Earlier this week, a new face signed a deal in St. Louis: former arch-enemy Brandon Saad. The Pittsburgh native spent eight of his ten-year career playing for the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche, two of the Blues’ biggest division rivals. In that time, he made sure to rack up plenty of points against the Blues, including a spin-o-rama goal and a tough giveaway courtesy of Zach Sanford. By all accounts, many dreaded seeing Saad’s name show up on the scoreboard.
Those waves of dread have washed away in favor of tides of joy. A new dawn has emerged in the Saad Saga: and this time, it’s to the benefit of the Blues. The once-rival has arrived — and he’s ready to make a big impact in St. Louis.
BREAKING NEWS: We have reached an agreement with free agent Brandon Saad on a five-year contract. https://t.co/mQZVA0UUh1 #stlblues pic.twitter.com/1DFlCA3rbC— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) July 29, 2021
But who is Brandon Saad, anyway? Let’s take a closer look at his career, play style, and his value to the St. Louis Blues:
Get to know Brandon Saad
It feels like Saad has been in the NHL forever. Interestingly enough, the forward actually started his NHL career at age 18 with the Blackhawks in 2011. He later went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015 before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Some of the most notable moments in Saad’s career, ironically, have come from off the ice. He was the centerpiece in three trades that Stan Bowman hilariously lost, each to either move Saad or to acquire Saad back. In his career, he’s been traded for everyone from Artemi Panarin to Nikita Zadorov. Last season, he played up and down the lineup for the Avalanche, scoring 24 points in 44 games.
Saad scored over 20 goals five times in his ten-year NHL career. His career highs came in 2015-16, where he scored 31 goals and 53 points. In his 632 NHL games, he’s strung together 184 goals and 371 points. He’s a tenacious top-six forward with a penchant for big goals and key assists — two things that can greatly benefit the Blues.
How Brandon Saad plays hockey
Brandon Saad is a mixed bag. He’s a blend of speed, skill, and strength, using a wide arsenal of talents to help out on both ends of the ice. Many at the time compared him to a younger Marian Hossa, one of the Blackhawks’ star players. When the going gets tough, Saad gets going. He appears to thrive in high-pressure scenarios. If his team is down by a goal, he becomes a relentless force of offense to try and even the odds.
The table above, courtesy of Evolving Hockey, gives us a closer look at Saad’s strengths. He was in the 86th percentile of offense in the NHL, driving scoring better than a myriad of top-tier players. According to Left Wing Lock, Saad spent the majority of the season playing alongside Andrei Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri, serving on the left-wing as one of the team’s top play-drivers.
Saad’s biggest strength comes from his postseason play. In 91 playoff games, he’s secured 48 points. He was one of the top secondary scoring threats for the Blackhawks in their 2015 Cup run, securing eight goals to help the team advance to the victory. Last season, Saad scored eight points in just ten games for the Avalanche. A consistent playoff threat sounds like the exact type of player the St. Louis Blues need.
How does Saad help the Blues?
Saad and St. Louis are a match made in heaven. With the departure of Jaden Schwartz and the inevitable departure of Vladimir Tarasenko on the horizon, opportunities are abundant on the Blues’ top-six. The Blues need someone that will make an impact during the playoffs. During last season’s series against the Avalanche, the Blues went out with a whimper, scoring seven goals in four games. When the going got tough, the team’s offense collapsed.
A player like Saad can chip away at the opposition, opening up scoring lanes and chances that can turn around a series. His relentlessness makes him a great fit for head coach Craig Berube’s system. Saad is capable of outworking even the most dogged of contenders. When partnered with the right linemates, Saad has the potential to be a 25-plus goal scorer per season.
For a Blues team that will sorely miss Jaden Schwartz, signing Brandon Saad is a very strong step toward replicating his on-ice performance.