Chicago Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Andrew Shaw

The gritty forward endeared himself to Hawks fans during their Cup run

Madhouse Enforcer is finally wrapping up our Player Evaluation series this week, and today we focus on a player who went from fifth round draft pick to folk hero in the Windy City: Andrew Shaw.

The Good:

Shaw is the type of player that Chicago Blackhawks fans seem to love.

In the tradition of guys like Adam Burish and Ben Eager, Shaw is a guy who will jaw at opponents, take a stick to the face, and continue trash-talking. He also throws his weight around like a much bigger player, and can occasionally weave magic on the offensive side of things as well.

The biggest difference between Shaw and those other two players is that Shaw can actually play well in both areas of the game consistently. He is a solid defender who uses the forecheck and his physicality to strip the puck from opponents, and can still turn around and actually generate offense with his on-ice awareness and solid offensive instincts.

Shaw’s toughness is also a solid asset for a Hawks team that is built more on finesse than punching power. The puck that Shaw took to the face in Game 6 of the Cup Final likely would have sidelined many other players, but after he was helped off the ice, Shaw got stitched up and came back for the rest of the game. Seeing the blood dripping from his face as he hoisted the Cup hammered home just how remarkable of an achievement that was, and will remain an indelible image of that championship run.

The Bad:

There are two areas of Shaw’s game that he is going to need to work on if he is going to continue playing center for the Hawks: his face-off prowess and his discipline.

The former isn’t as big a deal as some pundits will make it out to be, but there really is no way to gloss over a 42% success rate in the dot. The Hawks did a good job of getting their puck possession game on track with aggressive forechecking and solid defensive positioning, but having to do that frequently can lead to breakdowns, giving up scoring chances, and committing penalties.

Penalties are one thing that Shaw is intimately familiar with. He has picked up suspensions in both the AHL (a six game ban for his actions in a brawl against the Chicago Wolves) and in the NHL (three games for hitting Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith behind the net), and those behaviors simply can’t happen for a guy who may be looking at top six minutes this season.

If Shaw’s game is indeed predicated on straddling the line between right and wrong (which it increasingly appears to be), then he is going to have to try to fall on the right side more often than he has been.

Best Game of 2013:

Shaw had several memorable moments in the 2013 season, but he did all the little things right in the Hawks’ Game 5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the playoffs.

In that game, Shaw scored a power play to give the Hawks a lead they would never relinquish, and added a third period tally to help Chicago win 4-1 to extend the series. He also had three hits in only 12:25 of ice time, and he actually won the majority of his face-offs in the game as well, winning five of eight draws.

As he proved in this game, as well as with his game-winning tally in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Shaw is capable of putting up some offensive numbers to go along with his chippy play, and he seemed to thrive in the postseason cauldron.

Outlook for 2013-14:

There are a lot of different directions that the Blackhawks could elect to go with Shaw’s game. The most likely scenario would see him continue to play on the team’s third line, enabling him to keep up the checking and physical game that he seems to enjoy so much.

Another possibility is that Shaw could see serious time on the penalty killing side of things this season. His ability to play either center or the wing spot gives him a good deal of defensive versatility, and he could be a prime candidate to replace Michael Frolik on the top pairing with Marcus Kruger. Neither player is particularly adept at face-offs, but when you consider how well Kruger did last year while ceding the puck so often, it isn’t a stretch to think that Quenneville won’t overlook Shaw’s shortcomings in that area as well.

There’s also a chance that Shaw could see some time on the first or second line. Quenneville will likely keep Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews together on that top line (so long as other players like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp remain healthy), but Bryan Bickell is the real wild card there. If Shaw gets off to a hot start and Bickell seems to struggle in the first year of his new four year deal, then Shaw could get a shot at some top line minutes, with Michal Handzus or Kruger picking up the third line minutes he left behind.

Finally, Shaw could see some time on the power play. Quenneville is constantly looking for players who can mix it up in front of the net, and Shaw’s fearlessness would be a tremendous asset in that area. He doesn’t have the best hands on the team, and he is prone to committing the occasional silly penalty, but with how poorly that unit played last season, all of those flaws may have to be glossed over.

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