With the Chicago Blackhawks having an up-and-down month of January, and coming off of perhaps their worst loss of the season to the Minnesota Wild earlier this week, many are ready to hit the panic button in the Windy City. This relates primarily to their defense, where the likes of Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya have transitioned from reliable defensemen to complete and total liabilities on the blue line. Yet, there is at least one other player that represents an issue for the Hawks: Andrew Shaw.
Opinions have been mixed on Shaw for quite some time. Some view him as necessary sandpaper in the lineup. He's a guy who, as undersized as he may be, will play down around in front of the net, add a physical presence, and drop the gloves if need be, with a little bit of actual skill to go along with all of that. Others view him as the type of player that is completely interchangeable, and thus expendable for the Hawks.
To this point in the season, Shaw has totaled just 15 points across 48 games, with nine goals (including a pair on the power play) and six assists, as well as a minus-9 rating (take that for whatever it's worth these days). He's down from 0.25 goals per game a year ago, when he was a 20-goal scorer, to just 0.17 this season. He has 38 penalty minutes on a team that doesn't commit a lot of penalties. He's been decent possession-wise, though, with a 54.6 CF% on the year.
There are a couple of different issues with Shaw. For one, he's spent a lot of the year trotted out there as a third line center, when he should be hanging out on the third line wing at the most (even if he is about 50 percent at the dot). His skill set really has him pegged as a fourth liner, but with a coaching staff that clearly overvalues him, permanent residence down there isn't likely. His penchant for poorly timed penalties isn't any sort of secret, either. He took a bad one in the second period against Minnesota earlier this week, and the Los Angeles Kings spent most of the game trying to bait him in their most recent matchup. He's not Daniel Carcillo in that he'll maim someone and cost the team in the short and long-term, but it's an issue nonetheless.
We've seen some flashes of Shaw being a regular contributor this year. He scored two against
Phoenix Arizona last month after he was benched. It was a nice response, but his play has once again faded since. Nothing has been sustainable. He's going nine or so games at a clip between scores and has characteristically taken poor penalties at bad times. Not that any of this is any real surprise. We talk about how a player like Joakim Nordstrom (or for the last month or so, Brad Richards) brings little to the lineup, yet here's Andrew Shaw. He's providing very little statistical output, coming off of a 20-goal season,
Shaw is tough as hell, you really have to give him that. Yet, as the Blackhawks move forward into potential cap peril in the coming months, one can't help but think Shaw would make sense as one of the first to go. He carries a cool $2 million cap hit through next year, a contract which many teams would be willing to take on. Especially when you consider the fact that younger, much cheaper options like Ryan Hartman and Garret Ross, among others, are available in Rockford for the coming years. It's not a huge savings, but it'd be a good start for the Hawks in trying to manage their core.
Whether it's his versatility or that physical, gritty style that Joel Quenneville relishes, the Hawks have made it clear that they love Andrew Shaw. But that shouldn't save him. The Blackhawks have centers that are on the cusp of being regular NHLers, with Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill, as well as the Hartman types, down in Rockford. Even if it's not prior to this year's trade deadline, and there has been zero indication that it will be, it'd be somewhat surprising to see Andrew Shaw back in a Chicago sweater next season.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.