The Chicago Blackhawks’ move to trade Brandon Saad for Nikita Zadorov turned out to be much worse than I imagined. Let’s go over everything so far:
In 2017, Artemi Panarin was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad. Panarin continued where he left off and blossomed to become an established NHL superstar there before he signed an eight-year contract worth $11.642 million per year with the New York Rangers.
Brandon Saad still provided offense and was defensively sound in his own zone while he was with the team, but he was traded in the offseason along with Dennis Gilbert for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm.
Nikita Zadorov doesn’t help the team defensively, he is slow on the backcheck, makes multiple defensive mistakes, and he had to force a rookie in Nicolas Beaudin to try to deny the pass from Jordan Staal on Andrei Svechnikov’s goal after he allowed Staal to get past him. Against Columbus, he committed a couple of turnovers that should have been goals against if Kevin Lankinen didn’t bail him out.
Stan Bowman went out to acquire Zadorov to make his team “harder to play against” but he instead, for the last two games at least, gives the opposition chances on a silver platter. This ‘Hawks team has a fast, relentless playstyle and Zadorov may be considered “relentless” (but in actuality he’s just physical) but he’s nowhere near as fast as this team needs him to be to have success.
Nikita Zadorov and the Blackhawks are not a perfect match.
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He can still throw his big body around with the best of them, but this team isn’t a big, physical team that wins games through defensive play and physical play. That instead puts him out of position and causes his defensive partner and goaltender to make a crazy effort to keep the puck out of the net.
I think Zadorov did fine in the beginning of the season, but when this faster, relentless playstyle came into action by Jeremy Colliton, his effectiveness plummeted. As the team continues to play faster, Zadorov will become even less effective on the roster. The Blackhawks have established what they want when it comes to the STYLE of play, but it is one that Zadorov doesn’t thrive in.
This is salt in the still very open wound from the trade of Artemi Panarin, but Stan Bowman essentially traded Artemi Panarin for Nikita Zadorov. Saad couldn’t match the impact of Panarin, but he still provided some offense to make up for it and helped the team upset Edmonton in the Play-In round. Zadorov’s playstyle is not effective in this lineup and should be scratched.
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This may be a bit early or an overreaction, but when you are 20% of the way through the season and he gets worse every game, I don’t think Zadorov will improve much. I think he is still an effective player for an NHL team, but the Blackhawks aren’t that team. Count this move as another one of Stan Bowman’s busts.