The recent UFA signing will be an important asset for the Blues.
As a Blues fan, it’s hard for many to be excited about Brandon Saad. His years of playing with the Chicago Blackhawks – and winning two Stanley Cups with them – have conditioned Blues fans to associate him with the team’s most hated rival.
It doesn’t help much that Saad and his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, swept the Blues out of the first round of this season’s playoffs.
The loss of both Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman on the first day of free agency left two gaping holes on the Blues’ left side, two that general manager Doug Armstrong anticipated having to fill. Arguably, he upgraded both.
Pavel Buchnevich is an upgrade to Jaden Schwartz, and today’s signing of Saad marks an upgrade on the second line’s left side over Hoffman. Both Schwartz and Hoffman were valuable members of the Blues during their time with the team. Hoffman’s sample size with which to judge his impact is significantly smaller than Schwartz’s, but it’s tough to see the Blues make the post-season without their power play units clicking, and Hoffman was responsible for much of that click. Schwartz, of course, has been one of the Blues’ most consistent forwards when healthy, and his contributions to the 2019 Stanley Cup run were invaluable.
Buchnevich is very much a valuable, defensively aware forward who is an offensive threat. Slotting him in on a line with Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, if that’s the choice that Craig Berube makes, is going to create a very difficult top line to play against. Saad on the second line centered by Brayden Schenn should also be an effective line; Saad hasn’t played 80 or more games in a season since 2018-2019 on account of pandemic scheduling, but when he last played a complete season he scored 23 goals and added 24 assists on the year. He’s a heavy forward who fits into Berube’s system more effectively than did Hoffman.
Much of where Buchnevich and Saad play is dependent on where Vladimir Tarasenko plays next season. If Tarasenko is not traded this summer, Buchnevich and Saad stay on the left side. If Tarasenko is dealt, the lines could look a bit more like this:
#stlblues guesstimated lines w/Saad and w/o Tarasenko:
Extras: MacEachern, Kostin
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 29, 2021
Many Blues fans would prefer Kostin be slotted in on the third line at left wing, but the team seems hesitant right now to work him into regular play. Without Kostin in the lineup, Rutherford’s guesstimated lines have all of the hallmarks of a Berube coached team. Whether or not they live up to Saad’s hopes for how he sees the Blues playing is another thing.