It’s February and the Chicago Blackhawks are seven, yes, seven points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. The season is all but over at this point. If it’s not over, it’s certainly on life support. The ‘Hawks have too many teams to pass with only 29 games left in the regular season.
For the first time since 2008, the ‘Hawks will not qualify for the NHL playoffs, which means changes will need to be made. General Manager Stan Bowman will have some tough decisions to make and that starts with the trade deadline on February 26.
The Hawks have players with big contracts to move in Brent Seabrook and Artem Anisimov, but it may be difficult to convince another team to take on those contracts. For this reason, the Hawks may be forced to move other pieces with more favorable contracts. One of those players is Brandon Saad, who is in his second stint in Chicago.
Saad was re-acquired by the Hawks in a trade with the Blue Jackets that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus. At the time, it looked like a solid deal. As good as Panarin was in the regular season, he just couldn’t get things going in the playoffs. Bringing back Saad was a move made for the playoffs, but you can’t make the playoffs if you have a bad regular season and that’s exactly what’s going on right now.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman, the Hawks could look to trade Saad to give him a fresh start in a new city. Would this be the right move though? Let’s take a look at his production this season and answer that question.
Brandon Saad 2017-18
In 53 games with the ‘Hawks this season, Saad has 13 goals and 11 assists. Those are very disappointing numbers for a guy who has played on the top line for the majority of the year. The frustrating part is Saad got off to such a hot start. He had a hat trick on opening night and had four game-winning goals in the first six games. Right now, Saad has one assist in his last 11 games.
Head Coach Joel Quenneville moved him down to the fourth line with two other players (Patrick Sharp and Ryan Hartman) who have also had their issues this season. Despite a disappointing season, Saad is trying to stay positive.
“I think it’s a pretty good line,’’ Saad said. ‘‘Even though we’ve been a little snake-bit, we’re all good players. It should be pretty exciting here to get going.’’
There are issues with Saad though. Unlike earlier in the year, he has stopped going to the net. Instead, he’s trying to play a Patrick Kane type game, and no one on this team — other than Kane — can be successful doing that. It’s not like the skill Saad has left his body. Instead, it seems to be more of a mental battle.
‘‘It is frustrating,’’ Saad said. ‘‘I’m just trying to stay positive. . . . Sometimes you just relax, take a step back and some of that luck’s going to go your way.’’
Again, Saad has plenty of skill, but his game is not about scoring goals on wrist shots. He needs to use his big body to his advantage and score greasy goals to open up the other aspects of his game. Unfortunately, he’s no longer doing that, and it’s having a negative effect on his game.
Let’s not forget that Saad is still just 25-years-old. He still has a good portion of hockey left to play in his prime. The thing is, his play may not ever change unless he goes to a new team, which is why the Hawks should consider making this deal.
Deal or No Deal
As I said above, the Hawks, at the very least, should consider making this move. For one, it may be the only deal they can make at the deadline given the number of players with horrible contracts. The ‘Hawks would not be doing justice to the organization if they did not listen to every offer.
Yes, Saad is young, but the right return could get Stan Bowman the players he needs to turn this thing around.
What could a return for Saad look like? Great question, it’s complicated, to say the least. If I were Bowman, I would want a couple draft picks and a young defenseman close to being NHL ready. The Hawks have zero of those players right now and the defense isn’t getting any better with an aging Seabrook and Keith.
At this point, acquiring draft picks are a given. Especially, if the Hawks are going to miss the playoffs.
For many Hawks fans, it’s a weird time. However, it’s a time where people need to realize that this team as it’s currently constructed is not good enough to make the playoffs. Therefore, the time is now to start selling off players and that does include Brandon Saad.