NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks

Exit Interviews: Andrew Shaw And Bryan Bickell

They were ostensibly on the third line, at least when the season started, though neither ended up there when the season was over. They shouldn’t be any higher than the third line when next season starts either. But we’ll get to that.

Andrew Shaw

Regular Season: 80 games, 20 goals, 19 assists, 39 points, +12, 0.55 Behind The Net Rating, 16.51 Corsi per 60 (+5.7 Corsi Relative per 60)

Playoffs: 12 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, +5, 2.44 Behind the Net Rating, 10.99 Corsi per 60 (+17.9 Corsi Relative per 60)

What We Liked: Sometimes I wake up and I really can’t believe that Andrew Shaw has played at or close to a 20+ goal pace for parts of three seasons (12 in 37 in his first year, 9 in 48 his second). He broke that barrier this year. Because it doesn’t really add up, does it? When you think of Andrew Shaw, what is the first thing you think of that he does best? Go face first somewhere, right? But sometimes, that’s enough. Sargent Hartman told us that. And the Hawks don’t have a whole lot of it, so Shaw is a nice toy to have. He continues to be dependable (for the most part) in both ends, and can be something of a Swiss army knife. He doesn’t belong full-time on the top six, but you can put him there when needs must, and in any spot, and he’ll do a job for you. Good in front of the net, though not as good as Olczyk will have you believe and Smith may in fact be better. But that’s ok, as the Hawks aren’t blessed with a whole lot of net presence and Shaw will more than do. 

What We Didn’t Like: Most of what bothers us about Shaw takes place above him and doesn’t have much to do with him. Shaw CAN play center. That doesn’t mean he should full-time. He looks like a third and fourth line winger to me. But that’s not on him. He can occasionally be dumb, as the first round saw a parade of dumb and retaliatory penalties. But the kind of game he plays, some of that is always going to come with it. Shaw didn’t have the greatest second half, but that could be due to playing his first full season in the NHL and hitting something of a wall. Shaw is what he is, I guess.  Still terrible at the dot. Another reason he probably shouldn’t be playing center.

What Is It, You Would Say, You Do Here: Considering his contract is a mere $2 million for the next two years, there are fewer more valuable players than Shaw. A fourth straight season of being around a 20-goal man would make him far more expensive than that (you can bet Shaw’s agent already has David Clarkson’s contract in his holster). If the Hawks make the right moves here, and even just Teuvo making the team, should keep Shaw on the bottom six where he’s a dynamite bum-slayer. He also will fill in higher when injuries hit. But the Hawks can’t let Shaw being along for the Saad and Kane Ride in the last half of the Kings’ series fool them into thinking he’s a genuine top six player, much less center. Due to all the talk of the Hawks chasing a center, it appears they don’t. This could also be Shaw’s last year as a Hawk. We know how Stan likes to get something for players before the last year of their deal if he can, and if Shaw manages around 20 goals again he could get expensive even though he’ll still be restricted in the summer of ’16. But that’s a concern for another time. If a player like Shaw is consistently on your bottom six, chances are you’re a pretty good team.

Bryan Bickell

Regular Season: 59 games, 11 goals, 4 assists, 15 points, -6, -1.67 Behind The Net Rating, 16.69 Corsi per 60 (+5.6 Corsi Relative per 60)

Playoffs: 19 games, 7 goals, 3 assists, 10 points, -6, 0.31 Behind The Net Rating, 12.02 Corsi per 60 (19.7 Corsi Relative per 60)

What We Liked: Bickell was basically what Bryan Bickell has always been, which was good enough for us but not good enough for his coach or a large swath of fans. But Bickell consistently drove possession no matter where he was deployed or for how long. He was defensively solid as he’s always been, and a secondary scorer. Once he finally stopped trying to decapitate every Blue he saw in the first two games of Round 1, he was a force for the rest of that series and against Minnesota. He got better when he got more ice-time and with better players, but he certainly wasn’t bad on the third line with Shaw and whoever for most of the year.

What We Didn’t Like: The argle bargle that came with him. While Bickell continued to be Bickell, for some reason a lot of people thought that because he signed a contract that he was offered (and one that some have suggested wasn’t Stan Bowman’s choice), he was suddenly going to become Glenn Anderson or something. And that includes his coach, who scratched him and bottomed him out on the 4th line for a chunk of the season even though Bickell was working his way back from two knee injuries. Sure, Bickell doesn’t always play as big as he is, and that’s just how it’s going to be. He doesn’t power to the net as much as you’d like. That’s just the way it’s going to be. But when it counts the most he plays his best. Didn’t make quite the impact against the Kings as he did in 2013, but that has to do with Kopitar tilting the scales against Toews as the series went on as much as it has to do with Bickell himself.

What Is It, You Would Say, You Do Here: Bickell’s not going anywhere, at least this year. He’ll bounce between the third line and the top six, depending on how the roster shakes out. The farther he gets from those knee injuries he should be more effective. He’ll probably once again be a dependable playoff performer. And he’ll continue to infuriate the unwashed who don’t value what he does do well. If Bickell does have a productive year you could see him being moved in the summer of ’15 to open up cap space, and he’s the type of player you should be able to replace (looking at you, Mark McNeill). But for now, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

  • birdhead

    ” But the Hawks can’t let Shaw being along for the Saad and Kane Ride in the last half of the Kings’ series fool them into thinking he’s a genuine top six player, much less center. ”

    This is my little bugbear so excuse me for probably repeating myself, but Shaw and Kane were actually very productive together during the regular season as well, both in terms of actual goals scored (a truly ridiculous and clearly not likely to be repeated 74% of goals scored) and in terms of your fancier stats. This is clearly at least partly usage driven, but I for one am fine with that if it gets Kane to produce. Kane was very sheltered last year whether he was playing with Shaw or not – so if that’s the way he’s being used, why not go with it? Over the last three seasons only Toews has played better with Kane among Hawks centres: http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=298&withagainst=true&season=2011-14&sit=5v5 And since Toews is pretty much off the table, and (unless Kesler shows up) the Hawks are not going to come up with a centre that makes Kane defensively palatable for Q, I would actually really like to see Shaw in that role. (He’s also a lot cheaper than Kesler …) Put TT on the third and shelter that line too, just like it was sheltered this year. Why not?

    • YoAdrienne

      I pretty much agree. I don’t see why Shaw and Kane (and Saad) should be split up–as long as they remain productive. Shaw can always work on his face offs. I don’t think is Kesler is going to up, and there’s no guarantee that any center they might pick up in a trade or as a free agent is going to work any better. It’s kind of “don’t fix what isn’t broken.”

    • ‘hawks58

      The problem is, Shaw can’t win faceoffs and if you concede that fact and move him to wing opposite Kane; what exactly does he offer at wing that you can’t get from Saad or Bickell?

      • birdhead

        Shaw plays very differently from Saad, specifically in terms of going directly to the net. I’m not bothered by Shaw’s inability to win a faceoff to be honest, because it hasn’t affected him when he’s played with Kane before. I think both Shaw and Saad have the tenacity to win back pucks that they lose faceoffs over – part of the problem with the Bolland-Kane combo is that it didn’t seem to me that Sharp and Kane were doing enough to help get lost pucks back.

  • Bannerman

    Saad Shaw Kane could work in the sense that Kane is more of a play maker at wing while Shaw is more of a “win board battles” guy at C. But it’s not a good long term plan as guys like Kopitar will destroy Shaw and, if you make that line play defense they’re not going to be as effective.

    I like the idea of Vernette between Kane and Saad which allows a 3rd scoring line/ bum slayers with Bickell Tuevo Shaw. This puts Morin on the 4th line with Kruger and Smith but if those guys could carry whatever Bollig was doing I’m sure they could cope with a guy that could actually do something with a chance in the offensive zone.

    • birdhead

      But the Kane line wasn’t playing any defense last year either. Situation normal.