Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Saad Needs a Bigger Role

By Tony Gianares
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton instructs Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) on the bench in action during a NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on November 14, 2018 at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton instructs Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) on the bench in action during a NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on November 14, 2018 at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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It’s pretty obvious at this point. Brandon Saad needs a bigger role with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019-20. When will Jeremy Colliton give it to him?

Brandon Saad has had a roller coaster of a second stint with the Chicago Blackhawks. After being re-acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2017, on draft day for Artemi Panarin, Saad’s play left a bad taste in Blackhawks’ fans’ mouths. It took a while, but that taste has gradually subsided and is no longer present in 2019-20. He has gone from being healthy scratched last season to one of the best players on this Blackhawks team, again.

To start the 2019-20 season, Brandon Saad has been the best forward on this Chicago Blackhawks team. That’s saying a lot, especially with the influx of forward depth and offensive firepower on the team. He is outplaying everyone, even Patrick Kane, and no, that is not an exaggeration.

Through 8 games, Saad has racked up 5 points (3G, 2A) with a -3 ± rating. While he may not have more points than Kane (8), Saad has made a bigger impact. He has done this while averaging 15:08 TOI. If you ask me, that’s pretty impressive for a “third-line forward”.

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Brandon Saad is playing like a hockey Swiss army knife out there. He has taken on the role of scorer and forechecker, and also, special teams contributor. Basically, he’s doing everything, because nobody else is. The sad truth is that the Blackhawks are going nowhere unless the rest of the team’s stars step up.

Saad has always been known as more of a defensive-minded forward, but he has found his scoring touch again, which is a nice added bonus. If he can find a way to keep this up, then he could very well post a career-best season. Saad is currently on pace for 51 points and his career-high is 53 points twice, both with the Blue Jackets.

When Will Brandon Saad See a Promotion?

If it were up to me, Brandon Saad would have already been bumped up to the 1st line along with his current 3rd line running mate, Dominik Kubalik. I’m not sure why Jeremy Colliton is insisting on playing Toews with Alex DeBrincat and Andrew Shaw when there is absolutely no chemistry there. A 1st line of Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kubalik sounds very competitive and versatile.

Toews has been ice cold, and almost non-existent, to start the 2019-20 season. This is a big reason why the Chicago Blackhawks have been struggling so much lately. Right now, Toews has a mere 2 points (1G, 1A) in 8 games with a -4 ± rating. I have said this a few times now, but maybe playing alongside a red-hot Saad and a forechecking sniper, like Kubalik, could help light a fire under the Blackhawks’ captain.

Colliton adamantly denied his lines were the issue for tonight’s loss in his post-game interview. Instead, he emphasized a lack of work ethic and he’s not wrong, but chemistry is also an issue here. I believe he will change things up for Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Anything is worth trying at this point, just to try and get some type of chemistry flowing and spark some offense.

Look for these lines and pairings, or something very similar, on Saturday against the Hurricanes in Carolina:

Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Dominik Kubalik
Alex DeBrincat-Dylan Strome-Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw-Kirby DachAlexander Nylander
David KampfRyan CarpenterDrake Caggiula

Duncan KeithCalvin de Haan
Olli MaattaBrent Seabrook
Dennis GilbertErik Gustafsson

Corey Crawford

The bottom-six has outproduced the top-six and that has to change now. You aren’t going to win many games that way. The defense also needs to simplify their game. Control the puck in the defensive zone, keep your stick on the ice, block passing and shooting lanes, clear the front of the net, and take the easy pass. We also don’t need any more Gustafsson gaffes in the defensive zone, which leaves the goalie in no man’s land without any shot to make a save.

Right now, all Chicago Blackhawks fans can do is put on a brave face and hope for a different lineup and a different result. Corey Crawford will likely be in net on Saturday. Let’s see if Colliton can find the winning recipe in practice leading up to Saturday’s tilt with the Hurricanes. I really hope he does, because Blackhawks’ fans desperately need a W right now.

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