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Chicago Blackhawks: Why Brandon Saad Made A Mistake

By Tim Lively

May 23, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) is congratulated after scoring against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but this Fourth of July weekend was a bit hard for me to enjoy after the trade that went down last week, which saw our beloved Chicago Blackhawks lose an amazing American hockey player in Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For starters, it’s easy to understand why things went down the way they did with Saad. There were the cap issues, of course, but this was also yet another case of a player (or perhaps his agent) wanting to cash in while his stock was high, and with two Stanley Cups in three years, Saad’s stock will never be higher.

I certainly wish Saad the best of luck and am thankful for everything he did for the Blackhawks, but frankly, I think he jumped the gun a bit looking for greener pastures (financially speaking) so soon.

Now I know I have a very biased opinion in this matter, as I felt just as bewildered and betrayed about the Saad trade as the next Chicago denizen, but I feel there is a good chance Saad may have made a bad career move leaving the Blackhawks.

Again, no one blames Saad for wanting to cash in on his success and get paid what he is worth. After all, when I was in my early 20s, I was doing back-flips at the prospect of making just $40k (provided I signed up 50 friends and family members), let alone $6 million. Still, being as young as he is, I also think Saad failed to appreciate the big picture, and here are three reasons why:

No. 3 – Saad only knows success

I can’t imagine there are too many NHL players out there that have had a better start to their career than Saad. In his first three full seasons in the NHL, Saad was part of two Stanley Cup victories and a deep playoff run that ended in the Western Conference finals. Needless to say, this is not typical, and Saad may have set himself up for quite a culture shock playing for the Blue Jackets, a franchise where it’s a big deal just to make the playoffs, let alone experience any postseason success. While Saad has the opportunity to establish himself as leader in Columbus, he’s also set himself up for some major frustration by going from a winning to a losing culture, which will be a rough transition. Only time will tell how effectively Saad handles these now-inevitable roadblocks in his career path.

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  • No. 2 – Is Saad ready for primetime? 

    Speaking of culture shock, another potential issue Saad may face when he hits the ice at Nationwide Arena is his supporting cast, or lack thereof. In Chicago, Saad was an important cog of an established machine that was constructed to win Stanley Cups, a function in which it succeeded. While I am no expert on the inner workings of the Columbus Blue Jackets, just going off the sheer amount of player transactions they have executed in the past five years alone is an indication of a franchise that has yet to find a successful foundation to build upon, and as a result is a team of random parts rather than a cohesive unit.

    It’s a fair guess to say Saad is intended to be a key part of this long-sought-after foundation, but that is a far larger role than he has ever had in Chicago, and at such a young age with such a short career that has known virtually no disappointment, Saad suddenly has an awfully large burden on his shoulders. The best outcome: Saad is able to rise to the occasion and help usher in a successful era in Columbus. But on the other hand, Saad could easily follow the fate of many promising Blue Jackets players before him and get turned and burned by an organization that has historically demonstrated it wants quick results.

    May 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) celebrates with right wing Marian Hossa (81) after scoring an empty-net goal against the Minnesota Wild during the third period in game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 1 – Saad wouldn’t have stayed in the shadows long

    While it has never really been stated outright , the one drawback to playing for the Chicago Blackhawks as a young up-and-coming forward like Saad is that no matter how talented you may be, you’ll always be playing in the shadows of franchise faces Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Whether Saad had this sentiment is complete speculation, but it would explain why perhaps Saad never entertained a hometown discount, despite saying otherwise. Saad is considered by many to be a top talent, and therefore he felt he should get paid like one and found a team in the Blue Jackets that agreed.

    However, the one potential pitfall that comes with a larger paycheck is higher expectations, and the difference here is that in Columbus, Saad will by and large have to face those expectations alone, whereas in Chicago, he would have had more than a few very able teammates help him earn those dollars.

    Furthermore, while Saad has perhaps played second fiddle to the bigger names of the Blackhawks, those days were all but numbered. Patrick Sharp’s ticket out of Chi-Town is pretty much stamped, but more importantly, Saad’s unofficial mentor, Marian Hossa, who despite continually proving his age is just a number, is in the 11th hour of his career.

    There’s a reason Saad has earned the sobriquets of Mini-Hoss and Hossa’s Heir: Many were hoping Saad would take up Hossa’s mantle of effective two-way play when Hoss retires. Had this happened, Saad would have found himself not in the shadows of Kane and Toews, but rather as an integral part of a Chicago Blackhawks triumvirate (the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Scottie Pippen-Michael Jordan-Dennis Rodman era) that would have lasted for many years. Saad could have part of something big in Chicago, whereas in Columbus, even though he has a chance to become a franchise face in his own right, he’ll have to start all over again.

    Alas, all the aforementioned are moot points. Saad and all his promise are no longer part of the Blackhawks. Even though we’re all sad to see him go, we Blackhawks fans wish Saad all the best in Columbus and sincerely thank him for all the memories. Brandon Saad certainly made Chicago happy.


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