Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad is having a fine sophomore season for the defending Stanley Cup champs. As of right now, it wasn't enough to merit a spot on the U.S.A. Olympic hockey team.
Saad wasn't named to the squad headed for Sochi in February. However, this wasn't a snub and shouldn't be taken as such.
Nearly making the national team in his second full season is a positive for the 21-year-old. It's also something that can continue to drive Saad as he continues to develop.
Saad moved up to the second line in Friday night's game in New Jersey and was credited with a goal in the 'Hawks 5-3 win over the Devils. The assist came from new line mate Patrick Kane, who was the lone American representative from Chicago.
Saad now has 15 goals and 16 assists in 44 games for the Blackhawks. This comes on the heels of a 27-point effort in 46 games in the 2012-13 season. He's certainly shown that he can flourish in a variety of roles, which is what may felt would earn him a spot on the Olympic roster.
ESPN's Scott Burnside chronicled the selection process that ended with the naming of the 25-man roster. From that story (which is a great read), Saad received this endorsement from 'Hawks general manager Stan Bowman:
He’s like a young version of [Marian] Hossa. He’s such a strong guy. He’s just hard to handle. He’s smart. He’s a guy the coaches would love.
In the end, the selection committee went with different players. It is difficult to deny head coach Dan Bylsma a say in the matter. By all accounts, the coaching staff felt strongly about T.J. Oshie making the squad.
It is difficult to discount Oshie, whose numbers are worthy of his selection. Bobby Ryan's 18 goals weren't enough to earn a spot on the team. Saad has been great this year, but to say the powers that be ignored his production and what he could add to the team is a bit misguided.
There are a lot of American skaters who could have made the Olympic team and weren't selected. Some, like Saad, may still be assigned to the squad if injuries prevent someone from participating.
To snub someone literally means to ignore or turn them away with disdain. That hasn't been the case with Saad. His performance so far this season made it impossible to ignore. His play has also earned respect around the NHL.
In a post on ESPNChicago.com, Mike Mezzeo talked to Saad about the selection process. Saad seems be in the right frame of mind:
There's always some disappointments that fuel the fire a bit and want to make you a better player. You gotta keep working at things.
We may not see Saad in the Olympic tournament next month. However, it is exciting to think about how he might raise his game in the Indian head sweater in the second half of 2013-14.