Should I add “if he’s here?” We’ll get to that.
We know that there are fewer, if any, more made men than Andrew Shaw when it comes to Joel Quenneville. Because the Hawks value versatility and grit pretty highly, as long as that grit comes with skill, Shaw is basically the light of their eyes. Shaw has been deployed in every forward spot on every line in his three seasons here (two full and two half-seasons), and while we scoff when he’s deployed at center up the lineup, it’s not like he’s a total embarrassment there. At least not all the time. It’s just that there’s generally been better alternatives around. And there will be when Shaw is playing third center instead of Teuvo or is on the top line left wing instead of Dano or something this season.
Last Season: 79 games, 15 goals, 11 assists, 26 points, -8, 67 PIM, 53.9% Corsi (0.1 Relative), 50.1% Corsi Competition
Shaw actually suffered something of a dip in his production last year. For his two half-seasons of 2012 and 2013 and then his first full one of ’13-’14 he was a 20-goal scorer, or at least at that pace. He dipped down to 15 last year, with only 10 at even-strength. You could probably pin that on his ES shooting-percentage dropping nearly in half from 11.8 to 6.8. He had the same exact number of shots as he did the previous year, so it’s not as if he wasn’t getting the chances.
Shaw was once again bounced around the lineup, starting the season as the second center ahead of Richards (for reasons we were never privy to), then down to the third line center, and then where we always thought he should be which was fourth line winger. Combined with Kruger and Ben Smith/Desjardins, it made for just about the best 4th line in the league. He also was playing our favorite female role, Annette Frontpresence on the first power play unit. While Shaw isn’t exactly what you’d sketch out to be there, being only 5-9 if we’re generous, his willingness to battle there and his plus hands do make him a weapon in that spot. And of course… HEADBUTT!
This Season’s Outlook: Let’s start with what I said at the top, and that’s the question of if Shaw is even here. While it’s hard to fathom the Hawks moving their favorite pet, there’s still a cap crunch. The Hawks seemingly have a couple replacements for Shaw already lined up in CatButt and Ryan Hartman (it’s a role Danault could probably fill as well when he’s healthy). Shaw is in the last year of his deal, and were he to put up another season around 20 goals… well, consistent 20-goal scorers get paid a lot more than the Hawks are going to be able to afford to pay Shaw. It would be cashing in on an asset before you lose him for nothing, even if Shaw is going to be a restricted free agent.
That said, you have to think Shaw does too many things for the Hawks to cash in on him before the season. The deadline seems more likely. For instance, they can’t put either CatButt or Hartman on the power play. Neither can moonlight at a higher-line center. They’d probably want more time to assess what they have other than Shaw before they decide they can do without him. So in the meantime, you can expect Shaw to play everywhere and provide what he always has, with slightly better numbers because his shooting-percentage should rise. It depends on how the rest of the roster shakes out and whether Teuvo is playing center, but it’s likely you’ll see Shaw at either the third center spot or on the wing on either of the bottom two lines. And he’ll be doing what he’s always done, going into everything face first. Sometimes literally.