Brandon Saad's acquisition by the Jackets was one of the biggest surprises of the offseason, leaving fans to salivate over the thought of adding a young, elite scorer to the core. Visions of pairing him with the team's other young star Ryan Johansen made the trade that much more exciting.
Saad, Johansen and Nick Foligno were the stars of the NHL preseason (remember that?), putting up outrageous point totals and furthering the expectations of the coaches, management and fans.
Confidence was clearly at a high point for the club leading up to opening night, but that confidence may have led to something sinister- complacency. It was too easy for the Jackets in the preseason, and they were still riding the high from last season's run and a successful offseason.
When the real games started on October 9th against the Rangers, the Jackets received a rude wakeup call. They were not where they needed to be to compete. They had become too relaxed and were not ready to win games. We all know how long the nightmare lasted, until the 24th of October when the Jackets were able to win their first game of the year in Colorado.
Saad was able to contribute to the scoresheet despite his team hitting rock bottom, potting three powerplay goals in the first four games. Though, even with these tallies the chemistry with his linemates just wasn't there. There were many games early on where Saad didn't look comfortable.
In an interview with E.J. Hradek and Steve Mears on the NHL Network's NHL Live, Saad admitted that "For some reason when the season started and the games started to matter, no one really showed up, including myself.":
The early season skid cost Todd Richards his job, but the Jackets have been much better under his replacement John Tortorella. After some adjustments to the new coach, the team has turned a corner and after last night's victory over the St. Louis Blues, the team has now won seven of their last 11 games. Saad scored two goals, including the game-winner last night.
Saad has looked more and more comfortable lately, scoring nine points over that ten game stretch. He's now up to 9-4-13 on the season, and looks terrific on a line with Johansen and Boone Jenner. His nine goals ties him for fifth in the NHL in that category.
For the Jackets to be successful, Saad, as the Jackets' highest-paid forward, must be producing. He's delivering now, and the Jackets are climbing out of the basement and back to looking like a team that can contend. There's more work to be done, but if the past ten games are any indicator, Saad has arrived.