Blackhawks’ Joel Quenneville believes ‘this year could be huge’ for Brandon Saad

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Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 30, 2018, in Denver. | David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said left wing Brandon Saad had an “abnormal year” last season. But Quenneville believes this season “could be huge.”

Saad seems optimistic, too.

After back-to-back 53-point seasons with the Blue Jackets, Saad’s first season back with the Hawks didn’t go as planned. He had arguably the worst year of his NHL career.

It wasn’t for lack of opportunities. Saad just couldn’t dent the net.

“With Saader, the finish is certainly the quality of the quantity that he had,” Quenneville said Sunday.

Saad scored 18 goals in 82 games and had a career-low shooting percentage of 7.6, 19th-worst in the league among players who took at least 200 shots on goal.

Bad puck luck?

“Yeah, that’s part of it,” Saad said.

But Saad, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, doesn’t put the blame solely on chance.

“I always say, ‘You create your own luck,’ ” he said. “It’s just bearing down and getting back to the basics and improving what you need to improve on.

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“The big thing is leaving [last season] in the back, moving forward and thinking about the present and the future. Not too much thinking about anything negative and staying positive.”

Saad spent the bulk of his summer in Chicago working with the Hawks’ strength and conditioning coach, Paul Goodman. For the first offseason of his career, Saad, who turns 26 next month, focused mostly on skill development.

“I think it was just a bit of an eye-opener with edge work and puck skill,” Saad said. “Majority of summers, it would just be practices and conditioning. So this summer [I focused on] working more skills with keeping your head up, making plays with the puck and using edge work to skate out of corners and things like that.”

Since training camp began Friday, Saad has played on one of the Hawks’ most exciting lines with center Nick Schmaltz and right wing Patrick Kane. Quenneville has said the trio is “as exciting as any line maybe in the league.”

Saad agrees. With two practices and one scrimmage under his belt, Saad said he has enjoyed playing with his linemates.

“It’s going to be fun,” Saad said. “Even the few days we’ve had, it’s been fun with the amount of skill and speed they bring to the line. Those two are outstanding players, so to be paired with them is definitely exciting.”

Fans will have to wait and see whether the Saad-Schmaltz-Kane line sticks when the season begins Oct. 4. Regardless, Quenneville believes Saad will play an important role this season.

“His overall game, if he elevates it just a little bit, he could add so much to our team and to his line,” Quenneville said. “Right now, he’s on a line with two really good players, so the upside for him [is] this year could be huge.”

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