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Analyzing A Manchild

October 17, 2018, 11:08 AM ET [265 Comments]
Justin Lowe
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

If you type in "Brandon Saad Highlights" into Google, here is what you get:

No, go ahead and watch this 3:00 video. I'll wait.


Ok, now how do you feel about Brandon Saad?

The soon-to-be 26-year-old (b. October 27th, 1992) found a white jersey in his stall this week for practice. That would be the "kiss of death" for a player like Saad as it indicated that the coaching staff is not happy with #20's play and he appears to be heading to healthy scratch… land.

Here's my quick take, which will be followed by a more detailed breakdown of Saad's play and current status with this Hawks organization.

Saad is better than he's shown in his return to Chicago but after Joel Quenneville talks about seeing more "passion" and "intensity" out of his young winger, me thinks Saader needs to fall in love with the game of hockey again.

Now here is the part where I support that statement.

Let's start near the beginning leading into Brandon's draft year in 2011.

At one point, Saad, who was 6-2 / 200 pounds at 18-years-old was ranked the 4th best skater in North America as per a Bob McKenzie after polling NHL scouts in September of 2010.

Brandon's stock dropped a lot to 19th after some injuries during his time in the OHL for Saginaw.

"The issue with hype comes accountability, and Saad really dropped off the map as the year went forward," said Jesse Marshall of Faceoff Factor. "To be fair, Saad was battling injury ... but that same drive and work ethic that put him at the top of a lot of lists to start the year kind of came back to bite him in the end. He appeared disengaged a lot towards the end of the year and some people accused him of mailing it in as the season drew to a close." (Source: SB Nation)

Well, I know some will point to the quote above and relate it to character issues rumoured to be happening with 2018 Brandon Saad.

I'm not fully buying it though.

Saad's father, George, immigrated to the US from Syria when he was just 18-years-old.

Knowing this, and the current state of Syria, the Saad's heritage, one has to think that Brandon's character is of elite quality.

However, this is not a guarantee and this potential benching (or the threat of a healthy scratch) is going to be a true character test. Especially considering that Saad has only missed 8 games in the 5 seasons(!). Some of those were from day-to-day injuries and a couple in Columbus when John Tortorella decided to bench him in his first year with the Blue Jackets for a few games.

Sure, Brandon has always been a laid-back kid but it's difficult to argue that he doesn't work hard.

I haven't been the biggest fan of his comments since his demotion, as well as his decision not to show up to the morning skate (after he had been demoted to the 4th line) which ultimately could have led to a white jersey.

Here's some reaction been from the media surrounding Brandon Saad:

@MarkLazerus Oct 15
Saad has been a healthy scratch only once with the Blackhawks since he replaced an injured Carcillo in the second game in 2013. It was April 6, 2014, with Q sending a message just before the playoffs. Asked that day about making tough decisions, Q said, "This wasn't a tough one."

@ByScottPowers Oct 15
Brandon Saad on wearing a white jersey in practice: "I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here. But it is what it is. There's nothing you can do except keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

@johndietzdh Oct 15
Asked @JonathanToews if he was shocked by decision to have Brandon Saad wear what at practice today. "Yeah. Yeah, of course. He's one of those guys we need to be playing well and have confidence is our team's going to do well throughout the long season." #Blackhawks

Needless to say, the reunion between Brandon Saad and the Chicago Blackhawks has not gone according to plan (…and no, I'm not going to compare his stats to Artemi Panarin).

However, here is the refresher on Brandon's departure and re-acquisition from who was involved in those trades (Source: Wikipedia):

On June 30, 2015, Chicago traded Saad's negotiation rights as a pending restricted free agent, along with prospects Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta, to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jeremy Morin, Marko Daňo, Artem Anisimov, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round draft pick in 2016. On July 3, Saad signed a six-year contract extension with the Blue Jackets worth $36 million.

On June 23, 2017, Saad returned to the Chicago Blackhawks along with Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 via a trade from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and a sixth-round draft pick in 2017. Saad began the 2017-18 season with a hat trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to a 10–1 victory.

The Cole's notes… the Hawks couldn't afford Saad, so they traded him.

A couple years later, the Hawks decided they couldn't pay Artemi Panarin, so they dealt him the cost certainty of Saad's contract he signed with Columbus.

When the Hawks went out and got Saad back, they were looking for cost certainty (just like Stan did with the Hammer for Murphy deal) and I'm sure it was said to him when he returned, "we don't need you to be Panarin, just play your game that made you so successful here before."

It's true, Saad needs to be more like Marian Hossa-lite rather than Panarin. The Hawks needed Saad to help drive them into the playoffs again and then when they got there, use his Stanley Cup experience as a power forward and really help in that regard.

He's got that skill set still, you can see it, but something is missing.

So, even if Saad is healthy scratched on Thursday, I still believe he has more to give and/or figure out. To help illustrate that, let's compare his work last year to his best year to date.

Last year, Brandon Saad did a lot of great things, but was the recipient of "bad puck luck". His stat line was:

2017-18 – 82 GP, 18 G, 17 A, 35 P, -10, 237 SH, 7.6 S%, 17.30 TOI, 56.7 CF%, 50 oiGF (EV), 58 oiGA (EV)

The biggest notes would the lack of overall production. A lot point to the 7.6 SH% and it's fair to say that this is the reason that Saad's year was deemed a failure.

Over his career in Chicago, his shooting percentage was 9.9%. If he followed this trend in his return, he would have found himself with 23 goals (only 1 less than his year previous in CBJ) off of 237 shots.

If he would have continued with his average of 12.4% during his time in Columbus, he would have netted 29 goals.

His "best" year in Chicago was arguably the 2014-15 year which, as a 22-year-old, revealed the following stats:

2014-15 – 82 GP, 23 G, 29 A, 52 P, +7, 203 SH, 11.3 S%, 17.15 TOI, 53.4 CF%, 54 oiGF (EV), 53 oiGA (EV)

This season (obviously) had the exclamation point of a Stanley Cup to which Saad contributed 8 G, 3 A and 11 points in 23 games.

The 2018-19 Blackhawks have started 3-0-2 which have been highlighted by a revitalized Jonathan Toews - who was supposed to be reinvigorated by Saad's return – with little-to-no-help form Brandon's 2 assists in 5 games.

Saad found himself on the 4th line last game vs. the Blues and actually had a nice assist, but Coach Q is looking for more.

Quenneville started Saad on a line with Kane and Schmaltz to kick off the regular season… a lottery position. Saad, unfortunately for him, didn't mesh, despite working hard in the offseason in Chicago with those linemates in an effort to get back to his "old self".

It appears the Coach Q is looking for Brandon's compete level to get back to his Stanley cup competing level. Saad has the track record of 0.51 PPG in the NHL postseason and while we're only 5 games into the regular season, Brandon will need to pretend that he's fighting for a Stanley Cup (or better yet, his career with the Hawks) and if that means sitting a game to get focused again, then so be it; this "timeout" could prove to be extremely beneficial for Saad and his Blackhawks this year in hopes to get back to playoff calibre.

Should the Hawks trade Saad? Absolutely not. It's too early for that, plus his value has never been so low.

My prediction is that this lights a fire for the game again in Brandon's tummy and he returns to the Hawks 3rd line with Anisimov, and a combination of Kunitz, Hayden, and eventually Dylan Sikura.

From there, he can play his solid 2-way game and provide really strong depth for the Hawks and/or work his way back up to the top-6 while still providing help on the PP and PK.

I'll be back tomorrow with Crawford news (will he start vs. ‘Yotes), Mackenzie Entwhistle signing breakdown, lineup tweaks and any other info that makes sense to share. d

See ya out there,

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