When Brandon Saad came to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shocking trade, he didn’t just bring an amazing skill set with him. Saad also brings huge expectations to the capital of Ohio, and they may or may not be unrealistic.
During the 2014-15 season, Saad scored 23 goals and 52 points in the regular season, and 8 playoff goals while playing mostly with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. A player cannot put up those kinds of numbers without having obvious talent, but you also have to consider the quality of players on his line while he was scoring those points.
Early in the season, Saad was criticized for being inconsistent by Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. He scored only 1 goal in his first 13 games and was bounced around a few line combinations to jump-start his game. To show an example of this inconsistency, Saad had an eight game stretch with no goals and only two assists, and his struggles were reflected in the statistics.
Saad’s overall season 5-on-5 play Corsi For %: 53.6
During the eight game skid: 44.97
There are a couple of arguments that could be made regarding his production. Saad’s ice time was reduced, thus limiting his opportunities, but the Corsi numbers reflect puck possession, and when he was on the ice his line wasn’t controlling play.
One could also argue that it was bad luck, and to an extent the numbers support that theory. PDO can detect peaks and valleys in a player’s performance, and during his career Saad has a 5-on-5 PDO number that mostly rests around 101. During his slump his number dropped to 98.34.
Now we are back to the quality of linemates, which is the most important part of this discussion. While in Chicago, Saad was a valuable piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle, but he did not have to be THE piece. Toews, Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, etc. filled these roles while allowing Saad to be Saad. Now that he has moved on to Columbus, he will now be counted on to be one of those guys alongside Ryan Johansen and company.
Saad’s 5-on-5 Corsi For % with specific players shows some cause for concern. His Corsi when on the first line with Toews was a 56.0 while it was just a 49.2 when he was placed on the third line with Andrew Shaw.
Much of this sounds negative, but it is not intended to be. These points are not to criticize, but to temper some unreasonable expectations. When Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen dealt for Saad, he changed Columbus from a playoff caliber team, to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. He acquired a potentially consistent 30 goal scoring, Stanley Cup veteran at the ripe old age of 22, and locked him up long-term at what could be a very reasonable salary.
The duo of Saad and Johansen have been favorably compared to that of the Dallas Stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. A match made in heaven. Saad will bring up the Blue Jackets possession numbers. He will drive through traffic, create scoring chances, and of great importance to Columbus, he won’t miss games. The Pittsburgh native played in all 82 games last season, which is something that few Blue Jackets players can boast.
I recently asked my Twitter followers what their expectations were this year for Saad. Results were mixed, but positive.
@Greg_Thornberry 20+ goals and to help Joey get 30+ goals.
— Mark gernert (@MarkG_KWGC) July 25, 2015
@Greg_Thornberry I think Saad should put up 65 points with Joey.
— david (@david44094782) July 25, 2015
My prediction for Saad is that he will come close to 30 goals, but not quite get there. He will come out of the gate flying and score goals in bunches, but will tail off mid-season. When the playoff push starts, Saad will show that he can carry a team like his former star teammates in Chicago.
The Blue Jackets organization is serious about contending this year. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to write about such a talented group with the chance for so many great narratives. Brandon Saad is a huge part of that, and while he isn’t going to come in here wearing a superhero cape, watching him play is definitely worth the price of admission.
So what are your expectations for Brandon Saad in 2015-16? Leave your responses in the comments section and we will discuss.