Analysis

What Brandon Saad Needs to Change Going Into Next Season

By Jimmy Lynch
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 14: Jonathan Toews #19 and Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Saads' short-handed goal in the third period against the New Jersey Devils at the United Center on February 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the devils 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 14: Jonathan Toews #19 and Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Saads' short-handed goal in the third period against the New Jersey Devils at the United Center on February 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the devils 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Although the Chicago Blackhawks failed to make the playoffs, career years by both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane should be seen as a positive. Going into next season, there’s one player who needs to follow suit, Brandon Saad.

If the Blackhawks are to take that next step in the rebuild process, Brandon Saad will need to step up and get back to his old form. A throwback performance from Saad next season might be the difference in making the playoffs and coming up short again.

At the peak of Brandon Saad’s career in Chicago, he was making moves like the ones in the clip below. We haven’t seen this from Saad in quite a while now. The Blackhawks will need more of these plays to help negate the loss of Marian Hossa and overcome weak play from defensemen.

What Is Brandon Saad Up To Now?

Brandon Saad has not put up 50 points in a season since playing with the Columbus Blue Jackets at the age of 24. Over the last few seasons, his ice time has not changed a great deal either. He is averaging about 17 minutes over the last few seasons. Although his ice time has not changed, his play has.

One issue Saad has faced in his second stint with the Blackhawks would be his plus-minus. Now, plus-minus might not be the best stat in the NHL, but it still says something. Back in Columbus during the 2016-2017 season, Saad was a plus-23. He was generating a lot more offense and consistently preventing other teams from scoring. After coming back to Chicago, that changed.

Saad has been negative in the plus-minus department over his last 2 seasons and hasn’t had the same scoring touch that he had in the past. He actually posted his lowest shot total in a season since winning the Stanley Cup in 2015.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Brandon Saad has already had a really dominant NHL career. The 26-year-old power forward has won the Stanley Cup twice and he is technically still in his prime. However, the once declared “Man Child” needs to turn things around next season. Brandon Saad returned to Chicago for a price, Artemi Panarin. Not that you need a reminder, but here is what Panarin has been up to since leaving the Windy City.

I’m not trying to say that Brandon Saad is on the same level of Artemi Panarin. The two players play a very different style of play and should not be compared. At the same time, the ‘Hawks did trade Panarin directly for Saad.

Stan Bowman thought that Saad was a more useful asset to the team, and expected him to be on the top line with Jonathan Toews. However, after a very lackluster offensive stint on the top unit, Saad has found himself on the third and fourth line.

Brandon Saad Needs to Bring His A-Game

I understand that Brandon Saad is more of a defensive forward for the ‘Hawks, but they need more from him. Killing penalties is a skill the ‘Hawks desperately need, and it is something Saad has done in the past. However, with a cap hit of $6 million, Chicago needs Saad to bring the offensive numbers with his great defensive play.

Chicago does not need a $6 million dollar player in the bottom-six. Heading into next season, Saad needs to up his intensity and productivity on offense. People used to consider Saad a player similar to Marian Hossa, in the way he backchecked, used his speed to his advantage, and found ways to score. Hopefully, we will see more of that going forward.

Chicago needs to find a way to make Brandon Saad more relevant. If Saad plans to be a member of the Blackhawks’ core moving forward, they are going to need him to step up in the offensive zone. We all are going to have to wait until next season to see if Saad is up to the challenge.

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