Brandon Saad is right back at home in the Windy City and has not missed a beat since returning to the Chicago Blackhawks. Since his hat trick in the season opener, Saad has been on a hot streak and picked up his sixth goal of the season as the game winning goal in the Hawks’ most recent game. Thanks to his productive performance to kick-off his return, Saad leads the team in goals (6) and shares the lead for points with Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman (8).
After helping the Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 2015, Saad was traded away to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He spent two seasons with them, picking up a combined 55 goals and 51 points. Though Saad was already a quality player when he was first traded away, playing in Columbus allowed him to mature and become a more leader-based player. Since returning to the Blackhawks, he has stepped up as a more grown-up member and knows the game even better than when he left.
Part of what makes Saad’s recent performance so great is what he is filling in for. The Blackhawks found a lot of success in Artemi Panarin during the last two seasons, especially in terms of how well the winger bonded with Kane. With Panarin’s contract expiring in a few years and a demand for more money likely on the horizon, the Hawks had to make a choice. In a multi-aspect trade, the Blackhawks ended up acquiring Saad, while sending Panarin to the Blue Jackets. Well it was a move that had plenty of benefits, such as future salary cap considerations, it also put Chicago in a dangerous position if Saad could not produce.
However, Saad has fulfilled his role and quickly adjusted back to his old team. Jonathan Toews finally has a left winger on his line that he knows well, a spot that players had rotated through following Saad’s departure. The Blackhawks also got bang for their buck with Saad’s playoff experience. Panarin was not able to capitalize on a lot of playoff opportunities in the past two seasons, though it didn’t help that the Hawks had quick exits in both years. With Saad being part of multiple Stanley Cup runs however, it will be a huge asset to the Hawks to have him if they make the playoffs this year.
It seems like Saad has played a little part in each game as well since the season opened. Whether it’s scoring a hat trick in his return or knocking home the overtime goal as he did in the Hawks’ last minute comeback against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, he seems to be in the right place at the right time. It was that development in Columbus that has allowed him to build on his skill level and bring it right back into Chicago, where he has adapted at the necessary rate.
Saad should be aware that the team may start to lean on him, but he won’t want to be the only one producing. Relying on one player to constantly get the game winning goal will put a toll on Saad and could certainly spell doom for the Blackhawks if other teams figure out how to shut him down. While Saad is producing at a high level, his line mates and the rest of his teammates will need to find that level of play within themselves as well. If they can, it’ll help the Blackhawks become a more well-rounded and balanced team, which could catapult them further in the playoffs once spring rolls around.
It doesn’t seem like Saad is going to slow down any time soon and hopefully he won’t, since his recent performances have helped lead to many of the Blackhawks’ first victories this season. Going forward, it’ll be beneficial to see if Saad can get the power play going for the team. It’s one of the spots where the Hawks have been the weakest, not just in this season, but in previous seasons as well. If Saad can also help fill in that hole, he’d really give the Hawks the boost that they are looking for to become a team that can go for another deep Stanley Cup run.