He has been on a tear lately which is why it was a little odd that Chicago Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad was held off the score sheet during the team’s 6-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the 22-year-old had five goals and six point in his last four games. This season the left winger has 15 goals and 31 points in 46 games. He is on pace for to hit career highs in goals with 26 and points with 55.
Quickly Showing His Value
Last season was the best of his first two seasons. He recorded 19 goals and 47 points in 78 games and was a +20. Now hitting his mark offensively, Saad has been very reliable for his team. He has not been a minus player; through what is now his third season in the NHL, and has a career +45 rating.
Saad has become a very important piece of the Hawks front end. He has been playing on the team’s top line alongside captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. He has +8 on the season and is tied for second on the club with three gaming-winning goals.
The Pittsburgh, PA native was also an offensive force for the Hawks during their playoff run last season where they were eventually ousted in seven games by the eventual Cup Champs, the Los Angeles Kings. In 19 games Saad had 6 goals and 16 points, behind only Toews and Patrick Kane on the team. He was also a +10 in the post-season, which led all Hawks players.
Recently Saad has also seen time on the team’s second power play unit. Oddly, despite being a left-winger, head coach Joel Quenneville has paced the 2011 second round pick at centre. The move looks to be a combination of the team trying their second-line centre, Brad Richards, at the point on the first unit and the team being thin on centres in their bottom two lines. Despite the fire power at their disposal, the Hawks have just the 16th best power play in the league.
Where He Came From
The Hawks selected Saad during the 2011 entry draft with the 43rd overall pick. The 6-foot-1 204 pounder, was drafted after he had 27 goals and 55 points in 59 games with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. The following year he played just two games with the Blackhawks, and the team decided to send him back to the OHL for the 2011-12 season. In 44 games with his junior club, Saad had 34 goals and 76 points.
The time spent back in junior also gave Saad the opportunity to represent the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Despite his team’s poor outing, the winger had a respectable six points in six games.
Chicago’s Cap Could Cause Probems
Despite his great play with the team over the past few years, Saad’s future with the Blackhawks could be in jeopardy. He is in his final year of a three year contract that pays him an average of $795,000 a season. The Hawks already have over $65 million committed to the team next year, but that number only includes 14 roster players.
So, though Saad is deserving of a pay increase, if he wants to stay in Chicago the team will have to make room for him or the left wing might have to take a pay cut. The team will also have to make decisions with Marcus Kruger, Brad Richards, and Johnny Oduya who are also free agents at season’s end.
Early projections suggest the cap for next year could be in the ball park of $73 million, which would be good news for Chicago, who this season are $733,895 over the cap which is set at $69 million.
Saad has been a great piece to the team and has quickly gained the confidence of the coach, trusting him on the top line while fellow left wing Patrick Sharp has been placed on the third line as of late. Contract talks aside, Saad has been an important part of the Hawks this year and has been red-hot lately.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.