Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Saad brings a winning pedigree, sandpaper mentality to Blues

Winger signed to five-year, $22.5 million contract fitting 
into system that suits his playing style, to no one's surprise

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- New players getting acclimated to new surroundings and new teammates may need some time to get adjusted.

Sure, Brandon Saad will need it himself, but having played against the Blues enough during his 10-year NHL career, liking their system and feeling like it fits his style, it's been a solid, seamless transition for the 28-year-old thus far.

And nobody is really surprised, are they? If they are, they shouldn't be.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues winger Brandon Saad (20) battles with Wild forward Jordan
Greenway during exhibition play Saturday at Enterprise Center.

"I thought even from playing against the Blues that I liked their style of play, playing that aggressive style, holding into pucks, supporting each other in the offensive zone, kind of grinding and wearing teams down," Saad said. "That's all things I like to do. That's something that's been preached here and I'm looking forward to getting into the games. ... I think the first couple days have went well. To finally be with the group and learn the systems and things like that, be on the ice. It's been good so far."

Saad admitted he didn't know too many of the Blues on the roster but played with Justin Faulk on the US national team 10 years ago and with Colton Parayko on the Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. But guys like Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Faulk and Torey Krug were among the first to reach out to Saad when he signed with the Blues.

"Any time over the past few years going to a new team, it takes a little time, but there's a great group of guys here," Saad said. "It seems to be that way in the NHL with whatever team you go to. You've got guys reaching out to you. Sometimes you have a couple buddies already on the team. It doesn't take too long. Guys are all great. Now it's nice you can get some dinners on the road now and get to know each other a little bit better. It was tough during the COVID year. Just getting a feel for the city, learning your way around, not having to use a GPS as much, things like that, getting settled into the house. It takes time any time in a new place, but the guys have all been great."

When Saad signed a five-year, $22.5 million free agent contract ($4.5 million average annual value), it helped the Blues solidify a spot vacated by the versatile Jaden Schwartz, who himself signed elsewhere this off-season, going to the expansion Seattle Kraken on a five-year, $27.5 million contract.

Saad, who spent last season with the Colorado Avalanche, has already found himself on a line that's raised some eyebrows early in camp with Robert Thomas in the middle and Vladimir Tarasenko on the right.

That trio was noticeably good throughout a 6-2 preseason win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, with Saad scoring off a nice feed from Thomas.

"I think it's going to be a fun line," Saad said. "A lot of skill, a lot of speed. Trying to get to know each other over these couple practice days, get a feel for tendencies and a little bit of chemistry. I think we can make some plays and hold onto pucks out there.

"I'm familiar with them from playing against them but it's kind of a whole new thing when you're on a line with them, trying to read off each other and kind of make plays out there. They're great players, so hopefully it doesn't take too long. Just trying to bring what I bring to the table."

Thomas said, "Saader is a fast, smart player. I think us three together will look really nice."

Saad, who has scored 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 regular-season games, won't ooh and ahh you on the ice. In fact, O'Reilly had the perfect description for the Blues left wing.

"Saad is, I think, like a swiss army knife," O'Reilly said. "Anything you can think of what he can do, watching his touch around the net, his stick, the stuff he does with that. Anything you need, I think he can do."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues winger Brandon Saad (20) is fitting in well in his first few days with
the Blues since signing a free agent contract this past off-season.

But the most important quality Saad brings to the Blues: a proven Stanley Cup winner when he won it twice with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. He's also played with the Columbus Blue Jackets in his career where he scored a career-high 31 goals in 2015-16.

"Proven winner. He's won before," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Saad. "He knows what it takes to win. He scores goals, big guy, skates well, goes to the net, things like that. He's got real good awareness defensively."

Which is why Saad can be the perfect fit for a team that thrives with plumbers on their team, not necessarily the guy with all the flash and dash.

"That's something that I've always tried to do regardless of who I'm playing with or where I fall in the lineup," Saad said. "Just play my game and bring what I can to the team and try to help the team win. So obviously that's a nice compliment from (O'Reilly). That's what I try to do is be an all-around player and help the team."

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