It's always difficult to question a coach that has led his team to such excellence in as short a time as Joel Quenneville has done for the Chicago Blackhawks. Throughout the fanbase, there are some that would declare doing just that as blasphemous, for that very reason. Nonetheless, the early part of the season, which has brought about an alarming amount of inconsistency, in a variety of ways, is leading us to do just that, for a couple of different reasons.
On one hand, you have the infamous Coach Q doghouse. Jeremy Morin has failed to earn consistent playing time due to the slightest of mistakes, despite his upside. Bryan Bickell has fallen victim to it on more than one occasion in this recent stretch of games, with a healthy scratch appearing imminent. Brandon Saad was dropped down to the fourth line heading into Saturday. Players are likely terrified of making the slightest mistake, for fear of ending up in that same situation, making their job that much more difficult.
On the other, you have his often questionable deployment of lines and players, specifically (in the most recent stretch) Andrew Shaw. Somehow, Shaw has completely managed to avoid the doghouse, despite regular mistakes and poor performance this season, in a variety of ways. He's not a center, let alone one running the pivot on the second line, yet here we are.
Shaw has four points, including a trio of goals, on the season. His possession numbers aren't terrible, with a Corsi% about right at 60. He's won 46 percent of his draws and his 31 hits are tops on the team. There are certainly some good things happening within the early part of Andrew Shaw's season, and he is obviously an asset to this team when he is deployed correctly. In this instance, however, he has not been.
Looking deeper at some of this numbers, we don't get the greatest of pictures. Shaw has had about 78 percent of his zone starts coming in the offensive end. He's played with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad for the majority of the year. Yet, his Corsi numbers continue to come up disappointing. While 60 percent on the year isn't terrible (and he's coming off of a game against Toronto in which he finished with a Corsi% over 78), he's finished under 55 percent in roughly half of the games he's played to this point. And that's with that hefty amount of zone starts.
Much of what that comes down to is faceoff percentage. He's never been a great faceoff guy, but his record at the dot is hindering his line's offensive attack quite a bit. It is a large part of what has limited Patrick Kane to only three goals on the season. You're losing possession quickly after an offensive zone start. And yet, Joel Quenneville refuses to move Kane off of Shaw's right, rather than getting him with a center capable of handling draws and the vision necessary to find him with the puck. Shaw cannot do either of those things, and it's hurting the Hawks.
It would take something catastrophic for Joel Quenneville to move Andrew Shaw off the middle of that second line, mostly because Teuvo Teravainen appears to be a figment of our imagination. Regardless of that fact, he'd be much better served to move Andrew Shaw to somewhere in the bottom six, where he can be more of an asset to this team. That becomes even more true now that Brad Richards appears to be getting his legs under him. That switch can be an easy one. Even if you're not going to move Shaw out of the middle and to the wing, where he can be more effective, leaving him in the middle of that second line continues to leave Patrick Kane in a situation that doesn't make the most of his skill set.
This isn't a plea to get Andrew Shaw out of the lineup. It's simply to take him away from a spot that doesn't suit him. His possession numbers and zone starts don't match up at all, and give us every indication that a change needs to be made. Knowing the man behind the bench, it'll be a while before the obvious change needs to be made, but we'll continue to see a lot of the same frustration should the same second line setup continue.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.