BLACKHAWKS AT DEvils
The facts: 6 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: February 4, 2014 10:26AM
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Brandon Saad took little solace in the fact that he was essentially the last man cut before Team USA announced its roster for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the last cut or cut early on,” Saad said after Thursday’s morning skate on Long Island. “Either way, it’s the same result: You didn’t make the team. Hopefully next time.”
The Blackhawks were flying to New York during the Winter Classic and missed the postgame announcement of the U.S. roster. Saad got the bad news from his agent when they landed. According to ESPN.com, which was granted special access to the Team USA selection process over the last several months, Saad was in until pretty much the very last minute, when St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler passed him up.
That means if there’s an injury between now and the Olympics, Saad or Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan — perhaps the most surprising name left off the team — could be the next man in.
“He would certainly be in the conversation, yeah,” said Stan Bowman, the Hawks general manager and a member of the selection committee. “He got a lot of attention coming down the stretch. I know he impressed a lot of people who didn’t know much about him until the first few months of the season. The way he’s played an all-around game, scoring and doing a little bit of everything, I think it’s attractive.”
Bowman — who, according to the ESPN.com story, pushed for Saad by equating him to a young Marian Hossa — was disappointed he didn’t make it, but added, “It’s a hard team to make.” Patrick Kane was the lone Hawks player to make the roster, with Saad and defenseman Nick Leddy, both of whom were invited to the orientation camp over the summer, left out.
Saad, 21, took the disappointment in stride, saying it could “fuel the fire a bit.”
“Obviously, I want to make it this time around, but I’m still young and hopefully I’ll have more opportunities,” he said.
Hossa, who expects to play for Slovakia in the Olympics, was surprised that Saad didn’t make it.
“The way Saader’s playing right now, he definitely deserved to be on the team,” Hossa said. “He’s playing unbelievable.”
The rest of the Olympic rosters will be announced by Tuesday, and 11 more Hawks — a very high number compared with most teams around the league — are still very much in the mix for their nation’s rosters.
Selfishly, some teams might want to have fewer Olympians, so their players could use the nearly three-week Olympic break in February as a chance to heal and rest for the playoff push. And Saad acknowledged that the time off could pay dividends in the spring. But coach Joel Quenneville was rooting for Saad and the rest of his players to make it.
“I think that it’s a good experience for guys,” Quenneville said. “Playing against top guys in that type of a setting can make you a better player going forward. I hope they get a chance to fulfill their dreams and get a chance to win a medal and represent their countries.”
Kane, meanwhile, will go it alone on Team USA in Sochi.
“It would have been nice to have both of them there,” Kane said of Saad and Leddy. “But at the same time, they’re both young guys, they’re going to get that opportunity again. And from what it sounds like, Saader was pretty close to making it. He could be the next guy if someone gets injured or something. There’s no hope lost yet. They’re both great players, not just in this league but overall, too. I’m sure you’re going to see them playing [in the Olympics] before their career is over.”