?

Bäckström is the dad and Mackan is the big brother.

Tell me more about how it is to train in a group with other former Malmö players under the supervision of Bullen [Jonas Morin]?

The training is great but we are not really training much as a group. Some of them wanted to train with Morin because they saw how much progress I made training under him. We train separately for the most part, except for when we run uphill and when we do kickboxing.

When I work alone with Jonas, what’s so great about it is that he is up close and personal all the time so it’s really hard to make any mistakes, and when I do make mistakes he is there to correct any mistakes I do right away.

Are you planning on going on ice with Malmö [the hockey team] this year?

I hope so, that they will allow me to get on ice with them. It will help me to get ready for camp.

How important is it to be ready once the camp starts?

It’s important. You don’t want to come over unprepared and look like Bambi on ice. It always feels good to be prepared.

You realize that you can become a great Malmö athlete, with both Zlatan and Therese Sjögran retiring soon. It’s time for hockey to get a king in town after all those soccer players.

I definitely think so. Soccer has been dominating Malmö long enough so I think it’s time for hockey to take over. We have a lot of hockey players that already are very good but maybe don’t get as much attention as they deserve. I hope I can become a Malmö great.

Posts about André Burakovsky on the blog:

André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part I) 

Burra being Burra  

Burra in the beginning 

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André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part l )

André Burakovsky is back home in Malmö, Sweden. Recently he sat down and had a lengthy chat with local blogger Johan Svensson, a.k.a. MrMadHawk. The video was  first published in Kvällsposten. My translation of part l of the conversation is below.   

You have been home for a few weeks now. What have you been doing since you got back home?

Nothing special. After I had been home for three or four days I felt like I wanted to get going and start training with my trainer Jonas Morin. This will be the third year I’m working with him now, we work great together. I wanted to get going right away since I already had some days off back in Washington. Until now, we have been doing two sessions a day. We haven’t increased the hours but the intensity level and toughness. That’s about it, other than training, I have been playing some golf with friends and been hanging out with them and my family.

 

Tell me about going over and playing for the Erie Otters.

It was a tough to decide if I should play one more year in Malmö or go for a new challenge in Canada. It was a lot of back and forth but in conjunction with Washington we decided that it would be good for me to learn the Canadian/American way of playing. If I learned that I could make it to the NHL faster. It was a tough decision but I think it was the right one if you look at how fast I got to be playing in the NHL.

 

I got over to Erie and thought things felt good during the training camp, but even in the first few games I thought it was hard to fully get the hang of the new type of play. I didn’t think I played well at all during the first two games. I felt right away, what am I doing here?

I want to go back home.

I talked to my agent and we agreed  that I should just go on and that it’s tough in the beginning. In my third game things felt better and I scored my first goal, and in the fourth game I had five points. Overall I thought the season went great and I had some luck with the points. I had many points and learned the game quickly.

I took that with me into the next season and I played well at Washington’s camp, too. I did well there and had something like eight points in the three games at camp, and when the real camp got going I thought that went real well too.

The pre-season games with Washington were more of the same, things just kept on rolling. I had points in two of them, I think. I talked a lot to the coach and he told me that I had a shot at making the team. That gave me another spark, like, shit I’m close. I just left everything out there and went for it.

I got to play in the first game and and had some luck and scored in my second shift of the game. It was damn fun and to get to play in the first game too. To be part of the player introduction, that’s something I have never done before and it was the biggest experience of my life, to have 20,000 people standing up and roaring. It was very cool.

André Burakovsky in Malmö. Photo Credit: Johan Svensson.

André Burakovsky in Malmö. Photo Credit: Johan Svensson.

How was it to play with Connor McDavid?

He is an amazing hockey player. Every time we are out on a road trip everyone knows who he is.

When we go to a restaurant, the owner always knows who he is and wants his autograph. Even despite being that young, he is huge in Canada.

 

We played together for half the season and we played good together. Things in Erie worked like this: the top players were me, Connor McDavid, Connor Brown and Dane Fox. At first he wanted to play McDavid, Brown and Fox together because he felt that I could manage on my own, that I didn’t really need a super star to play with.

They played well for awhile but when things stopped working, me and McDavid were put together and we played really well. I think we had two points almost every game. We continued that way almost all the way to the playoffs but then things got changed around some.

It’s  really fun to play with him and we are great friends today, we talk a lot and I think that we learned a lot from each other. We pushed each other, we stayed on after practices. We know that we were the top players on the team and we always tried to be better than the other guy, but in a positive way since we also tried to help each other. We stayed after practice and tried to improve our shot and our technique. We pushed each other and I thought it was good for us both to be in the same culture.

 

Do you think that after your career is over you will say that McDavid is the best player you have played with?

 

I really hope so. He’s an amazing player, humble and a good person. He was one of my best friends in Erie that I hung out with in my spare time too. I hope that he will become that best hockey player in the world one day. Of course the goal is that I will become that but I really hope that he goes all the way.

 

You had what most be described as a magical debut with Washington.

 

I could hardly believe it was true that I was about to play my first NHL game. It’s been a dream of mine since I learned how to walk. Once I got there and I was nervous. I couldn’t relax and was shaking a bit in locker room before the game and in warmups. But once the puck was dropped I think things felt good.

 

In my first shift I took the puck from an opponent in the corner in our D-zone. Eller was on me, I played past him, got tripped and drew a penalty. I passed to Marcus Johansson or Troy Brouwer and got the puck back again and I shot the puck on goal. He made the save but it was a real good start.

After the game my dad told me that after that shift, I knew you were feeling it. In my second shift, I was chasing Subban behind the net, I stressed him out a bit and he just got rid of the puck and it hit Brouwer’s stick, he got the puck to me and I one-timed  it and it goes in. I didn’t know what to do with myself, or what really happened. It’s one of the greatest things I ever experienced to score my first NHL goal.

 

It was just a few years ago you got moved up from the junior team to the men’s team in Sweden, and now you are talking about taking the puck from Subban.

I remember the coach of the men’s team calling me while I was with the under 20 team, and I couldn’t believe that when it happened either. Shit, I’m getting to play with the A-team! But now it has gone so little time, maybe two years since that time. Time has just been flying by and things have been moving up for me all the time and I hope it continues that way.

But things didn’t go smoothly for you all the time, you were sent down to the AHL. Did they have a clear plan for you through all that?

Yes, absolutely. I had great communication with the coach, Barry Trotz. He told me that for the first year as a rookie it’s all about learning. He’s been working in the league for many years, so for me it was all about listening to him.

He’s a really wise man that is always right. He often told me to focus on learning when I wasn’t dressed for the game. That I should see it as an opportunity to study Bäckström and observe the way he played. And that I would see things in another perspective from the stands than from the bench, to see things from above. And I really did learn a lot from that.

The first 10-15 games went great for me and he often told me that during the first games in the NHL you are so jacked up, going on adrenaline and are just so happy to be there. But then when you realize that you are trying to take someone else’s spot, and wanting to be there all the time, it’s then things might slow down.

And that did happen to me to some degree, after the first 10-15 games, things did start to go downhill. I didn’t recognize myself, I wasn’t as quick on my skates as I usually am. I lost the puck and my puck technique was off. I messed up at the wrong spots on the ice, at places where you are not allowed to do that, and we got punished for it.

But throughout all that I still had a good communication with Trotz. He told me those things were normal for a first year player and that I should focus on how you are supposed to play and try to fix your mistakes. After I haven’t played for five games, he told me that I would be sent down to Hershey to get some playing time.

Here’s part two.

Posts about André Burakovsky on the blog

André Burakovsky talks about his first two years in North America (Part ll )

Burra Being Burra

Burra in the Beginning 

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Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury: “I’ve been in pain since November”

As I wrote about a little more than two weeks ago, Nicklas Bäckström was scheduled for and underwent hip surgery. He has now recovered well enough from the surgery to fly home to Sweden for the summer. He spoke about his hip injury and the long rehab that lies ahead for the first time when he sat down with Erik Illerhag from his hometown paper Gefle Dagblad earlier this week, although the article wasn’t published until Sunday. My translation is below.

He’s walking with a slight limp over the parking lot in front of the arena that is named after him, NickBack Arena. After just recently returning from the US, the first thing on the docket is to award a scholarship to Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö from his old school Sofiedal. (Ed.Note: Bäckström has given out scholarships in his name to two talented young athletes per year since 2010.)

 

The question is what’s bigger, to be rewarded for their school work and success in their sport, or to meet Nicklas Bäckström?

Fredrik Wieser, a 15 year old that plays for Valbo, Bäckström’s old club, wiggles around a bit and looks to be taken by the moment. Amanda Wärsjö, a 16 year old floor hockey player, says that she at least knows who Bäckis is.

Nicklas Bäckström with scholarship recipients Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö. Photo Credit: Erik Illerhag, gd.se.

Nicklas Bäckström with scholarship recipients Fredrik Wieser and Amanda Wärjö. Photo Credit: Erik Illerhag, gd.se.

They talk for awhile and after that we sit down on the stairs to the arena for a chat. Nicklas Bäckström can look back at another NHL season and it is easy to forget that he is still just 27 years old when you look at everything he has done so far.

This winter he passed the 500 point mark and was the NHL assist leader. He can now say that he is the all time assist leader for the Washington Capitals.

“Time flies. I’ve been over there for eight seasons now and it feels like I arrived yesterday. It’s fun to be part of the team’s history, but to me it’s just more of a bonus. I haven’t exactly been skating around thinking ”now I will break this record”. As long as I haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet I can’t be satisfied,” he says calmly.

Is it frustrating?

“Yes, it’s a little bit frustrating. It’s an incredibly tough road to get there, but with a little bit of luck it can be done. The margins are so small and there’s a bigger difference between the teams in Sweden than there is in the NHL. The last couple of years, Chicago and LA have been dominant. They have a hell of a mentality in their teams and they have tons of experience. I think that really makes a big difference.”

How often do you think about the Stanley Cup?

“I’m not thinking about it every day but there is just one goal in my head and that’s winning the Stanley Cup.”

 

This year Washington reached the second round before they were bounced in game seven, and that is despite leading the series 3-1 at one point.

 

“It was really rough. You were left with a feeling of complete emptiness and just couldn’t believe what had happened. We thought we had a team that could go far and we were in a good position to win game five in OT. But then we lost the game, and after that we lost two more.”

 

It was the third time in four years that Washington lost in a game seven to the Rangers, and the team has strangely enough not made it past the second round of the playoffs in the Alexander Ovechkin/Nicklas Bäckström era.

Their contracts last to 2020 and 2021, respectively, and they will most likely continue to produce points for many more years. But Barry Trotz, the coach that took over this past year, will probably try to find a steady third player for their line.

“It really varied over the year. I think we had nine different players next to us this season. But I don’t think it’s that easy for the people that get paired with us either. Maybe next year they will have to flip a coin to decide who will get to play there,” Bäckis said, laughing.

Trotz did tighten up the defense, and that makes Nicklas Bäckström hopeful.

“We have had issues with our defense before and we have been pretty easy to read as a team because of that. But this year it was much improved.”

As per usual this time of year things are pretty turbulent.

“I think it’s about 10 players that are without a contract at the moment, so it’s hard to say how things will look next season. That’s the hard part with having a cap, not being able to fit everyone under the ceiling.”

Nicklas Bäckström played all 82 regular season games, but was still forced to undergo hip surgery after the season ended, a procedure that took place two weeks ago. As usual in the hockey world, they try to keep injuries and surgeries a secret, but it’s clear that Bäckström’s summer will be filled with rehab training in the gym.

“I’ve been in pain since sometime in November so we had to fix it. It’s hard to say how long it will take for me to come back. It varies from individual to individual, but five months is a time frame I have heard. Right now my main focus is to get back the mobility in my hip again.”

You have been able to avoid injuries for the most part so far in your career, right?

“Yes, it’s been alright, I think. I have a pretty kind style of playing and spend a lot time in middle of the ice as a center.”

 

Nicklas Bäckström will be spending the summer in his house just outside of Gävle, with girlfriend Liza and their one year and eight months old daughter Haley.

Does she understand what her dad is doing?

“Yes, she says hockey to daddy so at least she understands that I play hockey. She is usually just around for the afternoon games, since the other games end too late for her.”

 

When Nicklas Bäckström goes back to the team in September, Brynäs D-man Christian Djoos will probably already be in town trying to make the team. Bäckis thinks and hopes that he will succeed.

Posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer?

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part II )

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like  (part 1)

Nicklas Bäckström: ”Alex needs to do some of the dirty work” 

Publicerat i news, Nyheter | Märkt , , , , , | 7 kommentarer

Report: Nicklas Bäckström to have hip surgery this summer? Update: Bäckström underwent arthroscopic hip surgery on Wednesday

On Tuesday, May 26th, Nicklas Bäckström played golf at Congressional country club in Bethesda, Maryland. One of the other golfers he played with that day was Chris Cassaday. Cassady goes by @ccassaday on Instagram. He posted a picture of himself and Bäckström on the golf course. In conversation with another Instagram user, Cassaday said that Bäckström told him he would be having hip surgery this summer (see screencaps below.).

26 Maj 2015 5

ccassaday85 på Instagram   Played golf with Nicklas Backstrom today. I played god awful. But he s a stand up dude and was awesome to hang out with. Thanks nick.  caps  dcsports

27 Maj 2015

Of course it is possible that there were a misunderstanding in the communication between Cassaday and Bäckström. I posted this report so that it can be confirmed or debunked by people with better access to inside information from the Washington Capitals organization. Personally I would be thrilled to learn that there was a misunderstanding and that actually it is someone’s aunt getting a hip replacement.

In his exit interview, Bäckström was asked if he was banged up at all in the playoffs (at 2:54 in this video), a question that he answered with a no. I suppose that even if he is in fact having hip surgery, that is not technically a lie.

I thought this Mike Heika article about the Dallas Stars being more proactive about dealing with hip problems was really interesting. Heika describes how hard it is to know if a player should just rest and hope that the hip problems goes away, or if it is better to have preventive surgery.

Several Stars players have had surgery this past year, none more prominent than Art Ross trophy winner Jamie Benn. He is expected to need 4-5 months to recover from double hip surgery. Every recovery is different, of course, but that 4-6 months range is what google says is the standard recovery time.

Updated, May 28th, 5.30 CET 

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   Nicklas Backstrom had arthroscopic hip surgery yesterday afternoon  per the Capitals.

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   A statement from the team says   we are confident that Nick will be completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015 16 regular season.

Read more about the surgery in Alex Prewitt’s blog post on the subject in the Washington Post.

On a personal note, this is always very much appreciated when you are a little Swedish Fish in a big North American pond.

Alex Prewitt on Twitter   Should note that the first mention of this came from  MalinElis  who reported an Instagram post from someone who golfed with Backstrom.

Posts about Nicklas Bäckström on the blog 

Nicklas Bäckström talks for the first time about his hip injury:  “I’ve been in pain since November”

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part II )

Nicklas Bäckström on what everyday life for an NHL player is really like (part I)

Nicklas Bäckström: ”Alex needs to do some of the dirty work” 

Publicerat i news | Märkt , , , | 4 kommentarer