Saigeon surging for Bulldogs
‘HE HIT THE RESET BUTTON’
Brandon Saigeon hasn’t just turned his game around. He’s turned it on its head. In less than a year, the Grimsby native has gone from having one of the worst plus-minus ratings on his team (minus-25) to leading the Hamilton Bulldogs with an impressive plus-23.
He’s scored seven goals in his last four outings and nearly tripled last season’s point tally with a dozen games still to play. He’s also been a huge factor in Hamilton’s current five-game win streak.
Yet, what’s interesting is not the fact that Saigeon is playing so well — as an Ontario Hockey League first rounder, he’s always had the potential. What’s interesting is the journey. Rewind to last season.
After a decent debut with the Belleville Bulls, the six-foot-two, 200-pound centre started the 2015-16 campaign in Hamilton slowly. He had one point in September, two in October and, by the end of December, had eight.
In January, the Bulldogs made some moves that gave the 18-yearold more ice time and opportunity. He took advantage and it showed in his numbers, which started steadily ticking up. Then, just like that, his season was over.
Three weeks after the trade deadline, Saigeon got tangled up with a Mississauga Steelheads player and went careening into his own net. He broke one bone in his forearm and cracked another.
“I’m not looking back,” he said at the time. “I know what I’m capable of for next year and the year after that. So my goal is to bring a championship to Hamilton and be one of the key guys to contribute.”
He trained hard all summer — eating clean, lifting weights, running hills and caring for his arm. But this season, again, it took him a few months to find his groove.
“He realized what he was doing in the past wasn’t working,” said head coach John Gruden.
“He was focusing so much on the point part of it and not taking care of the defensive side.”
So, together, they hit the reset button. Gruden helped Saigeon understand the value of playing a 200-foot game and held him accountable — putting him on the fourth line, and even making him a healthy scratch — when he didn’t.
But he listened, “and now he’s playing really good hockey on both sides and getting rewarded for it.”
Saigeon, who’s fourth in team scoring with 41 points, is humble when asked about his journey. He’s also quick to give credit to his linemates Michael Cramarossa and Will Bitten, who, in his words, “have been awesome.”
Like their coach, however, the two wingers recognize that Saigeon has put the work in.
He’s going to the net, playing well defensively and creating offensive opportunities — in short, he’s making everyone around him better.
“It’s great for us,” said Cramarossa, “so, hopefully, he keeps it up.”
Saigeon and his teammates will try to make it six straight wins in Barrie Thursday. Here’s a look at what they’re up against: At Barrie Thursday, 7:30 p.m. The storyline: The Colts are the lastplace team in the OHL, but can’t be underestimated — they won their first meeting with the Bulldogs this season and came close in the two after that Player to watch: Anthony Stefano is second in team scoring and leads the Colts with three goals and two assists against Hamilton Notable alumni: Zac Rinaldo, Alex Pietrangelo, Mark Schiefele Hamilton connection: None
How hot is Brandon Saigeon these days? He’s scored seven times in the past four Bulldogs games.
Brandon Saigeon: “My goal is to bring a championship to Hamilton and be one of the key guys to contribute.”