On an insanely busy and blockbuster-filled Friday morning, it was hard to sit back and fully analyze all the trades going down. Such is the world of instant reaction.
But in the aftermath, a few pressing questions were asked. One in particular following the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin deal orchestrated by Chicago GM Stan Bowman and Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
It was asked of Kekalainen — did Saad like being a Blue Jacket?
A transcript from video posted by the Dispatch’s Tom Reed:
Q: Saad put up terrific numbers, really strong numbers, for two seasons here. But there always seemed to be a feeling he wasn’t quite totally comfortable here. Did you sense that?
Kekalainen: I can’t speak for his behalf. You’ll have to ask him. He was a good soldier for us, a good professional, and he handled himself well in that regard.
Kekalainen went on to add the Jackets weren’t looking to trade Saad, and agreed the 24-year-old put up solid numbers — especially at 5-on-5.
But there was friction during his stint in Columbus.
In February of 2016, head coach John Tortorella acknowledged he “screwed up” with Saad when he first took over behind the bench.
“I came here, I screwed up with him and I think I held him back in where he wasn’t killing penalties,” he lamented. “You know what he is as a player – two-time Stanley Cup-winner – but I still think he has a lot to learn about the game, and I lost him.
“When he spends two minutes on the bench and he doesn’t kill a penalty, and I don’t come back with him another shift after that because I’m trying to get my lines back together, there he is sitting on the bench for probably three minutes. It may not seem like a lot, but for a player that’s an eternity.”
Tortorella owned up to his mistake, which might’ve seemingly put the issue to bed.
But one year later, he and Saad were clashing again.
During Game 1 of this year’s playoff series against Pittsburgh, Tortorella benched Saad in the third period after giving the puck away.
More, from the Dispatch:
The local Pittsburgh telecast showed coach John Tortorella screaming at Saad after a turnover. The team’s third-leading scorer sat for the final 14:17 with his team trailing by three goals.
“I’m not quite sure — heat of the moment,” Saad said when asked whether the turnover or other factors contributed to his benching and Tortorella’s eruption. “You will have to ask him about that. For me, it’s when I do get out there, do my best and try to help the team win.”
The overriding issue at play seemed to be Saad’s ceiling. The price to acquire him — and sign him — suggested Columbus saw him as an elite, top-line player (for example, Torts said he expected Saad to lead the way against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.)
But while the numbers and production were there, Saad might’ve been more comfortable in the role he had in Chicago, a guy that could thrive in a more secondary role while most of the focus was on Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
And now, he’ll get that chance.