Brandon Saad's homecoming didn't exactly go as planned.
He compiled 35 points, his fewest since totaling 27 during his rookie campaign in 2012-13, tallied only 15 goals in 81 games following a hat trick on Opening Night and finished with a career-low 7.6 shooting percentage
"It's something where maybe I was gripping the stick too tight, thinking about it too much," Saad admitted at the end of the season. "Other games maybe just puck luck. I think there are still some positives you can take out of the season and some things I did well. Just fine-tuning a couple things and a few details should be back on track to go."
It's especially hard to swallow for Chicago fans when you look at the season Artemi Panarin had in Columbus, where he set a Blue Jackets record for most points in a single season (82).
But Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman reiterated that that trade specifically was made with the bigger picture in mind, considering Saad had four years left on his deal when the trade was completed compared to Panarin, who had two and is due for a hefty pay raise next summer the Blackhawks simply couldn't afford.
"It's hard to judge a trade just on one year," Bowman said. "I think that's a little bit unfair to Brandon to say that. Obviously his numbers were down this year in terms of number of points he had. But we were never trying to replace Artemi's points with Brandon's points. They're different players.
"Brandon actually did a lot of good things on the ice. He really did have a strong season in a lot of ways that don't show up on the scoresheet, but there's no question that his production was down. We're looking for that to rebound. But I think he did a lot of underlying things which were really good."
That's accurate. Saad was among the NHL's best in just about every advanced statistical category.
When he was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks controlled 56.04 percent of the shot attempts. That percentage ranked 16th among forwards who logged at least 200 minutes, according to naturalstattrick.com.
And of the 15 skaters ahead of him, only one of them was on the ice for more scoring chances for and that's Panarin. It certainly helped that each of them had the most offensive zone starts among those players, with Saad at 426 and Panarin at 492.
But Saad's shooting percentage at 5-on-5 came in at 6.68, by far a career low after averaging 8.93 going into the season. It'd be surprising if there wasn't a market correction there next season.
"When he was on the ice, our team had a lot of chances," Bowman said. "His conversion rate was just really low this year. We look at that as more of an anomoly. We think he's going to get back to his normal production."
It also didn't help that Saad had a PDO of 97.7, a metric that combines on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage. Sea level is usually at 100, and his on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 was 91.02, which suggests he wasn't geting many breaks on the defensive side of things, either.
Still, there's no excusing the fact that Saad's numbers must improve next season for the Blackhawks to get back on track.
"As individuals he's one guy that we're going to need more from him going forward," Joel Quenneville said. "We think he adds that element where he can make a difference on a line on a game-to-game basis where that line would be dangerous and absorb the other team's attention. His production should be up."
Marian Hossa scored just 13 goals in 64 games in 2015-16 and had a career-low shooting percentage of 6.8. A year later at age 38, he doubled his goal total (26) in 73 games and converted on 15.6 percent of his shots.
There's no reason to not expect a similar bounce-back from Saad.
"Obviously this isn't the year that we wanted," Saad said. "But it's not like I'm lacking confidence going into next year. I think I'm very capable of being a leader this team and helping us get back in the playoffs."