Brandon Saad walked down the United Center hallway, stopping several feet short of the home locker room and turning into the visitor’s room.
It was a strange feeling, for sure, but the former Blackhawks forward is happy to be back in the surroundings in which he found so much success.
“Flying in last night, having the day here today, it’s exciting for sure,” said the Columbus Blue Jackets forward. “There are a lot of emotions going but the biggest thing is just enjoying the process. I have a lot of good memories here.”
Saad entered the summer figuring he’d be making a lot more memories with the Blackhawks. But a funny thing happened on the way to a contract extension — he and the Blackhawks never got close on a number. So the Blackhawks traded him to Columbus for Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano. It was definitely a strange time for Saad.
“It’s my first time going through something like that,” Saad recalled. “After having all that success, thinking one thing and then something else happens, there are definitely a lot of emotions and a pretty hectic 24 hours, 48 hours. At the end of the day it’s part of the business but it’s good to be back.”
Saad’s start with Blue Jackets was painful, as he took a puck to the mouth in late September. He said he feels a lot better now — “I look better too, so that’s good,” he said. But since the regular season began, he’s been performing as the Blue Jackets hoped he would. His three goals, tied for tops on the team, have all come on the power play. The Blue Jackets, however, aren’t doing so well. Columbus fell to 0-5-0 entering Saturday night’s game against the Blackhawks. Saad, who won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, has become somewhat of a leader in his new locker room.
“I think he’s probably still adjusting a little bit; new city, new environment. But he’s been really good for our team,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “For me, it’s as simple as his body language at times. He’s attentive, he’s listening and then he goes out on the ice and the way he plays out on the ice, you can tell he’s come from an environment that’s used to winning, and how they do things.”
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As far as Saad becoming more of a leader for the Blue Jackets, Richards said, “he’s still getting his feet wet there, and that’s not an easy situation for him to come in and immediately get to the forefront of leadership. But I think he’s offered experiences that he’s already gone through as a young player that he can pass on to his teammates and a lot of it is what it takes to win on a consistent basis.”
Saad has gone through a lot of changes over the last few months, from being another potential member of the Blackhawks’ core to playing for a new team. Saad has the championship pedigree and a sizeable contract, and he could become a bigger leader for a team trying to find its way in this early going. It’s a lot of responsibility for him, but Saad is ready for it all.
“It’s a little of everything. Something I want to do is produce for the team but I also want to be a good leader,” Saad said. “It’s something that, coming in as a new guy and being young as well, it’s a new role for me. But it’s been great so far. I’m just looking to keep getting better.”