This was not how it was supposed to play out for Brandon Saad with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After proving too rich for the Chicago Blackhawks’ salary structure, Saad was traded to the Blue Jackets, who signed the young two-time Stanley Cup winner to a 6-year, $36-million contract. The hockey world braced its collective self for Saad’s offensive to explode playing on a line with center Ryan Johansen.
Instead, Saad is now skating on the Blue Jackets’ fourth line. Oh, and Johansen’s not even a center at the moment.
Welcome to life under John Tortorella.
Saad’s numbers aren’t terrible: 9 goals, 7 assists in 27 games. But his stats have fallen off a cliff lately: No goals since Nov. 19, and just three points in that span. He hasn’t tallied a point in his last four games, and didn’t register a shot in consecutive games against the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers.
His ice time dropped to a season-low 13:35 in the Jackets’ win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
Tortorella said on Saturday that he put Saad on fourth line because Saad has been struggling, but also because he wanted to spread some offensive potential across the Blue Jackets' lineup. Don't expect Saad to stay on the fourth line very long.
As for Johansen, playing wing for the first time since his rookie season with Brandon Dubinsky as his center?
"I switched the line around, and at first we had (Brandon Dubinsky) on left wing and Joey in the middle," Tortorella said. "I wanted them to play together when we switched the lines around.
"I think Dubi feels more comfortable down low. There’s a lot more responsibility (at center ice). As it went on, I saw joey moving his legs more on the wing than at center. That’s a constant concentration for Joey, is to keep his legs moving. It’s still not consistent enough, but I see it more on the wing. I just saw his legs moving so I kept him there. We’ll see what happens with it."
The experiments continue against the Los Angeles Kings at home on Tuesday night. We’ll see if offensive power houses Gregory Campbell and Michael Chaput bust Saad’s slump.
Meanwhile, Artem Anisimov, a key part of the Saad trade for the Blackhawks, has been a major cog on one of the NHL’s best lines, helping to power Patrick Kane to a 22-game point streak.
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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