NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks

Fare Thee Well, Chicken Hawk And Other Drafty Day Musings

It wasn’t hard to be immediately smitten by Andrew Shaw. Within his first couple shifts as a Blackhawk, he’d already scored and gotten into a fight (guess which one Q noticed more?). You watched him skate around that first game in Philadelphia and thought, “This kid is nuts!” Hockey is probably the one sport where watching a player makes you say that, and that’s a good thing (though Willson Contreras might be carrying this tradition into baseball, and a young Charles Tillman did it for the Bears SKY POINT). In his second playoff game he ran over Mike Smith, fulfilling the fantasy of most Hawks fans (and I assume players as well). Sure, it didn’t help the Hawks much but that didn’t mean we didn’t glean a perverse joy from it.

It’s hard to believe now, but Shaw’s first full season in the league, the shortened lockout season, he anchored a simply dynamite third line between Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell. I know how that looks but it happened. Stalberg and Shaw were forechecking dynamos that season, and Bickell peaked at his just-kind-of-always-in-the-right-place game. In 48 games that trio combined for 27 goals, which from a third line was certainly a more than acceptable haul.

Shaw went on to add five playoff goals, including capping off Game 1’s marathon by having the puck just hit him in the shin pads. But he was heading to the net, just like he always did. Fans love a player that kind of does everything face first, and Shaw is certainly that. No better image of hockey than him being sprayed with champagne in the locker room while still clearly bleeding from the face. That is Andrew Shaw right there.

As with a lot of Hawks in the past eight years, the ire for Shaw that grew from us and others really didn’t have much to do with him but how he was used, though that gets confused by us and everyone else a lot. When Stan thought just bringing the band back together was the approach for ’13-’14 and Handzus proved to be Handzus, Shaw was forced to be the #2 center. And good lord was he not a #2 center. Still, it was the line of Saad-Shaw-and Kane that nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Kings as Kopitar was feeding Toews his lunch through a tube most of that series, and Shaw was definitely hurt at the time. Then again, Saad and Kane went so nuclear that you could have probably played center and would have still produced.

The following season, Q still stuck with Shaw as a #2 center, even with the presence of Brad Richards. It was again Q trying to prove he knew better, which wasn’t Shaw’s fault. But after a couple months of Shaw’s defensive coverage that looked like kindergarten recess football, even Q couldn’t ignore it anymore and moved him back to wing on the bottom six.

Andrew Shaw was one of those who certainly added personality to the Hawks, and that’s understandable to become connected to. Through his own production and getting to play with a few Hall of Famers made him too expensive, and that’s not really anyone’s fault. This is the system the NHL wants, though I can’t really think of anyone who is enjoying it much other than the owners. He’ll get a lovely tribute when the Habs come to Chicago, as he should. Feels like the Hawks have had to have too many of these over the years.

This is the way he wants it.

-As for the rest of the draft, we debate a lot here who really pulls the strings in the Hawks’ front office, though it’s most likely a team of chefs for the pro personnel angle. But the draft feels like it’s truly Stan’s show, because would Q really have the time to do the scouting? And maybe that’s why so many prospects never see the light of day. Another debate for another time.

I think we can officially say Alex Debrincat is a Stan-type pick. He’s an undersized, fabulously talented scorer. We’ve seen this before. Teuvo, Schmaltz, and Hartman are all on the small side, but when Stan sees skill he’s taking it. Makes you wonder how he’d really construct this team if he had all his own way. Debrincat is going to need some time in the AHL to figure out how to play at this size, but everyone agrees this was a first-round talent.

Chad Krys is another pick that is worth keeping an eye on, though anything that comes out of BU can never be good (I’m still bitter about way too many rides on the B-Line). It’s another Stan pick, a mobile d-man that he’s been piling up under the surface now so one has to break through, right? Forsling, Gustafsson, Krys, Kempny, and Pokka you can see the theme here.

But mostly, I think Stan really enjoyed piling up the picks that he had lost in deadline deals. We know the Hawks’ system needed some replenishing, and he’s going to do it by the volume method. More spins at the wheel and such and more insurance in case there’s another harvest at deadline time if the Hawks are in position.

We’ll take a look tomorrow where the Hawks are now and what they might be thinking come Friday.

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