Is Saad the Blackhawks’ Missing Piece?

Brandon Saad’s return to the Chicago Blackhawks has plenty of Hawks fans excited. With two early playoff exits in a row, the Hawks are missing a piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle. Saad, who was brought back by way of a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Artemi Panarin during the offseason, could be that missing piece.

Saad’s First Season With the Blue Jackets

Although Saad’s two years with the Blue Jackets did not compare to playoff success with the Hawks in his first three years, his game improved. His first season with the Jackets resulted in 31 goals and 22 assists. His accomplishments also landed him in the 2016 All-Star Game in Nashville.

His first year with the Blue Jackets was no easy ride, as he tells Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times:

‘It was a tough season, for sure,’ Saad said. ‘Going from winning the Stanley Cup to being on one of the bottom teams in the league, it was hard. With Chicago, we never had a bad year. It was my first year going through that type of thing. But you can always find positives and make improvements. You learn a lot about yourself going through that.’

He faced adversity in the 2015-16 season which strengthened his game continued into the 2016-17 season, which will be useful to the Hawks in the upcoming season.

North America World Cup roster
Photo: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Saad’s Second Season with the Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets were one of the top teams in the NHL in the 2016-17 season. Saad had an incredible season with 24 goals and 21 assists.

Jonathan Toews told Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune of Saad’s improved game:

‘You could see that intangible quality in him that he just wants to get better every night,’ Toews said. ‘You see a lot of players with raw physical talent and ability but don’t take it upon themselves to be one of the guys every night. I think ‘Saader’ was showing that right away. That’s how you knew he was just going to get better and better.’

As the Blue Jackets improved, so did Saad’s game. He received another taste of the playoffs in 2017 but exited in the first round. Like the Hawks, he is hungrier than ever to hoist the Stanley Cup again. His improvement and experience with adversity in Columbus along with the hunger to win create the perfect recipe for success with the Hawks. This recipe for success could very well be what the Hawks have been missing the past two seasons.

What About Panarin?

The biggest question about the upcoming season is what they will do without Panarin?

Panarin was one of the best players on the Hawks for two seasons, but Saad is what the Hawks need after two early exits from the playoffs. He has playoff experience and knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. Although Panarin’s numbers are stronger than Saad’s, he can help fill the void of Marian Hossa as Hemal Jhaveri of For The Win at USA Today argues, “Filling the void he leaves on the ice is next to impossible for the Blackhawks, but Saad comes close. Plus, losing Saad two years ago also left a big hole on Jonathan Toews’ line, which will suddenly be filled again.”

Artemi Panarin Blackhawks
Artemi Panarin, Flyers vs Blackhawks, 12/3/16 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Saad and Toews’ Chemistry

It is no secret that Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has not been at his best since Saad’s departure. With his return to the Toews line, the Hawks will be a powerful offensive force within the league. Even Patrick Kane sees the potential as he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“They’re a force out there,” Patrick Kane said. “They’re going to be a special line. I thought all three of them seemed to have some chemistry right away. As time goes on, they’re going to be a force throughout games, and probably leading the charge for us.”

Despite the loss of Panarin, Saad will be essential to the Hawks this season and will hopefully bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago. With his improvement since his departure and reunion with Jonathan Toews, he very well could be the missing puzzle piece to the Hawks winning another Stanley Cup.