Some players shine the second they hit the ice, while others take time to grow into their skates. When Brandon Saad was the Chicago Blackhawks player on the podium for the 2012 everyone had to believe that Stan Bowman and the Hawks organization had nothing but big hopes for Saad in the near future. Along came the lockout and instead of fall in Chicago Saad went to Rockford to play with the Ice Hogs.
It was quite surprising when through the first month of play in the AHL Saad wasn’t dominating the IceHog statsheet. Saad slow start didn’t keep him from becoming a force and then it happened he was the AHL player of the week by collecting 6 points in three games including two game winning goals. So after a slow start he ended up having 8 goals and 12 assists and a +1 rating in 31 games before the lockout ended and he made the Chicago Blackhawks opening day roster.
Saad was a scratch when the Hawks opened the season against the reigning Stanley Cup champs LA Kings with Daniel Carcillo playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on Chicago’s top line. Carcillo who has struggled to remain healthy since joining the Blackhawks hurt his knee in the first game which left a spot opening on the top line. Many thought Viktor Stalberg should join the the Captain and Hossa on the top line, but Coach Q had other ideas and inserted Saad into the lineup.
Like in Rockford, Saad joining the lineup on a regular basis was not a huge success on the scoresheet right out of the blocks, but no matter who you talked to about the rookies play they all said the same thing that he was playing very good hockey and although the stat sheet wasn’t showing production the play was good. Every game that Saad got under his belt he played more and more like he belonged and with each passing game that he played like he belonged his production began to improve. The scoring began to become more consistent after this shorthanded game winner against the San Jose Sharks
Saad though having turned the corner still had to survive the return of the Carbomb from his injury to stay on the top line. After a couple of periods off the line Coach Q to the delight of most Blackhawks fans kept Saad on the top line even when Marian Hossa was out with injury he left Saad with the Captain.
Easter Sunday NBC was telecasting the Hawks vs Detroit game and on NHL.com there was a big piece about Saad being a man/child and all Saad did was backup the coverage by both NBC and NHL with a two goal and assist effort in a 7-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
Including the Easter game, Saad has scored four goals in his last five games and especially with Chicago Blackhawks media and fans alike is the growing case for Saad to be in the chase for the Calder trophy. The last Blackhawks to win the trophy for the rookie of the year was Patrick Kane in 2007-2008.
Saad has competition for the rookie of the year, but he has closed the gap and of all rookie forwards he leads them all in the +/- rating with a +14. Saad is only 4 points behind the leading rookie point total of Jordan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers who has 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points while Saad currently sits at 9 goals and 14 assists and 23 points.
There is an argument that Saad shouldn’t be considered because he’s on a line with great players instead of being a real rookie having to collect goals and points while mucking it up on a bottom line while earning his stripes. I think this theory is garbage and to me it shows the talent of Saad that he was able to bring his game to the level of talent that it takes to play with Toews and Hossa. There is still nine games left and a lot of points to collect but with seven points in his last five games Saad’s Calder trophy momentum is building up steam and if his history has anything to say about it nothing is about to stop this momentum. Saad may not have started off strong but his play has been stronger than eveyone else in contention for the rookie of the year in the last month.
Do you think Saad will be able to finish the season strong and win the Calder trophy?
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