by PuckStopsHere on 05/26/13 at 06:27 PM ET
Brandon Saad is a Calder Trophy nominee this year. I argue that he is the worst choice for an award nominee this season and I think his playoffs are going a long way toward verifying that. In the playoffs this season he has been a non-factor. He has posted only one point and a +/- of zero in over 16 minutes per game.
The narrative for Saad's nomination was that he must be a very good player to have got to play a first line role on a team as good as the first place Chicago Blackhawks. Looking at statistics it is hard not to notice that he led all the rookies in the league with a +17 +/- rating and his 27 points were four back of the rookie lead.
What is missing from that narrative is an understanding of how Saad "earned" his role as the first line left wing in Chicago. Chicago has one front line quality left wing in Patrick Sharp. He missed significant time in the 2012/13 season due to injury and when he played he usually played with Marian Hossa and not with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the nominal first line. Chicago had been auditioning players to fill their first line left wing role. Bryan Bickell and Andrew Brunette were among the players who were given a chance in 2011/12, but neither was impressive in their role. The Blackhawks gave an OHL graduate in Brandon Saad a shot and he didn't look out of place. He wasn't the guy who made the line work. In fact, he was largely along for the ride, but to his credit he was skilled enough to handle that role for the most part. When given a tougher job in the playoffs he hasn't been able to keep up.
A shortened season made all of the award selections more difficult because players have not had as much time to differentiate themselves from the pack Nowhere is this more of a problem than the Calder Trophy. Players can be affected both negatively and positively by this. When a player first establishes himself as a good NHLer, other teams will put more effort into shutting him down and some players are never able to have the same success once this happens. Other players need time to grow into their roles and time ran out soon after they had done so in the shortened season. Saad is more of the first case. He won an open position on the Chicago frontline. Of the choices Chicago had, he may have been their best choice, but that is more a sign that they had no top choices. The argument that winning a role on Chicago was difficult and proves Saad's worth wasn't true in his case. It might have been true is he played another position and had to beat out a proven all star for the spot. There were several better rookies than Saad this year.
Brandon Saad has had a weak playoff after having a rookie year where he posted some good numbers. His linemates are a big reason for his regular season numbers. They haven't been able to dominate as well in the playoffs (Toews scored his first playoff goal yesterday) and Saad has failed to be a difference maker on his own. He was a poor choice for his Calder Trophy nomination.
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