CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 4: Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks shoots the puck as Jan Hejda #8 of the Colorado Avalanche reaches across during the NHL game on March 04, 2014 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Updated: March 5, 2014 12:10AM
Coach Joel Quenneville equated his versatility and ability to play well with others to Patrick Kane. Jonathan Toews equated his overall game to Marian Hossa.
So Brandon Saad’s big step up to the top line isn’t exactly a huge step down for the Blackhawks.
While nobody can replace Hossa — one of the best two-way forwards in the game and the league leader in takeaways — the Hawks have the luxury of having Saad to slide into his spot while Hossa recovers from an upper-body injury that is expected to sideline him two or three weeks.
“[Saad] gives us some versatility, gives us a presence on the line that’s all of a sudden a threat to score and makes people around him very dangerous,” Quenneville said. “He seems to adapt, no matter who he plays with, kind of like a Kaner. In the middle of the game [on Saturday], he just stepped right in there and did an outstanding job.”
Saad spent nearly his entire rookie season on the top line, skating on the left side with Toews and Hossa. Now, he’ll be on the right side with Patrick Sharp and Toews. He also assumed Hossa’s spot alongside Toews on the penalty kill.
“It’s huge to have depth on the team, especially because injuries are going to happen,” Saad said. “I think with the team we have and the depth we have, it’s why we had success before. To be able to fill those roles, it’s a huge help to the team.”
Despite being moved around from line to line and wing to wing, Saad has 18 goals and 23 assists and is second in the NHL with a plus-27 rating.
And the way Quenneville sees it, Saad’s only getting better.
“He has patience with the puck and [is] strong in the puck areas and is defensively responsible,” he said. “Hossa is extremely responsible. Saad is a work in progress, but I think he’s trending toward being as defensively responsible as any player in the league.”