Saad deserves a bigger role with Chicago Blackhawks
Imagine if Joe Maddon batted Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo sixth in the order the last few years.
Or if Matt Nagy didn't play WR Allen Robinson on first down.
Or if Phil Jackson had played Dennis Rodman 25 minutes a game.
Fans and media members would have been perplexed, to say the least.
This brings us to the very interesting case of the Blackhawks' Brandon Saad.
The way the Hawks' coaching staff used their $6 million forward in losses to the Flyers, Sharks and Jets was … well, perplexing.
Saad saw less than 13 minutes of ice time in the first two games while skating on the third line and got exactly 1 second of power-play time. His ice time increased to 16:06 in Saturday's 3-2 OT loss to Winnipeg, but he remained in a third-line role with David Kampf and Dominik Kubalik.
Saad, while inconsistent at times, is one of the Hawks' best overall players and he deserves to be treated as such.
The power-play snub in the first two games was mind-boggling, especially when you consider Alex Nylander -- who has all of 21 games of NHL experience -- was on the second unit instead of Saad.
"I've always kind of played all kinds of special teams," said Saad, who scored a short-handed goal in the first period against the Jets. "I feel like I can contribute on the power play and penalty kill and at even strength. That's the type of player I want to be.
"At the end of the day, ultimately it's not my decision."
While talking to Jonathan Toews on Saturday, I said it seems like Saad is someone you'd want on one of the two power-play units.
Here was the captain's response: "I totally agree. I guess it's tough. You've got Brent Seabrook, who's got a (heck of a) shot. Duncan Keith, multi-Norris (Trophy) winner. I'd like to play (Patrick Kane's) spot on the power play too.
"We went through some power-play woes the last few years and this look (on the first unit) we have has been clicking. It's just sometimes it's hard. Saader always stays positive, even though he knows in a lot of cases he should be getting more opportunities."
With Nylander a healthy scratch, Saad was on the second unit Saturday and got 92 seconds of power-play time.
Coach Jeremy Colliton has chosen to deploy Saad in more of a defensive role, and he's definitely done his job with Kampf and Kubalik. No line has been more consistent through the first three games.
"He's going to carry a heavier load on the PK (penalty kill)," Colliton said "And the Kampf line can be a group that helps tilt the ice for us (as they play) against the other team's top lines. …
"He's a guy that seems to be able to produce no matter who he plays with. That's a real nice weapon for us. We can sprinkle him throughout the lineup and he's still going to contribute offensively."
But Saad deserves to be more than "sprinkled" throughout the lineup. As a consistent 20-goal scorer, the eight-year veteran should be on the ice for 17-19 minutes a game.
With Toews and Kane struggling to find consistency, it's time to move Saad up to play with them. The Hawks don't have the luxury to spread out their lines the way they did when Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, Andrew Shaw, Antoine Vermette and others were wreaking havoc in 2015.
They can still have a solid defensive third line by slotting Drake Caggiula in with Kampf and Kubalik. Allow them to deal with the other teams' top line, and then Toews, Kane and Saad can overwhelm their weaker players.
And it needs to start against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers on Monday. Or this season might soon turn into an overwhelming mess.
Scouting reportBlackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers at United Center, 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC SportsChicago • Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: The Oilers made NHL history by falling behind in their first five games of the season and coming back to win them all. "It's nice to be 5-0, but we have to keep getting better," Connor McDavid told reporters after a 4-1 victory at the Rangers on Saturday. McDavid leads the Oilers with 12 points, while linemate Leon Draisaitl has 11. They've both scored four times. ... Jonathan Toews has yet to record a point, tying his longest drought to open a season with the 2009-10 campaign. He recorded an assist in the Hawks' fourth game that season and scored in a shootout that lasted nine rounds. Andrew Ladd finally ended the contest by beating Avs goalie Craig Anderson. ... The Hawks won the last meeting between the teams 6-2 in February by scoring 5 straight goals in the third period. ...
Next: Columbus Blue Jackets at United Center, 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- John Dietz