Award season in the NHL is always a fun/awkward/nonsensical time. Fans find themselves all riled up over awards that mean absolutely nothing to them as individuals. In fact, these awards don't actually mean anything to anyone other than the player that actually takes home the hardware.
Regardless of that fact, it's still exciting to see some players from the Chicago Blackhawks get a little bit of recognition as far as their individual players go. They've already taken home some hardware, with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery teaming up to win the Jennings Trophy, as the two surrendered the least amount of goals between netminding duos this season.
In what is sure to be an awards ceremony pretty heavy in Blackhawks flavor, Brandon Saad became the next Blackhawk to be named as a finalist for an award. Along with Jonathan Huberdeau and Brendan Gallagher, he was named a Calder Trophy finalist, leaving him in the running for the league's top rookie.
There is a bit of controversy, if you want to call it that, surrounding Saad. Many feel that Nail Yakupov and Jonas Brodin would have made better candidates than Saad. While there is definitely a case for Brodin to be in the mix, Yakupov didn't go on his run until the end of the year. The Calder Trophy is for the season's best. Not the best rookie of the last two weeks.
Many are quick to point out that Saad has spent the entire season on the Blackhawks' top line, playing next to world class talents Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Their claim is that his numbers are inflated and he simply reaped the benefits of playing next to two of the best forwards on the planet. Fiction.
Yes, it is true that Saad played on the top line, and that life is pretty easy for a rookie when you're playing next to perennial All Stars and Stanley Cup champions. But that doesn't mean that his performance was any less valuable to the Hawks because of it.
Saad was a key piece of the Blackhawks this season. He's been fantastic. We've seen his game grow as the season has gone on. He's emerged as his own player, and not just the product of playing to the left of Toews and Hossa.
Throughout the season, we've seen Saad's role with the team increase. He finished fifth on the club on minutes per game among forwards, trailing only the "core" in that department. His role on special teams wasn't always large, but we saw him become a bigger part of the penalty kill as the season went on, as well as 90 seconds of power play time a game.
His numbers on the season were among the team's best. He finished fifth in points, fourth among forwards. His 10 goals were fourth on the team, as were his 17 assists. His impact has gone beyond the stat sheet, though, as he's constantly generated scoring chances in keeping up a strong forecheck and has drawn several penalties throughout the year as a result of his non-stop effort.
When it comes down to it, Saad may not win the Calder, mostly due to the fact that these awards are primarily based purely on numbers. Which is part of what makes them such nonsense to so many people. But there's no doubt that Saad has earned serious consideration for the award, top line or not. It hasn't always shown up on the stat sheet, but he's been fantastic.