Chicago Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Brandon Saad

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We’re just 17 days away from the start of Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp, and with that deadline approaching we are feverishly finishing off our 2013-14 Blackhawks player evaluations.

Today we look at the sophomore season of forward Brandon Saad, who showed some great growth on the defensive side of the ice and really has established himself as a player to watch on offense as well.

The Good:

The Blackhawks are a team that prides themselves on possessing the puck and keeping other teams from taking many shots, and in the case of Saad, he clearly takes that mantra to heart. Last season with the Blackhawks, the second-year player had a Fenwick For Percentage (shots taken versus shots allowed) of 58.1%, which was good for 10th in the NHL. That is an incredibly good number for a player whose just starting to find his legs in the NHL, and it shows that Saad has the potential to be a player like Marian Hossa when it comes to taking tons of shots and limiting the opposition from taking many.

In terms of his more traditional metrics, Saad still had a solid season. Despite bouncing around the lineup, he had 19 goals and 28 assists in 78 games, and even though his time on ice was down by about nine seconds per game, he was still able to get involved in both even strength and power play situations. He had nine total power play points on the season, with six assists and three goals to his credit.

The Bad:

There really isn’t a lot to criticize Saad for in terms of his performance last season, but toward the end of the regular season he did end up getting benched by Joel Quenneville, who said he wanted to “see more” out of the forward. Granted, there was plenty of outrage in the Blackhawks’ fan community about that insinuation, but it’s entirely possible that Quenneville thought that Saad wasn’t working as hard as he should be, and that perhaps exhaustion from the long season was at least partially to blame.

Best Game of 2013-14:

There are a ton of good games to choose from for Saad, whether it was his two goal performance against the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of their second round series, or his three-point performance on opening night against the Washington Capitals, but for this post, we chose his Game 5 showcase against the Los Angeles Kings.

In that game, Saad had a goal and two assists, and was a plus-4 on the evening. His big night helped the Blackhawks to a double-overtime victory, and it kept them in a series that they had struggled in up until that point.

Outlook for 2014-15:

This season is going to be an interesting one for Saad, as he hits the final year of his entry level contract. He found some serious success in the postseason with Patrick Kane in 2014, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he opened the new season on a line alongside Kane and Brad Richards.

In the new year, we’ll be looking for Saad to take another step forward in his defensive play, and it would really help the Blackhawks if he could produce just a bit more on the power play. His speed and tenacity with the puck are great assets in those man-advantage situations, and even though there are other players like Kane and Jonathan Toews that are looked at as the stars of the team, having secondary guys like Saad is equally critical to success.

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